Class Action Lawsuit Aims to End Monetary Bail System

A class action lawsuit filed this week in federal court claims San Francisco’s wealth-based pretrial detention system unfairly targets low-income inmates. San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office ardently support the lawsuit, filed Wednesday on behalf of
San Francisco County Jail inmates against the city as well as the state of California.

The lawsuit is the latest to be filed nationwide by the non-profit civil rights organization Equal Justice Under Law. Phil Telfeyan, co-founder and executive director of Equal Justice Under Law, said eight lawsuits filed this year have already resulted in settlements that did away with secured money bail for new arrestees in various cities in Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Telfeyan said San Francisco, however, is historic in that the sheriff is staunchly opposed to the current system of arbitrary bail amounts that grant the wealthy freedom while stripping the poor of their liberties. Mirkarimi said Thursday that between 75 and 85 percent of the county’s inmates are jailed before trial because they can’t post bail. Mirkarimi said pre-trial electronic monitoring has a high success rate and would save taxpayers 90 percent of the cost of housing an inmate. Additional pretrial release services, as well as intervention, rehabilitation, home detention, and stay-away orders, could also be used for first-time, non-violent offenders. The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office reached out to Equal Justice Under the Law for help on the issue of pretrial detention in the city.

Hetch Hetchy Suit

A lawsuit seeking to force San Francisco to come up with a plan to restore the flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park and remove the city’s reservoir there will be allowed to proceed in Tuolumne County, the group pursuing the lawsuit announced today.

According to Oakland-based group Restore Hetch Hetchy, a judge ruled against San Francisco’s efforts to move the case back to San Francisco.The Hetch Hetchy Valley was flooded in 1923 to create the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Run by the San Francisco Public Utilities District, it now provides water to 24 cities and water districts in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, in addition to San Francisco. But the Restore Hetch Hetchy group says the flooded valley bordered by sheer granite cliffs was once “as thrilling and majestic a landscape as Yosemite Valley.” The lawsuit filed in April contends that operating the reservoir violates the California Constitution, which requires state water resources be used in a reasonable way and be put to beneficial use in the fullest extent possible.

Flooding the valley eliminated or impaired the scenic, recreational, aesthetic and fishing uses of the Tuolumne River. They are asking the court to order San Francisco to come up with a plan to provide the necessary water by diverting the river and storing the water elsewhere, outside of Yosemite National Park.

Officials with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment today but previously have said they will vigorously defend the city’s water arrangements.

Raiders Fans Ask Owner and NFL Not to Move Football Team

Hundreds of boisterous Raiders fans, many dressed in the football team’s silver and black colors, asked the team’s owner and National Football League officials Thursday night not to move the team away from Oakland.

At a town hall meeting the NFL held at the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland, a fan and rapper named “Dynamo” said, “Being a Raider fan is a way of life. We live this, we breathe this.”

Referring to the team’s long struggle to have a new stadium built in Oakland or possibly somewhere else, Dynamo asked, “Why is it so difficult for a team with such a heritage to get things done?” Dynamo said, “You’d think Oakland could get it done for a team that has won three Super Bowls.”

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who heads the league’s relocation program, told the crowd of 440 people, “It’s not harder or more difficult in Oakland than it is in other cities.”

Grubman said, “There are really difficult things in every city – not just the money but also permitting the land and environmental issues.” Grubman also said Raiders fans shouldn’t think that there’s no chance that the football team will stay in Oakland, even though Raiders owner Mark Davis is actively exploring the possibility of building a new stadium in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, and having the team play there.

“There are other clubs where people lost hope and they are still [in the teams original cities]” , Grubman said. The hearing in Oakland was the third that the NFL has held on consecutive nights in cities whose football teams might be moved elsewhere soon, following hearings in St. Louis on Tuesday and in San Diego on Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is looking at a new stadium in Inglewood in Los Angeles County and the San Diego Chargers are in talks with the Raiders about sharing a new stadium in Carson. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf put down Carson in her remarks, saying, “We know that the energy and the value is flowing to vibrant cities like Oakland, not tired suburbs like Carson.” Schaaf said, “We need to find the best way to keep the Raiders in Oakland, where they belong.”

NFL officials weren’t sure that Davis would attend the hearing, but he was the first speaker and when he took the podium Raiders fans gave him a lengthy standing ovation and launched into Raiders chants. Davis thanked the fans for being “the most passionate, loyal fan base in the nation” but initially said he wouldn’t take questions, although he promised to listen to everyone at the three-hour hearing.

However, Davis felt compelled to take the microphone again later in the meeting after fan Gary Dowell, dressed in a black hat and a Raiders uniform, accused him of not having the fans’ backs.

Davis said, “We have been trying for at least six years to get something done in Oakland, every day. We need help from the community to get something our fans and the NFL can be proud of. And it can be done in Oakland if everyone pulls together to get it done.”