(CalAware Weekly comprises this plus the previous three posts)

Free Speech

First Amendment Seminars Soon at UC Davis      The University of California, Davis has announced that some of today’s most prominent legal minds will lead discussions on the First Amendment, with all of its constitutional complexities and interpretations, at free campus events Feb. 26 and March 7.

Racist Fliers Leave Vacaville Disgusted       The Reporter newspaper reports that two days after an onslaught of racist literature littered about 200 driveways in Vacaville, residents remained up in arms about the incident and police were struggling to determine whether the distribution, however offensive, was in fact a crime.

Border, Airport Searches Raise Alarms     A legal analyst discusses the constitutional dimensions of the government’s routine searches at borders and airports of travelers’ laptops, cell phones, Blackberries and MP3 players—a practice that could violate both freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search.

UCSF Medical Center Bars Union Leafleting     The UCLA Daily Bruin reports that University of California officials plan to appeal a temporary restraining order obtained by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees barring the university from stopping union members from leafleting in certain areas at UC medical centers. 

Judge Again Finds No Right to Anti-Gay T-Shirt   
    The Student Press Law Center reports that a federal judge has for the second time that the Poway Unified School District did not violate a former student’s rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion when officials punished him for wearing an anti-gay T-shirt. In 2004, Tyler Chase Harper was detained for wearing a T-shirt to Poway High School that said, "Homosexuality is shameful. Romans 1:27" on the front and "Be ashamed. Our school has embraced what God has condemned" on the back. Harper wore the shirt the same day a student group observed a "Day of Silence," an annual event that fights harassment of homosexuals.

Bill Would Punish Berkeley’s Slap at Marines    The Philadelphia Bulletin reports that proponents of the Semper Fi Act, which would cut off federal earmarks for Berkeley institutions in reaction to the city council’s recent swipe at Marine recruiters, argue that the measure is not about speech, but recognizes the fact that the exercise of rights is never without consequences.

Open Meetings

Board Sued for Sitting on Grand Jury Retort       The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board has been sued under the Brown Act for failing to provide the public with copies of a rebuttal to a highly critical report by the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury in a timely fashion.

Closed Session Transcript Yielded to State Bar       10News in San Diego reports that the City Council has voted unanimously to turn over to the State Bar of California the transcript of a 2005 closed-door meeting during which it discussed City Attorney Michael Aguirre’s authority to file litigation over San Diego’s pension system. State bar officials want the documents to determine whether Aguirre overstepped his authority to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of pension benefits without the City Council’s authorization.

Secrecy Faulted in Police Chief’s Departure       The Pasadena Star-News  reports that the Baldwin Park Police Association says it has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, accusing the City Council of violating open-meeting laws by firing Police Chief Edward Lopez in closed session and then not reporting it publicly.

Official Wants Brown Act for Charter Schools
     The San Bernardino Sun reports that the county superintendent of schools hopes to find a legislator to sponsor a bill that would require charter schools to comply with conflict-of-interest laws and follow the Brown Act.

Free Press

Anthrax Investigation Reporter Held in Contempt    The New York Times reports that a federal judge has held one of its former reporters in contempt of court for failing to identify sources who named former Army scientist Steven Hatfill as a possible suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he would begin fining Toni Locy $500 per day, escalating to $5,000 per day, until she identifies the sources.

High Court Lets Stand Ruling for Student    The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Novato school district officials found to have unlawfully confiscated a student newspaper because of an editorial urging that any Latino who couldn’t speak English be detained as a probable illegal immigrant.

Court Won’t Order End to “Phat Pink” Blog     The Redding Record Searchlight reports that a court commissioner has ruled that a blog called “No Phat Pink Chicks” that mocks one of its reporters may be "rude and boorish,"  but it’s allowed under the First Amendment.

Public Information    

Watchdog: Meat Recall Alert Law Not Working fears that California’s two-year-old law to bring more transparency to meat recalls is not working to give the public information on the biggest recall in history.

Public Pay: Was There a SLAPP in a Union Suit?
      The Associated Press reports that a state appeals court is considering whether a Marin County government workers’ union filed a SLAPP suit—which could force it to pay a newspaper’s attorney’s fees—when it persuaded a trial judge to block the release of public employee salary information to the paper.

Bill Would Identify Governor’s Judge Selectors
        The Recorder in San Francisco reports that Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles) has introduced legislation that would force Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to reveal the identities of his secret judicial applicant screeners.

Bill Would Speed Court Records Access Disputes    The California Newspaper Publishers Association reports that Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) will introduce legislation this week on its behalf to reduce delay in court records fights by eliminating appeals of orders to unseal court records that were improperly sealed in favor of more rapid writ review.

Newspaper Seeks Complaints about Coaches    The Redding Record Searchlight reports  it is dissatisfied with a school district’s minimal production of documents dealing with parental complaints about two teachers recently relieved of their positions as football coaches.

Public Records Disclose . . .

  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is dramatically overestimating the jackpot the state could collect if it sold the rights to operate the lottery to an outside company, according to confidential Wall Street analyses;
  • Even as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power again pushes to raise water and electricity rates, the nation’s largest municipal utility continues to provide  take-home vehicles to 117 managers and supervisors.