LAUSD to Pay $150 M to Resolve Lawsuit

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Unified School District will pay more than $150 million to 50 schools in primarily low-income areas to resolve a lawsuit accusing the district of misspending funds that should have been used to benefit “high-need” and English-learning students.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by a coalition of community groups that alleged the district had been misspending about $450 million annually that should have been earmarked toward campuses in primarily low-income communities.

“We are pleased to have reached to solution that will immediately improve the lives of students across the Los Angeles,” said Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, executive vice president of Community Coalition, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. “While this is a promising victory, it also serves as an important reminder that low-income communities of color remain overlooked in Los Angeles. The time for communities like South L.A. is now, and we must continue the fight for our kids and our future.”

The “settlement provides a tremendous opportunity to direct more resources to our highest-need students and schools,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for the LAUSD.

“The underlying litigation between the parties involved varying interpretations of a very complex statutory framework. With this settlement complete, the district is ready to move forward and continue to put kids first,” Holmquist said.

The 50 schools that will receive additional funding are primarily in South and East Los Angeles. The money is expected to support academic, social and emotional support services, drop-out prevention programs and parent-engagement efforts, according to the groups that filed the lawsuit.
 

City, County, State Take Up Fight to Defend DACA

September 14, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
initiative, has sparked a whirlwind of activity at the city, county and state level, all aimed at thwarting the president’s action and to push Congress to adopt a permanent solution for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The protests and promises of legal battles is not surprising given that one in four DACA recipients – or about 200,000 of the young beneficiaries – live in California.

Speaking in Los Angeles Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to fight the decision “on every front.”

Becerra, joined by the attorneys general for Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, filed a lawsuit Monday in San Francisco against the administration, arguing that the federal government violated the Constitution and federal laws when it moved to rescind DACA.

“The DACA initiative has allowed more than 800,000 Dreamers — children brought to this country without documentation — to come out of the shadows and become successful and productive Americans,” Becerra said following a roundtable meeting with immigration advocates in downtown Los Angeles. “I’ve never seen a time in our country when we punish kids for coming out of the
shadows.”

Last week, the University of California filed suit against the administration on grounds that the decision would violate the due process rights of thousands of immigrant UC students. That same day, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion directing the city attorney to either file his own lawsuit or to join the state’s lawsuit being promised by Becerra.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors added their voices, adopting a measure to support the lawsuits brought by other government bodies and to pursue a financial boycott of sorts of states “unfriendly” to DACA by banning county employees from traveling to those states on county business.

California’s Attorney General Tells Dreamers to Reapply

According to Becerra, with the help of the state’s 200,000 DACA recipients, California has become “the sixth largest economy in the world.”

Federal immigration officials are no longer accepting new requests for DACA, but the agency is hearing two-year DACA renewal requests received by Oct. 5 from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire before March 5.

Flanked by representatives from immigrant rights groups, Becerra said Tuesday that financial help is available to cash-strapped Dreamers who don’t have the $495 renewal fee. “If you have the opportunity, submit your paperwork,” the attorney general said. “We don’t want anyone to be deprived of the chance to reapply.”

Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, urged recipients not to “make money an issue.”

Added Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center: “Don’t let financial concerns be a reason not to reapply. We can find solutions.”

Becerra said the DACA phase-out indirectly affects millions of residents, as well as businesses, nonprofits, and the state’s towns and cities.

“We’ll do whatever we can to win,” he said.

Fifteen other states have also filed a lawsuit challenging the end of the DACA program.

UC Is First University System to Enter Legal Battle

The UC’s lawsuit filed Sept. 8 in San Francisco against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its acting secretary, Elaine Duke, is the first of its kind to be filed by a university. The lawsuit alleges the Trump administration failed to provide proper notice to the impacted population as required by law.

”As a result of the defendants’ actions, the Dreamers face expulsion from the only country that they call home, based on nothing more than unreasoned executive whim,” the complaint reads. UC President Janet Napolitano, who was secretary of DHS from 2009 to 2013, spearheaded the Obama administration’s creation of the DACA program in 2012, setting in place a rigorous application and security review process, according to the lawsuit.

Applicants for DACA were only approved if they were in or had graduated from high school or college, or were in the military, or an honorably discharged veteran. They cannot have been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

“Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, Napolitano said. “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community.”

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Trump’s  action because it is “unconstitutional, unjust, and unlawful.”

L.A. Councilman Calls for City Attorney to Join Lawsuits

Roughly 100,000 DACA recipients are believed to live in the Los Angeles area. A motion introduced last week by L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar states, “These Dreamers were brought here as children and have proven themselves to be lawful residents contributing to the social fabric and diversity of the United States.” It also instructs City Attorney Mike Feuer to pursue legal action on behalf of the city to defend their presence.

When asked to comment on the motion, Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said, “Our office is already in discussions with other government entities on how best to maximize our impact on fighting the removal of DACA.”

County to Support Lawsuits, Boycott DACA-unfriendly States

County supervisors voted Tuesday to institute a travel ban on DACA-unfriendly states and to support legal challenges to Trump’s order ending the policy.

Supervisor Hilda Solis championed a one-year restriction on county government travel to nine states that threatened legal action to end the program, saying it could “cost the United States approximately $460 billion in GDP.”

Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia will be subject to the travel restriction, which will not apply in the case of emergency assistance for disaster relief or critical law enforcement work.

The vote was 3-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining, though they both support DACA and voted in favor of related measures.

The young adults nationwide affected by the administration’s action are contributing to America’s economy, not taking from it, said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.

“Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are employed. DACA is a net positive for the U.S. economy” and ending it would cost California alone $11.3 billion,” Diaz told the board.

David Rattray, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, promised the support of business leaders in any fight to restore the program.

Employers have invested in hiring and training so-called Dreamers and are “dumbfounded about how stupid this is, frankly,” Rattray told the board.

Barger, the only Republican on the non-partisan board, said the county should take an aggressive, hands-on role in pressing Congressional representatives to craft new legislation.

“We need to be at the table and we need to push as hard as we can,” Barger said. “This is bipartisan, this is about doing what is right,” quoting then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 remarks saying DACA was “a temporary stopgap measure” to give Congress time to act.

“Congress needs to get to work, they’ve had over five years to do it,” Barger said. “If Congress does not act in six months, shame on them.”

Ridley-Thomas proposed having county lawyers file “friend of the court” briefs in support of several states suing the Trump administration.

DACA recipients are entitled, Ridley-Thomas said, to “the right to privacy, the right to work, the right to move within the halls of government and elsewhere without wondering if someone is going to report you or snatch you.”

The vote on amicus briefs was 4-1, with Barger dissenting.

Based on Solis’ motion, the board will also send a letter to the president and Congress demanding legislative action, a move that garnered unanimous support. The board also directed the county’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help existing DACA recipients renew their status by Oct. 5.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion to add immigration to a county list of policy priorities, which currently include homelessness, child protection, reform of the Sheriff’s Department, integration of county health services, and environmental oversight and monitoring.

The board’s vote in favor of the new priority was unanimous.

City Sues Elderly Owner of ‘Nuisance’ Triplex

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

BOYLE HEIGHTS – The City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the 88-year-old owner of a Boyle Heights triplex and her grandson, alleging that gang-related shootings have taken place at the property despite it being “perilously close” to an elementary school.

The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint seeks an injunction and abatement of an alleged nuisance against Esther M. Oregon and her grandson, Manuel Oregon Martinez, both of whom are residents of the Sheridan Street triplex. Martinez, 36, is an “influential member” of a local gang and “attracts and invites other gang members there,” according to the lawsuit.

A second grandson, who is not a defendant, also resides there and returned fire on rival gang members with a handgun while standing in the driveway of the triplex in July 2015, the suit states.

The suit seeks a court order directing Martinez and other gang members to stay up to 1,000 feet from the triplex.

Oregon and Martinez could not be immediately reached.

The triplex “is perilously close to Sheridan Street Elementary School, which is located directly across the street, only 59 feet away from the property,” the suit states.

“Prosecutors have filed this nuisance-abatement action in order to intervene before a life is claimed by this gang-related gunfire and other associated gang violence,” the suit states.

Oregon is “reluctantly” named as a defendant because, despite being elderly, she is “either unable or unwilling” to stop the problems at the triplex, the suit states. The City Attorney’s Office has contacted Los Angeles County Adult Protective Services to alert them that Oregon’s caregivers “may be depriving her of services needed to ensure her well-being,” according to the complaint.

Oregon has owned the property since 2008 and five gang-related shootings have occurred there during that time, the suit states. She has had to lie on the floor to shield herself from gunfire at least three times, the suit states.

Police have seized firearms, including assault rifles, and four gang members have been arrested there, the suit states. There may have been additional gang-related incidents that went unreported, according to the lawsuit.

“The property has a reputation among law enforcement and the community as a major hub for State Street where gang-related nuisance activity regularly occurs and where two rival gangs go to look for retribution,” the suit states.

Singer Sues Wells Fargo for Negligence, Deceit

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mexican singer Ana Barbara sued Wells Fargo Thursday, alleging two employees looted more than $400,000 from her accounts and forced her to lose another $884,000 after she had to cancel a concert tour.

Barbara, 45, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, also naming as defendants Wells Fargo employees Arturo Arias and Jorge Valdez. The allegations include negligence and deceit. She seeks more than $1.5 million in damages.

The bank is “well-known for creating a corrupt business culture which pressures its employees to lure customers into setting up multiple undesired accounts … thereby maximizing Wells Fargo’s profits while at the same time exposing its customers to needless costs and injuries,” according to the lawsuit.

Wells Fargo also has “adopted the practice of enrolling its customers in online banking and online bill paying without their consent,” the suit alleges.

A Wells Fargo representative did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

The suit states that Arias, a fan of Barbara’s who had attended some of her performances, approached Barbara in April 2012 and “then proceeded to insinuate himself into (her) circle of friends and associates.”

Arias convinced Barbara to open up a personal checking account at a Wells Fargo branch in January 2013 by going to her home and having her sign the agreement there, the suit states. Two  months later, Arias talked Barbara into establishing a business checking account linked to a savings account in the name of her corporation, Lo Bosque Productions Inc., the suit states.

In about May 2013, Arias began using Barbara’s personal identification information to steal money from her two checking accounts, the suit alleges. He created passwords known to him that prevented the entertainer from having access to her own accounts, the suit states.

In January 2014, Arias and Valdez opened a line of credit in Barbara’s name, the suit states. The two conspired to forge Barbara’s signature, according to the complaint.

Together with other Wells Fargo employees, Arias also opened credit and debit card accounts in Barbara’s name, the suit states.

“Arias and Valdez caused over $416,000 of Barbara’s funds fraudulently to be transferred away from Ana Barbara and into Arias’ hands … for his benefit,” the suit alleges.

Barbara’s credit was damaged “to the point where she is unable to obtain ordinary financing for her purchase of a new home,” according to the complaint.

Arias and Valdez confessed to their alleged wrongdoing last August, the suit states. A month later, Wells Fargo created a new checking account in Barbara’s name without telling her and deposited nearly $127,5000, apparently to reimburse her for a portion of the money allegedly stolen by Arias, the suit states.

Barbara, whose real name is Altagracia Ugalde Motta, is considered a major figure in the modern Grupero genre and she has an international following.
 

Jury Awards Fired Alcoa Worker $1.5M

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Alcoa Inc. was ordered to pay $1.5 million to a West Covina man who said he was fired instead of given a chance to take other available jobs when he returned from a lengthy medical leave caused by an on-the-job injury.

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about a day before returning a verdict Tuesday in favor of 62-year-old Raymond Adame. His claims included wrongful termination, disability discrimination and failing to participate in the interactive process.

Alcoa attorneys denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company.

Trial testimony showed Adame worked for 38 years at Alcoa subsidiary Alcoa Fastening Systems in Industry. His attorney, Irving Meyer, said Adame operated machines that built fasteners for aircraft.

Adame was hurt in July 2007 when a transformer fell on him and was off work for more than two years, Meyer said. When he returned, he asked for work that would require the lifting of lighter loads, and several jobs were available that he could have filled, Meyer said.

Adame claimed the company’s head of human resources told him, “You have disabilities” and “You have to be 100 percent healthy to work at Alcoa … That’s our corporate policy.”

Adame was given sorting and inventory work for about a week before he was fired, according to his court papers.

Meyer said Adame will appeal a judge’s ruling before trial that he could not seek punitive damages. Adame also will be asking for attorney’s fees, Meyer said.

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