Politics, government and public life for Southern California

US Supreme Court makes it harder to get tougher penalties

Prop 8: Reporters outside SCOTUS

Kitty Felde/ KPCC

The reporter scrum in front of the Supreme Court Thursday hoping for rulings on Prop 8. Instead, the court ruled on a California sentencing case.

California's burglary law came under attack at the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday morning. Justices ruled the state's broad definition of the offense makes it more difficult to use as an enhanced punishment in sentencing. 

The case revolved around Matthew Descamps, who in 2005 was arrested on felony gun charges in Washington state and ultimately convicted. Prosecutors invoked the Armed Career Criminal Act, which increases penalties when there are three prior convictions for a "violent" felony, including burglary. Descamp had pleaded guilty to burglary in California in 1978. But the state's legal description of the crime is broad and even includes shoplifting.

Prosecutors at the time wanted to find out exactly what Descamp had done and searched around in old records to see whether the burglary met the federal standard. In an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such action was unacceptable.


State has not paid any reimbursements for local Public Records Act compliance

Jerry Brown Delivers California State Of The State Address

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California's Democratic leaders (from left) Assembly Speaker John Pérez, Governor Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg have resolved differences over maintaining the state's role the Public Records Act.

While the legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown wrangle over whether the state should continue to foot the bill for local governing bodies to comply with the Public Records Act, here's a little known fact:

Since 2002, when a court ruled that California is responsible for such reimbursements, the state has not paid out any money to comply with the ruling.  

After the ruling, the Commission on State Mandates had to review a test claim from a local government or school board to determine what aspects of the mandate actually increase their costs. Test claims were submitted by the Riverside School District and Los Angeles County, which initiated the legal challenge that led to the state being found financially responsible.

The commission only recently concluded that the Public Records Act has some reimbursable costs. The dollar amount for what the state owes locals is unknown.  The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates it's in the tens of millons.


Maven's Morning Coffee: Tom Calderon speaks, public health measure goes on ballot, the colorful life of Bill Rosendahl

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl

Andres Aguila/KPCC

The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the different worlds of L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, public meetings and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

The Maven's Morning Coffee is also available as a daily email. Click here to subscribe.

Today is Thursday, June 20, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


Tom Calderon tells the Sacramento Bee he has "no idea" why federal agents raided his brother's Senate office in Sacramento. In addition the FBI raid, the U.S. Attorney's Office subpoenaed documents from the Central Basin Municipal Water District, which used Tom Calderon has a political consultant for more than a decade. "You know, the enemies of Central Basin, I'm sure have talked to people and are making allegations of what my role was, but my role is my role," he tells the paper.


Raul Labrador has own immigration plan, walks away from House Gang of Eight talks

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A May Day protester at a Los Angeles immigration rally wears a "Path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrations" t-shirt, May 1, 2013.

The U.S. Senate continues to slap down border enforcement amendments to the immigration bill. On Wednesday, lawmakers voted to table an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) that would have required a Congressional vote on border security before legal status could be granted to undocumented immigrants.

Over on the House side, a bipartisan group of negotiators continue to work on their own version of a comprehensive bill. Even a breakaway member who recently walked out on those negotiations is planning his own legislation.

Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) was a member of the House Gang of Eight hashing out an immigration bill. Labrador prefers the term "Group of Eight" saying his mother told him "not to join gangs."

Labrador was born in Puerto Rico, but settled in his wife's home state of Idaho. He dropped out of the official House immigration effort, saying he's writing his own bills to complement various enforcement measures being pushed through the House Judiciary Committee.


Court hears testimony on state of mental health care in California prisons

Reed Saxon/AP

Atascadero State Hospital, shown here in a file photo, cares for some of CDCR's mentally ill prisoners.

Psychiatrists and other witnesses are testifying Wednesday that state hospital units charged with treating mentally ill prisoners are dangerously understaffed. 

The evidentiary hearing is part of a long-running case on prison mental healthcare before U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton.

In opening statements, Michael Bien, an attorney for inmates, told the judge that the Salinas Valley Psychiatric Program and a similar program at a facility in Vacaville lacked enough psychiatrists to provide timely and adequate treatment to the sickest inmates.  Bien asserted the lack of staff may have contributed to the recent deaths of two inmates at the Salinas facility. "Peoples' lives are at stake,"  he told Judge Karlton.

In November, 2012 an inmate hung himself in his cell after waiting for weeks to be admitted to the program. Another inmate, who suffered from a psychological condition that creates an unquenchable thirst, died in March of this year from drinking too much water. Dr. Pablo Stewart, an expert on psychiatric care, testified that a death from such a condition was "100 percent preventable." Staff should have monitored the patient and restricted his access to water told Karlton.