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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Preliminary Gang Injunction Granted

The Sacramento Bee reports this morning that Judge Kathleen White has allowed the preliminary gang injunction to go forward.
"In her six-page ruling, White said prosecutors had shown "by clear and convincing evidence" that they probably would prevail at trial on whether broad and long-lasting restrictions were needed to combat gang crime in the Broderick and Bryte neighborhoods.

The potential harm to the defendants – including two dozen alleged gang members named by prosecutors and up to 400 unnamed individuals – was outweighed by the harm to the community if the injunction had not been issued, White wrote."
On the other hand there were some limitations to the injunction:
"But White also said the criteria proposed by prosecutors for identifying gang members were overly broad and "would likely result in the curtailment of the rights" of residents who had little or no connection with gangs.

She limited the injunction to active gang members, including those who admitted to being Broderick Boys or were named by reliable informants as gang members.

Included under the judge's order are those who have tattoos associated with the Broderick Boys."
Civil rights attorney Joshua Kaizuka believes that the police still have very broad discretion in identifying who a Broderick Boy is and to curtail their civil rights.

Now that the preliminary injunction is in place, there will be a trial to determine if a permanent court order should be issued.


I remain concerned as Mr. Kaizuka does, that the police have very broad discretion in identifying who a Broderick Boy is. There have been numerous complaints by citizens that this injunction has led to the curtailment of the rights of residents who are not affiliated with gangs. This is reinforced by comments made by the Judge here.

The criteria put forward by the Judge remain overly broad. Those who admit to being Broderick Boys--does that mean under some formalized process or could they simply be compelled to sign a waiver as a condition of release from prison on a minor charge? This has been an accusation put forward by opponents of the injunction. Those named by "reliable" informants seems even more broad and more subject to problems.

Is there some kind of procedure where a person affected by the injunction can appeal that? Since this is a civil penalty, they are not entitled to court appointed representation. As a result, top caliber lawyers such as Mark Merin, Joshua Kaizuka and others have volunteered their time. Future defendants likely would not have access to top notch representation if at all.

My final problem remains with the process--it turns the justice system on its head by removing the due process of law requirement for loss of liberty while at the same time making it a civil procedure rather than a criminal one, meaning there is no right to an attorney.

I simply cannot get passed these waiving of cherished constitutional principles. People have repeatedly in response to these arguments suggested that gang members are bad people and questioned whether I have witnessed their wrath first hand. I have no doubt in the world that some of these gang members are bad people, but I believe even really bad people are entitled to due process. I also believe as Judge White seems to that this net will catch not only really bad people but people who really are not bad at all. That troubles me greatly. I would think there could be procedures put in place to allow the bad people to be prevented from associating with gangs while at the same time give the good people a chance not to get caught up in the net. It is hard to believe that this is a radical notion, but for some it seems to be.

Judge White spoke repeatedly about trying to avoid allowing the political to get into the courtroom--an admirable stance. However, at the end of the day, it is the legal and the constitutional aspects of this that remain most troubling to this non-lawyer.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting