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Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Blog


Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19: All Orange County Superior Courts Close

Orange County Superior Court
At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we hope that everyone in California and throughout the country is taking precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19. The deadly coronavirus is sweeping across the country; there are now more confirmed cases in the U.S. than any other country around the world.

The coronavirus is highly contagious and can lead to loss of life; 1,301 people have died in the U.S. as of today. However, if you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization guidelines, then you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Our hearts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. We will keep you in our thoughts as you mourn your staggering loss.

While New York is the current epicenter of the crisis in America (39,140 confirmed cases and 461 deaths), California could eventually overtake the Empire State. Time will tell what is in store for the Golden State; we currently have 4,040 sick Californians, and 82 members of our communities have succumbed to the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, state officials reported that the coronavirus cases are doubling every three to four days, CNN reports. In eight weeks, more than half the state could be sick with COVID-19. In a letter to The White House, Governor Gavin Newsom wrote:

"We project that roughly 56 percent of our population – 25.5 million people – will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period."

Orange County Courts Closed Indefinitely

Despite Gov. Newsom's projections, the state is taking significant steps to prevent that terrible outcome. The criminal justice system is taking measures as well, which we shared with you last week.

Since our last post, there have been some developments in Orange County. After facing public backlash for holding several criminal cases at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana last Thursday, Orange County Superior Court system courthouses closed to the public and attorneys on Monday, CBS Los Angeles reports. The closure is indefinite. The O.C. Superior Court said in a statement:

"California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has issued an emergency order permitting the closing the Court's facilities to the public, at least until March 30." 

One hour north in Los Angeles, the legal system has made changes as well. The Los Angeles County Superior Court system is partially open, according to the article. Only "essential and emergency" functions are occurring in the L.A. court system. Trials are suspended – both civil and criminal jury and non-jury – and jury duty is suspended through the week of April 6.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Again, we hope that Californians follow CDC and WHO guidelines, and mandates or recommendations from your elected local and state officials. If you require legal assistance, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Criminal Justice During a Pandemic

criminal justice
We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis in the United States, at least in any of our lifetimes. Everyone is aware that there is an epidemic sweeping across the globe that is making people sick, and in thousands of cases causing fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the World Health Organization (WHO), has instructed us to stay away from large groups of people. Any place where one might come in contact with COVID-19 or Coronavirus should be avoided.

Life in America is vastly different than it was just a short time ago. However, we have a criminal justice system and Americans have the right to speedy trials and due process. Since twelve jurors are unlikely to want to be in close proximity to perfect strangers, naturally, the pandemic is presenting significant problems for the California legal system.

Criminal Justice During a Pandemic

Last week in Los Angeles, the nation's busiest courthouse had to grapple with the safety of their jurors. During a murder trial, the jurors requested that the judge allow them to sit apart; the judge acquiesced to their wishes, The Los Angeles Times reports. The jurors were granted the right to sit with a vacant seat separating each member.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, courts across the state have taken several measures to safeguard attorneys, defendants, and jurors, according to the article. Such measures include trial delays, excusing elderly jurors who may be more susceptible to contraction, and temporarily closing courthouses in some cases altogether.

However, the wheels of justice must continue to turn regardless of what the nation faces. Still, delays are an inevitability. Orange County will not start new civil trials until the first of May. Since no court has ever dealt with this kind of situation, it's hard for judges and county officials to decide the best course of action while still considering the rights afforded by the constitution.

"You can't just shut down the public safety function in a crisis," said Michele Hanisee, president of the union representing Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys. "We cannot deprive those accused of a crime their due process rights. The courts have to keep working." 

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we are hopeful that all of our current and former clients are following public health guidelines to protect their health. We are also keeping ourselves informed about how best to protect our clients' safety and their rights. We are working closely with the courts to stay apprised of proper procedures during this public health crisis.

Please contact us today if you need legal assistance for a criminal charge.

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Execution Moratorium's Impact on the Criminal Justice System

death penalty
A short time ago, we wrote about California Governor Gavin Newsom's executive moratorium on death penalty executions across the state. At the time, we pointed out that voters approved Proposition 66, which kept the death penalty in place in 2016. Prop. 66 also included a provision that was meant to expedite the appeals process for death penalty convictions.

It's been almost a year since Gov. Newsom declared the moratorium. Nevertheless, there continue to be death penalty sentences in counties throughout the state. In 2019, there were two new death penalty sentences in Riverside County alone.

It turns out that Riverside county, which borders Orange County, has a history of being a leader in new death sentences imposed in the United States, Desert Sun reports. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center released a report in December showing that Riverside County judges ordered sixteen new death sentences since 2015.

Execution Moratorium’s Impact on the Criminal Justice System

The Riverside County District Attorney, Mike Hestrin, continues to seek death penalty convictions and is not swayed by the moratorium, according to the article. DA Hestrin argues that Gov. Newsom lacks the authority to halt executions and says that the governor is trying to nullify the death penalty statute.

"The governor doesn't have the power to undo the law with the stroke of a pen," said Hestrin. 

Death sentences are a moral problem for many Americans, naturally. The U.S. is one of the last western democracies that still utilize what some call a draconian, if not barbaric, method of dealing with criminals. Proposition 66 was narrowly approved in 2016, which is evidence that fewer Californians are in favor of capital punishment.

It's worth noting that the last time a death penalty sentence was carried out in California was on January 17, 2006, thirteen years before Newsom put a halt on executions. As it stands now, 21 states have done away with capital punishment.

Riverside County Public Defender Steven Harmon thinks that Newsom's moratorium is a chance for both lawmakers and citizens to reflect on the death penalty, the article reports. Harmon has opposed the use of capital punishment for his entire career as criminal defense attorney—47 years.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Ronald Brower can advocate for you or a loved one in the criminal justice system. He has been a practicing criminal defense lawyer for more than three decades, which means he has the experience to help you achieve a favorable outcome. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for a consultation at 714-997-4400.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2020

AB 2978: Low-Level Criminal Records

Low-Level Criminal Records
Even minor criminal offenders – even those who have paid their debt to society – face obstacles with employment and housing. While many people are eligible to petition the courts to have the records expunged, it’s still a lengthy and potentially costly process.

Some legal experts argue that the process for record relief should be less of a burden. California Assemblyman Phil Tang would like to help people with arrest records dating back 50 years get back their good name.

If you were arrested for or convicted of a low-level crime on or after January 1, 1973, then you may be in luck. Assemblymen Tang recently introduced Assembly Bill 2978 Department of Justice: arrest and conviction records: review.

Erasing Low-Level Criminal Records

AB 2978 would provide relief to millions of Californians if it is passed and signed by the governor, according to KSBY. Existing law, beginning January 1, 2021, requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the records in the nationwide criminal justice databases and identify persons who are eligible for arrest record relief or automatic conviction record relief.

However, the new mandate does not apply to people stemming back decades. Such individuals must jump through hoops to have their criminal records withheld from disclosure or modified. AB 2978 would require that an arrest or conviction occurring on or after January 1, 1973, also be considered for relief by the DOJ.

"These are people who have paid their debts to society, fulfilled their responsibilities, they've taken care of restitution in court fees and they've done everything they have been asked, and at this point they should be entitled to move on with their lives," offered one California criminal defense attorney.

The new bill would simplify the expungement process by automatically erasing one’s criminal record. The legislation, if enacted, would not apply to sex offenders or any offender who served time in prison.

"They're trying to make ends meet and trying to take care of their families, get a job, be productive members of society," said attorney Taylor. "Why would we want to throw hurdles for them?"

Under AB 2978, criminal records comprised of minor offenses would be invisible to employers and property sellers, the article reports. However, the courts and law enforcement will still have access.

Orange County Attorney at Law

Please contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are being charged with a criminal offense. Attorney Brower has the experience to help you achieve a favorable outcome to your case. Please call 714-997-4400 for a consultation.

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