Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: November 2016

Compassion of Our Hearts

Compassion of Our Hearts

I love Thanksgiving.  I try to live my life in a spirit of gratitude.  I really appreciate that we dedicate time in our lives every year to be thankful for our blessings.  I am so thankful for my life.  I have lived a miracle and “He didn’t have to do it.  It could have been me outdoors or in jail,” and I know it.  I often remember to be thankful that I am not living on a hill in Haiti.  Current events make me thankful that I am not living under a building in Aleppo, Syria.

thankful-forThis year I am most thankful for forgiveness, for friends who “prayed me through” a very challenging transitional year, for new love and for something called s-a-b-b-a-t-i-c-a-l which I did “my way.”

Compassion in Our Lives

We all can be especially thankful for the compassion in our lives.  As I look around, I am surrounded by friends who show compassion every day.  I am so thankful for my sister Tonsa who takes really good care of my Mom, Mildred.  My foster sisters Gina, Rendi and Virgie took great care of my foster mother Alice. They kept her for more than a decade, long after Mama could no longer speak or move. My cousin Bonita was the solid rock of compassion for my Aunt Eleanore and Uncle John.

It warms my heart to have so many friends who have done the same for their loved ones.  My friend Hope dedicated her life to taking care of her parents, Lela and Ivan.  Since Lela passed, Hope continues to shower compassion on Ivan.  My friend Torrey showed compassion to her mother Mary for years, long after Mary forgot who Torrey was.  Torrey said “she thinks I am just a nice lady who comes to visit her.”

The compassion that my friends demonstrated for their loved ones is so inspiring.  Fania and Angela‘s gentleness with their mother Sallie B. was phenomenal. It has been my privilege to watch daughters like Dianne, Faye and Deborah take care of their mothers, Frances, Imogene and Irene. My friend Shirley‘s steadfast commitment to her Dad, Pops, before he died was comforting to us when Shirley suddenly passed away.

Compassion Knows No Lines

Compassion is not limited by gender.  My cousin Shawn‘s commitment to his mother, Sharon, was unwavering as she battled breast cancer.  How well Antwon cared for his Mother in her last days is one of the most endearing stories about him.  It was my privilege to watch my friend Marshall act with total commitment to his Mother in her final years. My friends, Darryl, Douglas and Duane each showed the same compassion for their mothers in their illnesses when they needed it most.  These are truly men of honor.

My friend Charles continues to honor his mother by taking care of his aunts.  Bishop Macklin‘s concern for his ailing mother touches the heart of every member of our congregation. My godbrother Jay stepped up right away when my foster Mom Amy fell ill and needed 24-hour care. Jay and his wife continue to be there for Amy every day.

Compassion In Action

In law, it is often hard to remember that a law firm is a business. “Beating the drum for justice” is hard work and expensive.  It is very hard to accept that we can not help everybody.  But, it was compassion that moved me to help clients like John Bumphus and Abner Morgan, Deanna Freitag and Tonsa B. What I received in return for that “help” has been life-changing courage and compassion. It was compassion that led me to step off my sabbatical and go to Stuart Florida to rescue Jasmine from jail and bring her home.

In this season, I am reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.  The painful truths of our broken justice system grieve the heart. Our criminal justice system is truly an instrument of evil.  Our lack of compassion for children tried as adults and condemned to life in prison is appalling.  The failure of compassion for women who ended up in abusive relationships and then prison is beyond frustrating. Our willingness to accept the death penalty regardless of a person’s guilt or innocence is profoundly disturbing. As Bishop Desmond Tutu pointed out, it’s “as if America’s soul has been put on trial.” Bryan Stevenson‘s compassionate heart is a light of hope for all of us.

In Bay Area politics, we have a rising star in Lateefah Simon.  We are all so proud of her. Her life’s work is rooted in compassion.  I know that her “popularity” is rooted in compassion.  Many people came to know her because of her love for Kevin Weston. The battle she and Kevin fought to save his life touched all of our hearts. Our compassion for this brilliant young couple flooded Facebook. Out of compassion for them, our spirits soared. Our hearts were opened. We were united in community by compassion.

The Greatest Gift of All

As you experience this Thanksgiving, regardless of your circumstances, try to remember that the greatest gift of all is love.  “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13.)  I really appreciate the people in my life and our world who show compassion for others.  As I move forward in my life, I pledge to more consistently practice “random acts of kindness.” Remember that your greatest legacy may be how you showed compassion for someone else.

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The Greatest Threat of All

The Greatest Threat of All

I remember the first time I ever heard Tom Steyer speak. It’s 2014. We’re at the San Francisco Bay Area Lawyer’s Committee Annual Martin Luther King Luncheon. Tom stands before a thousand lawyers. Tom is not a great public speaker. He stumbles as he thanks us. Initially, I am not impressed with this person. He is not a lawyer.  As I listen to him speak, however, he gets my attention. He engages my understanding of global warming.  In short order and very dramatically, Tom Steyer has an impact on me and everyone else in the room. He makes us know and believe that climate change is the greatest threat to our existence on the planet. I quickly develop an appreciation for the work that Tom does to save the planet. Eventually, I join his organization, Nextgen Climate.

Climate Change Is Real

polar-bear-global-_3339474bClimate change is not a hoax.  I have been haunted for years by the dramatic images of stranded polar bears. Polar bears swim in the Artic sea and live between the water and the sea ice. Global warming causes sea ice to melt.  Melting sea ice means reduced access to food, increased cannabilism, lower cub survival rates and increased drowning of these unique creatures, among other challenges. The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

The “Climate Criminal”

Fast forward to 2016.  News breaks that President-Elect Donald Trump selects Myron Ebell to head Trump’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump claims that climate change is a hoax. He says “the Chinese” created climate change to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Mr. Ebell’s new job is to set the direction of the federal agencies that will address climate change and environmental policy under Donald Trump’s leadership.

ebellMyron Ebell is currently the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Peabody Energy Corporation, America’s largest underground coal mining company, oil giant ExxonMobil and foundations controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers are major donors to CEI. CEI has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Clean Power Plan developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan seeks to reduce carbon pollution in our air by 32 percent by 2030. It could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants. CEI has published a “hit list” of Executive Orders it thinks should be repealed by President Trump.

In 2015, environmental activists in Paris labeled Mr. Ebell a “climate criminal” wanted for “destroying our future.” One Hundred and ninety-five countries, including the U.S. signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. Mr. Ebell leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of conservatives that focuses on dispelling “the myths of global warming.” He wrote an article called “Love Global Warming,” in which he states that “higher temperatures are killing people who are likely to die soon anyway.” He opposes the Endangered Species Act and the Paris Climate Agreement. He says that he wants more funding to “combat the nonsense put out by the environmental movement.

If He Keeps His Promises

If Donald Trump keeps his campaign promises, he will shut down the EPA. We are facing the greatest threat to the planet in our lifetime. Donald Trump will leave us defenseless. He will certainly try to confuse the issue. He may try to force us into collective denial of all the scientific evidence of global warming. Mr. Ebell poses a particular threat to California because he helped kill national “cap and trade” legislation in 2009. We have our own “cap and trade” program which is a key component of California’s climate plan. How Mr. Ebell will try to undercut our state climate plan remains to be seen. His followers and supporters in the coal and oil industries may give him a few very bad suggestions. As California has led the nation on this issue, we will probably have to lead the fight to save the planet.

Will He Keep His Promises?

Will He Keep His Promises?

I woke up Wednesday morning in Trumpland. My worst fears are coming true. Will he keep his promises?  In the first days I am upset and depressed. I feel better as I hear others calling out to fight back. In the months between Trump’s election as President and his inauguration, most of us will gather our thoughts and renew our passports (just in case).

The media tries to push the country into denial. Even elected officials maligned by Trump insist that he did not really mean what he said. They say he will be “different” as the President than the person who ran for President.

If He Keeps His Promises

If he is true to his word, on Day 1, President Trump will issue an Executive Order suspending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and any funding to support the Act. His actions may send the economy and world markets into a downward spiral.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will direct the FBI to re-open its investigation of Hillary Clinton. We should not be surprised if newly appointed Attorney General Rudy Giuliani orders Hillary’s arrest.

first-they-cameIf he keeps his promises, President Trump will invest millions of dollars to ramp up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). ICE will develop a comprehensive plan to locate and deport millions of working and poor people suspected of immigrating from Mexico, South America, Syria or Haiti. We should expect that vigilantes will volunteer to assist in the effort to deport these “illegal aliens.” He will also immediately start construction of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

We should not be surprised if President Trump rejects the Obama administration’s position on private prisons and directs the Bureau of Prisons to renew all of the private contracts.  We should expect that funding for re-entry of formerly incarcerated persons, community policing and mental health services will be severely reduced. California will continue to be the leader if not the only state committed to working against mass incarceration in America.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will champion laws to defund Planned Parenthood and declare abortion completely illegal. Led by Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely pass these laws.

What President Trump labels “locker room talk” may became more prevalent in our schools and public places. Our efforts to stop violence against women and eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of women and under-age girls are likely to receive minimal support in the new Trump administration.

Packing SCOTUS with Scalia Clones

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will immediately appoint a Scalia-like judge to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. In 2015, Justice Scalia appeared to openly endorse a racist argument that Black students do better at “slower-track schools” stating:

Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer [Black students]. Maybe it ought to have fewer.

President Trump will likely have more opportunities to “pack the court” with Scalia-inspired justices, based on suggestions from the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation, two right-wing conservative think-tanks.

The Good News

The good news is that already, everywhere, resisters to the Trump Presidency are organizing. In the Democratic Party, progressives are organizing to redeem the party. One of the most poignant “calls to action” was issued “the day after” by former Emerge Director, Kimberly Ellis.  She’s running to change the face of the Democratic Party.

Outside the party, thousands, perhaps millions, have joined Bernie Sanders’ ourrevolution.org. Black Lives Matter continues to be an inspiring movement rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country and committed to the empowerment of our community. And I really believe that if there ever comes a day that Latinos and immigrants are being hunted down en masse and sent off to concentration camps, most of us will not watch silently and fail to “speak out.”*  We are our brother’s keeper.

Finally, I was honored by Hillary’s final words to the Obamas: “To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude. We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership.” The Obamas together, made all of us look kindly on and feel better about America. I hope that once we recover from the shock of Trump’s election, we will “shake the dust off our feet” and keep stepping toward the light. The race is clearly not given to the strong or the swift but to he that endureth.  “Banish the darkness with light.”

*  Quote from “First They Came for the Socialists”.  Martin Niemoller (1946).

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men

few-good-men-movie

One of my favorite movies is “A Few Good Men.” I love the iconic scene where Jack Nicholson screams at young lawyer Tom Cruisecolonel-jessup-quote

 

 

The Truth About the Oakland Police Department

This past week, Oakland was rocked with details of two “cover-up” claims by OPD supervisors and City officials.  Homicide Detective Sgt. Mike Gantt alleges that top police officials and city leaders, including Mayor Libby Schaff, retaliated against him because he tried to investigate the death of Irma Huerta-Lopez.  Gantt believes, along with many others, that OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien murdered Huerta-Lopez.

Irma Huerta-Lopez was the wife of disgraced OPD officer Brendan O’Brien.  She was found dead in their home in June 2014 under suspicious circumstances. Her family alleges that O’Brien killed her and OPD covered it up.  O’Brien killed himself in September 2015.  He left a note about his sexual exploitation of a minor (my former client Jasmine).  OPD covered up the note and the police sexual abuse ring for 9 months.  KRON 4’s Haaziq Madyun blew the case open in May 2016.  O’Brien was never arrested or charged for his wife’s death.

The second case filed in federal court this week details OPD’s cover up of criminal conduct by another officer.  Olga and Nemesio Cortez are suing the City because they were attacked by a drunken OPD officer in their home in December 2015.

The rookie officer, Cullen Faeth, is the son of OPD Sgt. David Faeth.  The lawsuit alleges that hours after the attack OPD officers and supervisors paid 2 midnight visits to the Cortez family trying to confuse and dissuade them from filing charges.  The lawsuit alleges that OPD officers tried to manipulate an eyewitness to the attack to misidentify a second suspect who flashed a gun at Mrs. Cortez.  The Cortez believe the second suspect was actually Sgt. Joseph Turner pictured here.opd-sgt-turner

The lawsuit alleges that the Cortez family found out that their assailants were OPD officers weeks after the attack.  Neither OPD or the District Attorney’s office shared that information with them initially.  Ironically, Mrs. Cortez is an Alameda County probation officer.

The Code of Silence

Every organization has a culture, a set of informal rules and understandings.  Not written down.  Not discussed openly often.  Particularly police.  Like the code of silence, for instance.  It is not written anywhere that you should look the other way when you see a fellow officer engaging in a crime, but we know that it happens.  It is not written anywhere that you should withhold evidence of a crime when the perpetrator is a law enforcement officer, but we know that it happens.

It is not written anywhere that you should l-i-e in a deposition and say “I don’t recall” when you saw and heard a fellow officer break the law, but we know that it happens.  It is not written anywhere that every person who flunks “the attitude test” when dealing with the police should be charged with “resisting arrest” and “assaulting a police officer” but we know that it happens.

Every police department is vulnerable to the abuse of power.  Police exploiting women for sex and law enforcement officials covering it up is not new in the Bay Area.  Police and public officials covering up criminal conduct by police officers is not new in Oakland.  We  know that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

A citizen asked me recently, if the police are doing the crime, who should we call to come protect and serve us?  I told her, in Oakland, you have to protect yourself.

einstein-evil

The question for OPD is do you have “a few good men?”  The question for us as a community is “can we handle the truth?”  I hope we pass Measure LL on Tuesday.  It’s a good step in the right direction of our search for truth.