Editor's Note: News get around. The article "Judge Barclay Explains Delay in GJ Report" published on this blog was picked up the Digital Clipping Service and then picked up by the Redding Record Searchlight.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Judge Barclay Explains Delay in GJ Report
Editor’s Note: Vagueness continues to surround the delay of the release of the Modoc County grand jury report for 2010-11 addressing, among other investigations, the misappropriation of an estimated $20 million from the treasury -- the single most important issue facing the county since the financial crisis was revealed in early 2009. On July 18 in an effort to gain an understanding of why the report was delayed in being made public, and to clear up reports of dissatisfaction on the part of either grand jurors or the courts, we sent the following list of questions to Judge Francis Barclay, presiding judge, Modoc County Superior Court. On Aug. 23, more than a month after our first media query, he responded by e-mail with the following answers.
Why the delay in issuance of 2010-11 grand jury report?
A combination of factors contributed to the delay in issuance. This was the first year that the number of regular grand jurors was reduced from 19 to 11. There was a glitch in last year’s training resulting in last year’s grand jury getting little, if any, training and direction on preparation and submission of the draft report. (As a result, we have made a positive change this year in our training practices).
We received the draft report in a non-electronic mode with different fonts and formats for each of the reporting committees and significant re-formatting had to be done to get the report in publishable form, and then it had to be re-circulated for approval by the grand jury. All of this was happening at the same time the courts were laying off staff, putting other staff on furlough days, and doing the best that we could to keep up with regular duties during these tough economic times with reduced resources
Our understanding is you are dissatisfied with the wording in the grand jury’s open letter to the public? Is that true?
I am going to respond to this question with some questions of my own. First, if the grand jury did intend to include an open letter to the public as part of their report, how is it that you would even be privy to this given that the report has not been published? Second, given that communications between the grand jury and the presiding judge of the Superior Court are confidential, how would you even be aware of whether there was or was not dissatisfaction with wording in an open letter that may or may not have been submitted as part of the report?
When do you expect the report to be made public?
We have completed the re-formatting and should have the report ready for public release before the end of August 2011.
In what form will the report be released?
The report has to be distributed to governmental agencies required to respond before it is made publicly available. This year we will distribute to the government agencies, lodge with the county clerk, distribute copies to the library, have copies available at the Superior Court and provide complete copies to the media. Because of budgetary constraints, we have prepared the report in-house and are not going to solicit bids for publication. We would encourage media to print the entire report for the benefit of the public but do not have the budget to pay for publication as we have in past years.
What is your opinion on the request of the out-going grand jury that a criminal grand jury be impaneled to investigate the 2010-11 Grand Jury’s findings per its letter to you dated June 1, 2011?
Again, I must respond to this question with a question. Assuming that the grand jury did send a letter to the presiding judge of the Superior Court regarding impaneling a criminal grand jury, I would like to know how you are privy to this communication given that nothing has been made public at this time and communications between the grand jury and the presiding judge of the Superior Court are confidential by law?
Notwithstanding the concern I have regarding confidentiality, I can tell you that practically speaking it is my opinion that it makes no sense for me to impanel a criminal grand jury unless a prosecuting authority such as a district attorney or attorney general requests that I do so as the purpose of a criminal grand jury is for a prosecuting authority to present information to this jury for purposes of obtaining a criminal indictment.
Posted by BMarch at 3:24 PM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
First Amendment Coalition
Editor's Note: The First Amendment Coalition has been extremely helpful to the Modoc County Daily News in assisting us in obtaining public documents that Modoc County was resistant in releasing. If there are readers out there who feel helpless in their dealings with public officials, we highly recommend the First Amendment Coalition. The service is free, but a contribution within your means would be thoughtful and welcome. The information below is from the First Amendment Coalition.
The First Amendment Coalition offers an incredibly useful and FREE legal consultation service. FAC’s Legal Hotline, available on our website, is staffed by top media lawyers who will answer your questions about freedom-of-information, open-meeting laws, First Amendment protections for journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens, and other open-government issues.
FAC wants you to use this completely FREE service. FAC is a nonprofit. Our Legal Hotline service is made possible by grants from the McCormick, Knight, CS and Central Valley Foundations, as well as individuals who contribute generously to FAC.
When a government agency refuses to disclose public records, or a city council deliberates secretly on issues that should be aired in public, or a police officer forbids the videotaping of an arrest, you are not powerless. Use the free Hotline service on FAC’s website for an expert analysis of your issue and to find our what your options are. If the matter is urgent, you can call us directly (at 415.460.5060).
Here are some examples of recent questions submitted to the Hotline and the answers given by FAC’s lawyers at Holmes Roberts & Owen (a national law firm with offices in San Francisco):
- Are emails between elected officials public records?
- Do open-meeting laws bar a candidates' forum?
- Can local governments negotiate with unions in secret?
The Legal Hotline is not new. We’ve provided the public with answers to access law questions for more than 20 years. But the need today is greater than ever. Financially-strapped news organizations are no longer able to dispatch lawyers to vindicate the "people's right to know." The role of the Hotline is to legally empower citizens and journalists of all kinds to stand as a counterweight to government secrecy.
To make a long story short, we want you to take advantage of us, to pick the brains of our First Amendment experts, and, armed with a better understanding of your legal rights (and citations to relevant legal authorities), to push back effectively against recalcitrant government officials.
FAC is an advocate for free speech and access to government, but to succeed we have to connect our know-how with your need-to-know. So, use our free Hotline service.
Posted by BMarch at 5:19 PM
Monday, August 22, 2011
California Public Records Act
Editor’s Note: We offer this link to the Los Angeles Times as food for thought. We share in its message to its readers. The message is as applicable to the Modoc County Daily News blog as it is to a major metropolitan newspaper. If you want to get involved in your local political process, there are constructive ways to do it. This blog and its parent publication Modoc Independent News have successfully used the California Public Records Act (CPRA) in its investigations of the county treasury misappropriation. We are currently using the CPRA and we pledge that we will continue to do so. It’s our -- and your -- right.
Posted by BMarch at 7:01 PM