Courts

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

UPDATED: No Report Out of Closed Door Evaluation of Public Defender

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 5:08 PM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
UPDATE:
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors announced no final actions when reconvening out of closed session today.

PREVIOUSLY (Oct. 8):
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will meet in closed session Tuesday to review the job performance of embattled Public Defender David Marcus.

The closed-session review comes eight months into Marcus’ tenure and about two weeks after a visiting Humboldt County Superior Court judge denied a county request to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Marcus doesn’t meet minimum state qualifications for his job. It also comes as staffing issues in the office have bubbled into public view, with the departure of four experienced attorneys in an eight-week period, which prompted a four-month continuance in a high-profile murder case. (One of the exiting attorneys, Heidi Holmquist, was highly critical of Marcus on her way out the door.)

It’s unclear exactly why Marcus is up for review this week. He underwent a closed session performance evaluation back in April, when the board emerged with a statement of support for him. At the time, county spokesman Sean Quincey said department head reviews typically occur annually in the fall but that sometimes the board will opt to do them early in a new employee’s tenure to “outline goals and objectives” soon after the hiring process. (This is apparently the case with the county’s new human resources director, Lisa DeMatteo, who’s also being evaluated Tuesday after a couple months on the job.)

We’ll update this post with any reports out of closed session on Tuesday. In the meantime, find more on Marcus’ background here and more on the lawsuit and conditions in the office here.

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Humboldt County Man Commits Suicide in Federal Prison

Posted By on Sun, Oct 8, 2017 at 3:59 PM

Mikal Xylon WIlde
  • Mikal Xylon WIlde
Mikal Xylon Wilde, the Humboldt County man serving a life sentence for murdering a migrant worker at his Kneeland marijuana farm, committed suicide in federal prison on Sept. 22, according to the Associated Press. He was 35.

Wilde was convicted on a total of six charges in 2015, including murder in the commission of a narcotics offense and conspiracy for the 2010 murder of Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid, and later sentenced to serve life in prison plus 35 years. He appealed the convictions but the Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals upheld them earlier this year.

According to the Associated Press article, Wilde was found unresponsive in his cell in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Sept. 22 and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead four days later. The story quotes Vigo County Coroner Susan Amos as saying Wilde apparently hanged himself.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 22, 2017

Judge Allows Public Defender Lawsuit to Proceed Amid Attorney Exodus

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 11:38 AM

Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Humboldt County Public Defender David Marcus in his sparsely decorated Eureka office.
A visiting Humboldt County Superior Court judge ruled this morning that a case challenging the hiring of controversial Public Defender David Marcus can continue, finding sufficient facts have been alleged to hold a hearing to determine whether he meets minimum state qualifications for the post.

The county of Humboldt had asked Judge Marjorie Carter to dismiss the case brought shortly after Marcus’ February hire, arguing that the suit was a “frivolous and baseless,” an “artificial legal controversy” brought by people “fuming about the merits of the political appointment.”

Carter’s ruling came as turmoil in Marcus’ office has bubbled into public view, amid an exodus of experienced attorneys from the office and the continuance of a high-profile murder case due to a resulting staffing crisis.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

House Says No to Sessions' Asset Forfeiture Plans

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 4:19 PM

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. - GAGE SKIDMORE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The House of Representatives has just said no to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempts to lessen restrictions on taking money and property from people suspected but sometimes never even charged let alone convicted of a crime — a practice called asset forfeiture.

Read the Journal’s previous coverage about the controversial legal procedure in the March cover story “The Trump Card” here.

According to reporting in the HuffPost and The Hill, bipartisan amendments attached to a government spending package — expected to be voted on later this week — would prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to relax limits put in place by the Obama administration.

The move takes aim at Sessions’ July order to unravel those controls, an action he described as being “especially for drug traffickers” in prepared remarks for a speech he gave that month before the National District Attorney Association.

Sessions has notoriously said that marijuana is “slightly less awful” than heroin and that "good people don't smoke marijuana."

“With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures,” Sessions’ remarks read. “No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, September 10, 2017

TL;DR: What You Need to Know About the $2.5 Million Verdict Against the County

Posted By on Sun, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:44 AM

This week's cover is a drawing by Daren Borges. The headline, 'The Hollow Men,' is a title of a work by his favorite poet, T.S. Elliot.
  • This week's cover is a drawing by Daren Borges. The headline, 'The Hollow Men,' is a title of a work by his favorite poet, T.S. Elliot.
Busy week? We’ll help you catch up on the basics of this week's cover story, which touches on Humboldt County's jail, homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. Read the full story here before you dive into a Facebook comments debate.

This week the Journal took a deep dive into the recent $2.5 federal court verdict against the county of Humboldt and the life and death of Daren Borges that preceded it. Here are five things you need to know.

Daren Borges (right) with his mother, Stephany Borges. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Daren Borges (right) with his mother, Stephany Borges.
1. Daren Borges was a real human being with people who cared about him. Born with a hearing impairment that slowed his development of speech, Borges grew to love language. He was a poet and committed many of his favorite works by T.S. Elliot to memory. He was an artist who drew on anything he could find — envelopes, scraps of paper, even paperwork from the Humboldt County jail, where he  stayed frequently. Borges also had schizophrenia, which developed in his late teens and seems to have controlled his life in many ways until his death at 42. He also appears to have had a methamphetamine addiction, which ultimately led to his death, when he took a potentially lethal dose just days after being released from the jail. But through it all, his family loved him. Days before his death, Borges wrote his mom a letter telling her he loved her and expressing his excitement at talking to her soon. When his phone was found after he died, it had just one number programmed into it, listed under the name “mom.” His sister Sofia told the Journal about her brother: “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel love that unconditional (again).”

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Man Sentenced to 52 years to Life in Arcata Shooting

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 2:15 PM

da.png
Two months after being convicted by a jury of second degree murder, Billy Joe Giddings, 38, was sentenced today to 52 years to life in prison for the death of Arcata resident Trevor Mark Harrison in a marijuana deal gone wrong.

Another defendant, Robert Louis Huntzinger, was acquitted but still faces charges in unrelated cases. Harrison’s mother was trying to buy marijuana from the pair when her son was shot inside her home on May 9, 2015. He was 38.

Press release from the District Attorney’s Office:
Today, District Attorney Maggie Fleming announced that Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen sentenced 38-year-old Billy Joe Giddings to 52 years to life in prison; Mr. Giddings must serve 52 years before he will be eligible for parole. On June 27, 2017, a Humboldt County jury found Giddings guilty of the second degree murder of Trevor Harrison, with the special allegation of use of a firearm causing death, and four counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm.

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, August 28, 2017

Federal Jury Hits County with $2.5 Million Wrongful Death Verdict

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 9:10 PM

FILE
  • File
A federal jury in McKinleyville this afternoon awarded $2.5 million in damages to the family of a man who died at the Humboldt County jail in 2014, finding three correctional officers acted negligently when they failed to properly screen him before putting him in a sobering cell.

The jury also found that the county failed to adequately train the three officers, who the jury determined did not act with malice or a conscious disregard for human life. Having sat through four and a half days of testimony and argument in the case, the jury of six men and two women deliberated for about 10 hours before arriving at its unanimous verdict.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Denied: Appellate Court Rejects Rechnitz Appeal for Change of Venue

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 3:56 PM

Shlomo Rechnitz - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SACARAMENTO BEE / PAUL KITAGAKI JR.
  • Shlomo Rechnitz
On July 27 an appellate court ruled against a second plea on behalf of skilled nursing mogul Shlomo Rechnitz requesting that an upcoming elder abuse and wrongful death civil trial be moved closer to Rechnitz's home and center of operations in Los Angeles County.

The suit is being brought by local law firm Janssen Malloy, LLP on behalf of the family of Ralph Sorensen, who died in January of 2016 due to an infected pressure ulcer that was allegedly related to understaffing at Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center. Seaview was named as a defendant, as well as its associated corporate entities, including Rockport Healthcare Services, the facility's administrator Lorena Smith and Brius Management Company. Rechnitz is Brius's owner and is personally named in the lawsuit.

In the initial request for a venue change, Rechnitz's attorney argued that he could not get a fair trial in Humboldt County due to negative media coverage and that the distance from Los Angeles would make it difficult for Rechnitz and his wife, Tamar, to attend the trial. The bid for a change of venue was rejected on May 26 by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Squireses Take G Street Neighbors Back to Court

Posted By on Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 9:53 AM

The now red-tagged home at 1635 G St. - PHOTO BY THADEUS GREENSON
  • Photo by Thadeus Greenson
  • The now red-tagged home at 1635 G St.
A few weeks after residents along a stretch of G Street in Eureka received letters in June announcing they had won their small claims case against the city’s most notorious landlords, another arrived in the mail.

The case was going back to court.

The landlords, Floyd and Betty Squires, had appealed Judge Timothy Cissna’s ruling that found the couple failed to properly manage two buildings on the street and awarded neighbors varying amounts in damages.

In his decision, Cissna said there was “substantial, credible evidence” to show the residences at 1625 and 1635 G St. qualified as “nuisances.”

But, under the small claims appeal process, all the Squireses needed to do was pay a fee and fill out a form to be granted what is called a "trial de novo" before a different judge in a bid to throw out the thousands of dollars in damages Cissna had distributed among the 20 neighbors.

Continue reading »

  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Judge Gives Attorney 30 Days to Refile Public Defender Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 4:02 PM

David Marcus - SCREENSHOT FROM THE LASSEN COUNTY TIMES DIGITAL ARCHIVES
  • SCREENSHOT FROM THE LASSEN COUNTY TIMES DIGITAL ARCHIVES
  • David Marcus
A judge today dismissed a lawsuit alleging the county’s public defender did not meet minimum qualifications required for the post, but gave local attorney Patrik Griego 30 days to refile, saying he should have more information about his contention after questioning David Marcus under oath during an upcoming deposition.

The lawsuit seeking to block Marcus’ controversial appointment centers on the California government code section that states public defender candidates must have "been a practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding the date of his election or appointment."

While visiting Judge Marjorie Carter noted her “inclination” was to overrule the county’s move to dismiss the case and “get on with this,” she said there needs to be further clarification on the extent of Marcus’ legal work history before the lawsuit could proceed.

“You will probably know more after your deposition,” Carter said told Griego after hearing brief statements from attorneys in the case.

Griego argued that the state code requires more than just practicing law in the previous year, but also making appearances — either in person or via legal filings — in both the criminal and civil courts.

Marcus, he contends, did not meet that threshold, with questions being raised about whether the public defender practiced law at all during the year before his appointment while he was living in Florida working as an insurance adjuster.

Griego said the criteria was included by lawmakers to ensure the indigent defendants being served by the public defender’s office were afforded qualified counsel.

County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck asserted that the state simply requires a public defender to have been a practicing attorney — which could include giving legal advice or preparing documents — before taking office, adding there was no case law he found with a requirement to have “stepped foot in a courtroom.”

“It’s our position he was a practicing attorney,” Blanck told the judge.

Blanck said the statute boils down to the question: Have you done legal work in the past 12 months?

“If the answer is yes, I don’t think it needs to be quantified as to what is too much and what is too little,” Blanck told the judge.

Carter acknowledged an interpretation of the statute’s meaning would need to be sorted out but said that was not the issue before the court today.

Marcus last practiced criminal law when he served as Lassen County’s public defender from 2005 to 2011. According to the resume Marcus submitted to Humboldt County, he worked for the Walnut Creek law firm Cella, Lange and Cella from 2012 through 2016 as a contract attorney while living in Florida. What specific legal work he did for the firm during that time is unclear.

He has faced a bumpy road since being selected for the public defender’s job, from members of the local defense bar criticizing the county's hiring process to a pair of no-confidence letters from public defender's office employees.

Marcus attended the court hearing, but left quickly after the judge’s decision and was not immediately available for comment.

Blanck stated in an email to the Journal that the county agrees “with the Court’s ruling that the Petitioners had not stated sufficient facts to determine whether or not the practicing law standard was met.”

“We will wait and see what they put in their Second Amended Writ,” he wrote.
Griego said there’s zero evidence to show Marcus had done any legal work for Cella, Lange and Cella and he plans to refile the lawsuit after gathering more information, including Marcus’ testimony at Monday’s deposition.

“We feel pretty confident that this idea that he worked for a friend’s law firm was just made up,” Griego said after the hearing.
  • Pin It
  • Favorite
  • Email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

socialize

Facebook | Twitter

© 2017 North Coast Journal

Website powered by Foundation

humboldt