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IN PLEDGE CASE, GRODIN TAKES STAND ON FORMER COURT’S STANDING The list of amicus curiae filers in the Supreme Court’s Pledge of Allegiance case is already a mile long, with the Senate, all 50 states, the Christian Legal Society and Americans United for a Separation of Church and State among those contributing friend-of-the-court briefs. Something called grassfire.net has even chipped in its two cents (“On Behalf of Hundreds of Thousands of Americans”). Then there’s Joseph Grodin. The former California Supreme Court justice filed a brief last week, though not one addressing the merits of “under God.” Instead, he seeks to vindicate the authority of the court from which he was once driven. Grodin was one of three justices (Rose Bird and Cruz Reynoso were the others) removed from the bench by voters in 1986. Since then, he has been on the Hastings College of the Law faculty. Grodin, who is on leave this semester, could not be reached for comment. In his brief, though, he argued that the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred by deciding unsettled questions of California law, which he said should have been certified to the California Supreme Court for consideration. After the Ninth Circuit stunned the country by declaring the use of the phrase “one nation, under God” to be unconstitutional, the mother of plaintiff Michael Newdow’s daughter challenged his standing. Sandra Banning argued that she, and not Newdow, had custody and was thus the only parent authorized to bring a lawsuit on the child’s behalf. In his brief, Grodin argued that whether a noncustodial parent has the right to assert a federal constitutional claim to protect a child is unsettled California law. The question, he wrote, should be referred to his former court. Though avoiding definitive conclusions, Grodin argued that Newdow’s standing to challenge the Pledge is “highly uncertain.” A call to Grodin’s lawyer, Yale law professor Neal Katyal, was not returned. — Jason Hoppin TRAVELIN’ MAN After McGregor Scott was named Eastern District U.S. attorney in February, he decided to go on tour. Recently, Scott sat at his big wooden desk on the 10th floor of the federal building on I Street in Sacramento and pointed to a map he uses to chart his progress, coloring in each county he visits. California, it turns out, is huge, especially when your jurisdiction runs all the way from Siskiyou County, at the Oregon border, to Kern, which butts up against Los Angeles. Scott wanted to visit all 34 counties in his federal district, the state’s largest. “It’s a grind but worth it,” he said recently. Scott’s map is nearly filled in. He has just a handful left to go and expects to finish by mid-January. California Chief Justice Ronald George made a similar tour of the state’s 58 county court systems in the late 1990s. So why is Scott doing it? For starters, he comes from the state system, and a rural part of the system at that. Scott was Shasta County district attorney before President Bush asked him to take over for interim U.S. Attorney John Vincent, so he knows the importance of local cooperation. And he knows what it’s like to feel like you’re stuck in the boonies. Also, “I really view my job as being the law enforcement leader for the district,” he said. The latter point seems obvious, but few U.S. attorneys take on that role. During the visits, Scott meets with local DAs, sheriffs, chiefs of police, California Highway Patrol commanders and sometimes even probation officers. He talks about terrorism, drug trafficking and guns, among other things. He also offers his office’s services for cases tailor-made for federal prosecution, such as Project Safe Neighborhoods, which targets felons caught with guns. Federal penalties are much harsher for that crime that the state’s. Scott has continued the work back in the home office, where he’s assigned lawyers as liaisons to each county, a practice begun on a smaller scale by his predecessors. Besides figuring out ways to cooperate with the locals, Scott said the best part has been seeing natural beauty like Tioga Pass near Yosemite. “I’m a California native,” he said, but on the tour, “I’ve been to parts of the state I’ve never been to before.” — Jeff Chorney COURTING COSTS Hayward Judge Reginald Saunders must have kept his Alameda County courtroom open late one too many times. A few months ago, his supervisor sent him a bill. OK, not a real bill. But Judge Barbara Miller sent an invoice to show how much Saunders’ late days cost the court. Like many courts, Alameda County has tried to rein in overtime expenses by closing courtrooms at 4:30 p.m. sharp. Miller, the incoming presiding judge, hopes the austerity measure can keep security costs at $15 million this year, down from a projected $20 million. “I thought I was being good,” laughed Saunders, who said he kept his courtroom open late for a few minutes on a handful of occasions. The “bill” however, was for “well over $500,” he recalled. There’s a domino effect when one courtroom stays open �� even a few minutes �� because other building staff must stay late too, he explained. Miller says Saunders and other judges who get the invoices are now very conscientious about closing on time. “There’s nothing,” Miller said, “like seeing it in black and white.” — Jahna Berry SOUTH BAY ENDORSEMENT DERBY Santa Clara’s political heavyweights are doling out endorsements for the two judicial races in March, and so far, the big winners are Deputy Public Defender Enrique Colin and San Jose Police Auditor Teresa Guerrero-Daley. They’ve each won the endorsement of Reps. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, and Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, as well as Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. Guerrero-Daley, who serves as San Jose’s police auditor, has also landed the endorsement of former San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne. Guerrero-Daley is running against Mountain View civil attorney William Monahan for one of the two Santa Clara Superior Court seats. Colin is running against Deputy DA Griffin Bonini and San Jose attorney Billy Lance Burrow for the other seat. Colin, a deputy public defender, is especially pleased by Sheriff Smith’s endorsement. “That’s says a lot,” he said last week. But to Bonini, all it says is that he asked Smith for her support too late. “The overwhelming law enforcement endorsements went my way,” said Bonini, including ones from retired Sheriff Charles Gillingham and the Santa Clara Deputy Sheriffs Association. — Shannon Lafferty

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