Trump pick on track to join California's 9th Circuit despite Feinstein, Harris opposition
Sacramento Bee's EMMA DUMAIN/EMILY CADEI: "A key Republican senator expressed “confidence” in Kenneth Lee’s nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California despite the Los Angeles-based lawyer’s controversial past writing on race, gender and affirmative action."
"Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina — who has previously opposed other judicial nominees with fraught histories on race — told McClatchy in an interview Wednesday morning that Lee “has the type of body of work that makes me very confident in his candidacy."
"Scott’s remarks are a blow to California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, who have been laboring to convince their Republican colleagues to block Lee from being seated. On Monday, they called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, also of South Carolina, not to move forward with Lee’s hearing."
Families speak out against death penalty reprieve
Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON: "Disgusting. Appalling. A punch to the gut."
"Law enforcement leaders and family members waiting to see their loved ones’ killers put to death reacted with these sentiments and others Wednesday to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that he was effectively scrapping California’s death penalty and granting reprieves to more than 700 death row inmates."
"It’s just an open wound that never heals,” said Richard Mobilio, whose 31-year-old son David, a Red Bluff police officer, was gunned down in an ambush in 2002 and who has been waiting for the killer to face execution since the 2005 conviction in the case."
READ MORE related to Death Penatly Moratorium: Newsom: Halting death penalty should not be a 'huge surprise' -- The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF; Democrats in swing districts could suffer -- The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI; There are 737 inmates on California's death row -- LA Times's PAIGE ST JOHN/MALOY MOORE
OP-ED: California's prisons need a greater culture of rehabilitation
REBECCA WEIKER/JON GROBMAN/KENNETH E HARTMAN in Capitol Weekly: "California spends over $12 billion on its prison system each year. Given that stunning investment of public dollars, the residents of California deserve to understand the actual impact of incarceration: Does it create public safety and rehabilitate those who are incarcerated under its care?"
"Until recently, rehabilitation was not a central part of the mission of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the rehabilitative programs that did exist were mostly available at lower security prisons."
"Few programs were designed for, and made available to, men and women incarcerated at high security prisons serving life sentences."
Utilities pushed toward fire prevention as Edison is blamed for Thomas Fire
From CALmatters' JUDY LIN: "Pressure mounted on California utilities Wednesday to shift priorities to fire prevention, as investigators determined that Southern California Edison power lines sparked a major 2017 blaze that later resulted in a deadly mudflow."
"A joint investigation of federal, state and local authorities found the Thomas Fire—like megafires last year and the year before in Northern California areas served by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.—was sparked by utility equipment."
"In the Edison case, a so-called “line slap” brought power lines into contact with each other, creating an electrical arc that caused molten metal from the lines to ignite surrounding vegetation. The fire, which started Dec. 4, 2017, and raged for 40 days in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroyed more than 1,000 structures, killed two people and led to a massive mudslide that claimed 20 more lives."
Johnson & Johnson is found liable for California woman's baby-powder-linked cancer
BLOOMBERG: "Johnson & Johnson must pay $29 million to a dying California woman who blamed asbestos-tainted talc for causing her cancer, the company’s latest loss over its iconic baby powder."
"Jurors in state court in Oakland on Wednesday held J&J responsible for Teresa Leavitt’s mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure. The panel, which included a lawyer and a state-court judge, also found the world’s largest maker of healthcare products didn’t warn Leavitt that its baby powder was tainted with the carcinogen."
"The verdict is J&J’s seventh trial loss over claims it hid the health risks of its baby powder for 50 years. It’s the company’s first defeat since a Missouri jury ordered it last year to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women who blamed their cancer on the product."
Assemblyman Arambula enters not guilty plea in child cruelty case
Sacramento Bee's RORY APPLETON: "Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, entered a not guilty plea to a misdemeanor child cruelty charge on Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court."
"Arambula’s attorneys, Michael Aed and Margarita Martinez-Baly, appeared on behalf of Arambula, who was not present. Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright appeared on behalf of the county, and the two sides agreed to an April 23 trial date."
"When pressed about why Arambula, a public figure even before his election, did not appear in person Wednesday, Martinez-Baly said “he does not have to."
Coaches and parents in college scheme find jobs in danger
AP's MICHAEL MELIA/ANDREW DALTON: "Colleges and companies moved swiftly to distance themselves from employees swept up in a nationwide college admissions scheme, many of them coaches accused of taking bribes and others prominent parents accused of angling to get their children into top schools by portraying them as recruited athletes."
"That celebrities were among the accused parents — actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman headline the list — created much buzz, but other parents charged included people prominent in law, finance, fashion, manufacturing and other fields — people who could afford the steep price."
"At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents were among those charged. Some parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, as much as $6.5 million, to guarantee their children's admission, officials said."
READ MORE related to Operation Varsity Blues: USC's central role in college admissions scandal brings anger and dismay -- LA Times's MATT HAMILTON/HARRIET RYAN; Charity claimed to help needy kids but bribed coaches, cheated on tests -- The Chronicle's JILL TUCKER/MATTHIAS GAFNI; Rick Singer's nonprofit was supposed to help poor kids. But elite colleges got most of its grants -- LA Times's PAUL PRINGLE/ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN; Newport Beach at the center of OVB -- OCR's SCOTT M REID; Sage Hill School board of trustees members indicted in OVB -- OCR's SCOTT M REID; How Silicon Valley became epicenter of college-entry cheating scandal -- BANG's JULIA SULEK/JOHN WOOLFOOLK/LEONARDO CASTANEDA/CASEY TOLAN
Trump claims new budget has more disaster prevention than ever. It doesn't.
Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY/EMILY CADEI: "President Donald Trump says in his budget that he’s asking for the highest amount ever for certain wildfire prevention programs. His proposal actually contains less money for wildfire prevention efforts than the current federal spending plan."
"It’s a small difference, just $6 million out of about $1.4 billion for wildfire prevention programs managed by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But, it would be a cut if Congress approves it."
"Meanwhile, Trump’s budget would increase money that could contribute to harvesting timber and clearing trees. Trump has encouraged more logging in the past year. He publicly blames California and environmental groups for lax forest management on federal lands, where it is the responsibility of the federal government."
READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: SCE power lines sparked deadly Thomas fire, investigators find -- LA Times's JOSEPH SERNA; Officials say some wells can't be operated at disputed South LA oil site -- LA Times's EMILY ALPERT REYES; Destruction from sea level rise in California could exceed worst wildfires and earthquakes, new research shows -- LA Times's ROSANNA XIA; In the middle of a butterfly crisis, California sees a burst of painted ladies -- LA Times's DEBORAH NETBURN
Judge urges settlement in Clark-slaying lawsuit
Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "A federal judge urged attorneys Tuesday to settle the Stephon Clark family’s multimillion-dollar civil rights lawsuit against the city of Sacramento and the two police officers who shot and killed Clark one year ago. "
"A no-nonsense U.S. District Court Judge John A. Mendez ordered the city’s and Clark’s attorneys to arrange a sit-down with U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman by April 12 to begin to form a plan, calling Newman “probably one of the best settlement judges we have” in California’s Eastern District."
"He is expecting your call. He will make time for you ...to make this case a little more workable,” Mendez said. "
Irvine Mayor Don Wagner declares victory in OC supervisor special election
OC Register's JORDAN GRAHAM: "Republican Irvine Mayor Don Wagner declared victory Wednesday night in a special election to fill a vacant seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, believing he has defeated former congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and denied Democrats a second seat on the five-member board."
"I’m declaring victory and thanking the voters of the 3rd Supervisorial District for their trust,” Wagner said. “I ran for it and I wanted it because they do good, important work on the Board of Supervisors, and I’m very much looking forward to doing some of that work to solve the county’s problems."
"Sanchez did not concede Wednesday and her campaign said they will wait for all the votes to be counted. Wagner led Sanchez by 3,413 votes at the end of the day, more than the 2,698 provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that have yet to be counted. Though election officials expect a trickle of late mail-in ballots to arrive through Friday, the tallies aren’t expected to be enough to change the outcome."
Mayor Breed names Jeanine Nicholson as SF's new fire chief
The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco Mayor London Breed named Jeanine Nicholson the city’s next fire chief Wednesday morning."
"Nicholson, a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department who had been serving as deputy chief of administration, becomes the second woman to hold the position and the department’s first openly gay leader."
READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: Police often use broad exemption to keep videos from public -- AP
County officials say ICE, not their policy, to blame for releasing homicide suspect
BANG's THY VO/NICO SAVIDGE: "Santa Clara County officials are firing back at critics who say their policy of not notifying immigration authorities when undocumented immigrants are released from their jails led to the release of a homicide suspect who had nine detention orders issued against him."
"The suspect Carlos Eduardo Arevalo-Carranza, 24, is suspected of stabbing to death Bambi Larson, 59, in her South San Jose home last month. On Tuesday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo criticized the county’s policy of “ignoring requests” by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement that inmates about to be released be held until they are picked up by ICE. But county officials said on Wednesday that federal authorities, not they, were to blame for Arevalo-Carranza’s release."
"ICE should’ve gotten a warrant here. They could’ve gotten a warrant here,” said County Counsel James R. Williams, at a press conference late Wednesday afternoon. “And the county’s practice has always been to honor warrants that are issued."
Millions still don't have Real IDs
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is telling lawmakers it expects a substantial increase in customers at its offices this summer, potentially leading to longer wait times."
"Kathleen Webb, the DMV’s acting director., said Tuesday that she expects a “summer surge” as travelers realize they will need a federally mandated Real ID card. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, people across the country will need the special card to board airplanes and enter other federal facilities, unless they bring a passport."
"As more people become aware that they need a Real ID as we get closer to the deadline, we’ll continue to see an increase in people coming to the office,” Webb said."
READ MORE related to Transportation: Southwest, American ground troublesome 737s -- Sacramento Bee's TONY BIZJAK; Boeing supports move 'out of an abundance of caution' -- LA Times's JAMES F PELTZ
Guard won't be charged in shooting of e-activist 'Furry Potato.'
LA Times's JAMES QUEALLY: "Los Angeles prosecutors Wednesday declined to file criminal charges against a security guard who shot and wounded a YouTube personality during a bizarre clash outside a synagogue last month, an announcement that came just hours after the woman filed a civil lawsuit against the guard and his employers."
"Edduin Zelayagrunfeld, 44, was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon Feb. 14 after shooting 45-year-old Zhoie Perez while she was filming outside the Etz Jacob Congregation/Ohel Chana High School building in the Fairfax district."
"Prosecutors had asked the LAPD to conduct a deeper investigation into the incident before they made a filing decision, but they formally rejected the charges Wednesday. In a declination memorandum, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Harlan wrote that prosecutors ultimately would not be able to disprove Zelayagrunfeld was acting in self-defense."
Stanford scientist joins call for moratorium on gene-edited babies
Mercury News's LISA M KRIEGER: "Stanford Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg and many of the world’s leading CRISPR scientists and bioethicists on Wednesday called for a global moratorium on genetically modified babies."
"In the most direct opposition yet to the new gene-editing technique in embryos, Berg joined with 18 other researchers from seven nations to urge a five-year pause on its use to allow time for deeper discussion of its societal and medical implications."
Double tap: Manafort hit with new state-level indictments after latest sentencing hearing
LA Times's CHRIS MEGERIAN: "In a day of bitter setbacks for President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was excoriated by a federal judge, sentenced to another 3 ½ years in prison in the Russia investigation and then swiftly indicted for mortgage fraud in New York."
"The rapid-fire developments Wednesday boosted the time Manafort is slated to serve in prison for tax evasion, bank fraud and an illegal lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s former government, crimes prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III."
"But the abrupt announcement of a 16-count indictment by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, less than an hour after Manafort was sentenced in Washington, could pose a bigger danger to the former globetrotting political consultant. A presidential pardon cannot apply to state charges."