Sunday, May 11, 2008


If you want to figure out LA, you got to figure out the Rampart Scandal, and Bernard Parks, and Chemerinsky

Sara, the old (that means about my age) black lady at Kinko’s, is trying to teach me some commonsense. She told me a few months ago that the two most corrupt cities in the U.S. were Chicago and Los Angeles. The difference, however, she said – was that in Chicago, corruption was sophisticated, in Los Angeles – it was crude…

I told her that it was downright insulting... Everybody and his brother likes to hack down LA as a place with no culture… Now, on top of everything else, our home grown corruption was not sophisticated enough…

I was unprepared for it at all, I must say. My encounters with the law were mostly with individuals that I grew to appreciate or even admire …

Prof Chemerinsky is scheduled to come back to California as the new founding dean of the new law school at Irvine. Before he left USC for Duke, I had the opportunity to meet him a few times. I remember taking the kids years ago to watch moot court, which was one of his classes. He created a case that was both challenging and entertaining, and it played to a full house...

If I remember correctly, it started with a town with home grown crime and gangs.

  • First – the town decided to create a list of gang members or suspects to be maintained by the town’s police.
  • Second – they decided to pass a regulation that those on the list were not allowed to be found standing in public areas in a group of more than two.
  • Third – the town decided to launch a remedial initiative, and create special schools for gang members, and to make them effective, the Department of Education decided to experiment with separate boys girls schools, since teen pregnancy was identified as an aggravating factor in the social context of gangs and crime. The town actually allocated some extra resources to these two schools, and those on the list maintained by the police had priority if they chose to enroll in these schools.

But it so happened that the boys school filled up quickly, whereas the girls school was not that popular…
The end of the story was that a boy who was a self declared gang member, thus eligible for a place at the special school, decided to try to enroll in the girls school, since the boys school was full. When he was turned down, for being a boy, AND a gang-member to top it off, he sued the town for discrimination…

I also remember a reception for Justice Kennedy. His visit included participation in Prof. Chemerinsky constitutional law class. After the small reception, Justice Kennedy gave a lecture. Naturally, I took a seat at the very back, since I knew I was going to fall asleep, and I did not want to appear offensive. But I clearly recall, before falling asleep, I was smiling to myself concluding that the guy was a subversive type…. agent provocateur!

It was the height of the conservative revolution, and the country was in the midst of non-stop bashing of activist judges. Justice Kennedy lectured on a topic that couldn'
t be more boring – the development of tort law in medieval England. But the message was loud and clear – the whole field of Torts was the outcome of judicial activism…

The diagnosis was accurate, I believe, since years later, I recall reading in the newspaper a report about a visit by Justice Kennedy to Congress. The unusual event was necessitated for the periodic request by the justices for congress to award them with a salary increase. But since such visits by Justices to Congress are not very frequent, Justice Kennedy took advantage of the open microphone, and instead of trying to convince the lawmakers of the need for more Gouda for the Justices, he gave them a piece of his mind -- that a situation where the U.S. had the highest percentage the population incarcerated, compared to any other democracy, signaled a need for a fundamental reevaluation of the system. Definitely subversive!!!

Anyway, if you really want to figure out Los Angeles, you got to figure out the Rampart Scandal of 2003, and with it the Bernard Parks, who is not running for office again, and Erwin Chemerinsky, who is finally coming back to Southern California. I realized some time ago that I got to do my homework, and I went back to reading on that year and the Rampart Scandal of 2003. To my surprise, I quickly realized that the definitive paper was of course by Chemerinsky.

And for those readers who suffer from Adult Onset ADHD, like me, here it the long and short of it:

Erwin Chemerinsky
Guild Practitioner, 121, 2000.

1) The Long
"Police officers in the CRASH unit in the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department framed innocent individuals by planting evidence and committing perjury to gain convictions. Innocent men and women pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit and were convicted by juries because of the fabricated cases against them. Many individuals were subjected to excessive police force and suffered very serious injuries as a result.

Any analysis of the Rampart Scandal must begin with an appreciation of the heinous nature of what the officers did. This is conduct associated with the most repressive dictators and police states. It occurred in Los Angeles….

… the … report is lacking in the following ways:

  • First – it fails to identify the scope of the problem, and indeed, minimizes its scope and nature.
  • Second, the report fails to recognize that the central problem is the culture of Los Angeles Police Department… the “Code of Silence”..
  • Third - the …report fails to consider the need for structural reforms…
  • Fourth – the problems in the… disciplinary system are unduly minimized…"

2) The short
"No single reform can be sufficient. Reform is not an event, but a process that will take many years to complete…"