Judge Robbed at Gunpoint Near Oakland Courthouse, Deputies Say

An Alameda Superior Court judge was robbed at gunpoint in a parking lot near an Oakland courthouse Thursday morning, the county Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

The incident took place around 8:50 a.m. in a parking garage near 13th and Madison streets in Oakland, just a block from the Superior Court courthouse. The assailants were described as three males wearing masks, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The judge, whom law enforcement officials did not identify, was uninjured, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Now TWO California vacancies on 9th Circuit

Alex Kozinski, a U.S. federal appeals court judge based in San Francisco, resigned on Monday after the court’s chief judge initiated an inquiry into harassment accusations, Kozinski said in a statement.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge said he was retiring immediately to avoid being a distraction for the federal judiciary.

The Washington Post, which on Monday first reported the retirement, said earlier this month that six women had come forward to accuse Kozinski of subjecting them to inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. The newspaper followed with a second report with nine additional accusers.

“Family and friends have urged me to stay on, at least long enough to defend myself. But I cannot be an effective judge and simultaneously fight this battle. Nor would such a battle be good for my beloved federal judiciary,” Kozinski wrote in the statement, released by his lawyer. “And so I am making the decision to retire, effective immediately.”

The chief judge of the San Francisco-based court, Sidney Thomas, last week initiated an inquiry into the accusations by former law clerks and externs. …

Click here to read the full article from Reuters

Judge Rules CA Inmate Entitled to Sex-Change Operation — With Taxpayer Money

What looked at first like a belated April Fool’s Day joke may turn out to be a landmark ruling in Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. On April 2, a federal district court judge in San Francisco ruled that a convicted murderer serving a 17-years-to-life sentence is entitled to a sex-change operation at taxpayer expense. Judge Jon Tigar, a Barack Obama appointee, determined that Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy should have the $100,000 procedure “as promptly as possible.”

Though no inmate in a California prison has ever received sex-reassignment surgery while in custody, Judge Tigar found that the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that Norsworthy receive a vaginoplasty — a procedure that involves removing the patient’s male genitals and creating female genitals. In 38 pages of judicial reasoning, Tigar declared that forcing Norsworthy to keep his male parts while behind bars at the all-male Mule Creek State Prison in Ione amounts to “cruel and unusual punishment.” This is a decision bordering on lunacy.

In 2000, a prison psychiatrist diagnosed Norsworthy with “gender dysphoria,” meaning that he would like to be a woman instead of a man. According to experts, this condition can cause frustration and anxiety for “transsexual” men who are disgusted by their male genitalia. In extreme cases, untreated gender dysphoria can lead to suicide or self-castration. The American Psychiatric Association, which not so long ago treated homosexuality as a mental disorder, now has elaborate and presumably more enlightened views on the subject of gender-identity disorder, which Judge Tigar dutifully adopted. Though prison records list Norsworthy by his given name, Tigar’s opinion refers to him throughout as “Michelle-Lael Norsworthy” and describes him as a “pleasant looking woman.”

At only 16 words, the Eighth Amendment is the most succinct article of the Bill of Rights and has nothing to say about vaginoplasty. It states, in its entirety, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The ban on cruel and unusual punishments was meant to limit gruesome penal methods such as flogging, stoning, and burning at the stake. (Ironically, castration has been held to be cruel and unusual, but in the Norsworthy case, a judge is ruling that significantly more intrusive surgery is constitutionally required.)

To contend that “forcing” a prisoner to continue as a man violates the Constitution is absurd. Norsworthy was born male, and he was male when he committed a murder on April 15, 1987 and when he was sentenced to prison later that year. Though he is allowed to take female hormones, have a pony tail, wear a brassiere, and shower out of the sight of other inmates in prison, he has been a male for all of his 51 years. Manifestly, the state of California did not make Norsworthy a male. His punishmentwhich is what the relevant provisions of the Eighth Amendment address—did not include a specification of his sex or gender. Rather, prison authorities merely decided that Norsworthy is not eligible for an elective cosmetic procedure at government expense while incarcerated. In this regard, vaginoplasty is no different than a facelift, tummy tuck, liposuction, nose job, Botox injections, or lap band surgery. No federal appellate court has recognized a right to sex-reassignment surgery. In the only related case that Tigar cites in his decision, the First U.S. Circuit Court reversed a district court ruling that had ordered the procedure for an inmate in Massachusetts. What Norsworthy chooses to do with his body at his own expense, if and when he is released from prison, is up to him.

Judge Tigar is a Berkeley-educated activist judge and the son of noted radical lawyer Michael Tigar, who once represented Angela Davis. He displays what University of Colorado law school professor Paul Campos terms “jurismania”: the irrational conceit lawyers and judges frequently exhibit that presumes all of society’s problems—no matter how complex or intractable—can and should be solved through litigation, especially if the “solution” is characterized as an interpretation of “constitutional law.” In his 1998 book of the same title, Campos contends that the “obsessive pursuit” of litigation and “irrational worship” of legal rules in contemporary American culture “can come to resemble a form of mental illness.” Resorting excessively to legal procedures comes at the expense of common sense and leads to “tendentious jargon,” self-serving posturing, fraudulent rhetoric, undue deference to “experts,” and overreliance on decision-making by privileged elites such as lawyers and judges—all of which are on display in Judge Tigar’s ruling.

Punishing criminals is a basic state function, and deciding how (and at what expense) to run prisons is a quintessential legislative judgment. As long as prisoners are adequately fed and housed and are not arbitrarily abused, it should be of no concern to a judge—and especially a federal judge—whether prisoners have access to color TV, air-conditioning, recreational facilities, or elective medical procedures. Serving a prison sentence is a punishment; it is not supposed to be enjoyable.

It is nonsensical to grant imprisoned convicted felons health-care “entitlements” that many law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers don’t enjoy. One hopes that the state appeals Judge Tigar’s unprecedented ruling. Unless resisted, jurismania will destroy popular sovereignty. Campos reminds us that judges are “nothing more than an especially politicized subclass of lawyers.” And they rely on the docility of their subjects to impose their baseless edicts. Jeffrey Norsworthy is not Rosa Parks, vaginoplasty is not a civil right, and Tigar’s ridiculous decision is not a credible interpretation of the Constitution. It should not stand.

Gov. Brown’s “Mind-blower” of a Nominee

Once upon a time, Americans held seasoned judges and legal practitioners in esteem. Lewis Powell, Henry Friendly, Louis Brandeis, and Charles Evan Hughes were all accomplished lawyers in private practice before they

Leondra Kruger

Leondra Kruger

served on the bench. Representing clients in the real world tends to instill an appreciation for the rule of law. Today, by contrast, a Yale law degree, a prominent post in a Democratic presidential administration, and a desire to place one’s hands on the levers of judicial power are the tickets to a seat on the California Supreme Court. Governor Jerry Brown’s choice of 38-year-old Leondra Kruger to replace veteran jurist Joyce Kennard reinforces the trend. Kruger has never practiced law in the Golden State.

California law is vast and complex, and the state Supreme Court is its final arbiter. Unlike Kennard, who served at every level of the judiciary before being elevated to the Supreme Court in 1989, Kruger has never donned the black robe. As with Brown’s two prior appointments to the court, fellow Yale law grads Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Kruger lacks private-sector legal experience, too. Presumably, she will learn on the job.

Kruger’s nomination is remarkable for other reasons. If confirmed by the state’s Commission on Judicial Appointments, she would be the youngest person ever appointed to the state’s highest court. She barely meets the state constitutional requirement that judges be members of the state bar for at least ten years. Referring to Kruger’s youth and inexperience, law professor and commentator Gerald Uelman called her appointment a “mind-blower.” And not that anything is wrong with Yale, but couldn’t the governor have found a qualified nominee from Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, or some other California law school?

Brown is a pioneer in “judicial diversity.” In two stints as governor, he has appointed blacks, gays, Muslims, women, and other previously under-represented groups. But his selection of three Ivy League-educated lawyers with no meaningful private-practice experience to serve on California’s highest court is unprecedented. These appointments will transform the state’s judiciary for decades to come.

No one questions Kruger’s intelligence. She was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court. She worked briefly at two law firms in Washington and taught for a year at the University of Chicago. She spent the past eight years working in various positions at the U.S. Department of Justice. But she is plainly too inexperienced to serve on California’s Supreme Court.

Service as a trial-court judge has long been considered an essential prerequisite for appointment to the appellate bench. With his last three appointments to the California Supreme Court (and the recent appointment of Therese Stewart to the First District Court of Appeal), Brown has discarded that standard. Prior experience as a trial judge is more than a mere matter of custom or an outmoded artifact of the past. Appellate judges play an important but limited role in our system of government. The legislature passes laws, juries decide facts, trial judges apply laws to the facts, and appellate judges interpret the laws. When these roles get confused, bad things happen: laws get ignored, judges legislate from the bench, and appellate judges usurp the fact-finding function.

Serving as a trial judge provides a critical measure of humility for bright, politically connected lawyers who happen to be appointed to the appellate bench. It also reinforces the narrow role that wearing a black robe implies. The tendency toward judicial activism is greater for younger appointees because law schools have become increasingly politicized and the dominant philosophy of “legal realism” encourages recent graduates to view the law as a malleable instrument to accomplish politically desirable ends.

Kruger’s lack of private-practice experience is also troubling. She has worked mainly in the area of “public law,” representing the federal government in matters involving the projection of federal power. Liberty—or autonomy—is the absence of government power. In a civil society, free citizens organize themselves primarily through “private law” mechanisms—consensual contractual arrangements; the formation and operation of privately owned businesses; lending and borrowing money; and so forth. The laws governing these activities—contracts, real property, corporations, secured transactions, negotiable instruments, intellectual property—are the mainstay of lawyers in private practice and grist for a free market economy. Lawyers unfamiliar with the area of “private law,” if appointed to the bench, tend to be unsympathetic to the vital importance of such voluntary arrangements.

The vanguard of young, Ivy League-educated, activist-minded judges Brown is appointing to the California Supreme Court is not “diverse” at all. Sure, they represent different ethnicities and races, but they’re all Yalies and liberal Democrats, with no signs of respect for judicial restraint. One of the cases Kruger argued before the U.S. Supreme Court was Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, where she advocated overturning the long-recognized “ministerial exception” to anti-discrimination laws in order to expose religious organizations to liability for their hiring and firing decisions involving ordained personnel. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Kruger’s radical position unanimously.

Beginning his fourth and final term as governor next month, the 76-year-old Brown may eventually appoint all seven members of the state high court. The Rose Bird era of unrestrained activism may seem tame in hindsight.

This article was originally published by City Journal.

Judge: California law applies in Toyota case

SANTA ANA A federal judge said that California law could be applied to the economic-loss lawsuits against Toyota.

Some Toyota owners claim that sudden-acceleration defects in their cars negatively impacted the value of their vehicles. Last year, attorneys for the owners filed a mass economic loss complaint. The claim alleges sudden-acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles are due to defects in the vehicles’ electronic throttle-control systems.

Toyota disputes the allegation and blames sudden acceleration on sticky pedals and faulty floor mats.

Read More at OC Register By Vik Jolly, The Orange County Register