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TASK FORCE TO REVIEW WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS IN STATE Former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp will chair a commission charged with recommending improvements to flaws in the state’s criminal justice system that may have resulted in wrongful convictions and even executions, the state Senate announced Wednesday. Van de Kamp, now of counsel to the Los Angeles firm Dewey Ballantine, will lead what will be an 18- or 19-member committee comprised of prosecutors, public defenders, a victims’ rights advocate, law enforcement officials and others who work in the criminal justice system. “It’s going to be a very balanced commission,” Van de Kamp said last week. Lawmakers created the Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice in 2004, although the group has not been continuously active in its first full year. It will have until the end of 2007 to report back to the Legislature and governor on its findings. Van de Kamp said the commission hopes to quicken the pace of its work by announcing a new executive director shortly and starting research on the issue of false identifications in criminal cases. Other issues the group will consider are the use of inmate informants, access to forensic evidence and inadequate defense, “particularly in death penalty cases, where so much is at stake,” Van de Kamp said. Legislation introduced earlier this month would have placed a moratorium on executions in California until the commission issued its final report. Commissioners stayed out of the debate, and the bill recently stalled in the Assembly. Van de Kamp, the former U.S. attorney for California’s Central District, supported a moratorium on federal death penalty cases earlier this decade, although he said his position is irrelevant. “There are people on the commission who support the death penalty and there are people who oppose it. That’s not the issue here,” Van de Kamp said. “The fact is that we have a death penalty statute in California.” The commission’s success over the next two years will depend, he said, “on whether we made a positive impact on the criminal justice system and cut down on reversal rates.” � Cheryl Miller TACKLING TACTICS Two lawyers in O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles office will head back to court next month for further details on an unusual class action that’s making national headlines and could affect future unionization strategies. Partners Robert Welsh and Gordon Krischer are representing uniform supplier Cintas Corp. in a suit against a union and tactics it used in trying to organize employees. The employees are represented by Spector Gadon & Rosen. Last June, a U.S. district judge certified the case as a class action. Next month, there will likely be a ruling on how many workers and family members will constitute the class, a number that could be more than 1,000, the O’Melveny lawyers said. According to the suit, union representatives allegedly found employees’ home addresses by tracking car license plate numbers from the company’s parking lot. When employees at the company’s Pennsylvania facility complained that union representatives were visiting their homes, they initially questioned whether Cintas had provided the addresses, a claim officials denied. “That’s when we started asking [about] the particulars of these encounters with the union,” Welsh said. “One employee said [the union] had come to her boyfriend’s house, who was not an employee of Cintas � but she drives her boyfriend’s car to work.” The pieces started coming together. “We started playing junior detective,” Welsh said. “And we started looking into the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act.” The act regulates how the Department of Motor Vehicles shares driver information. A group of employees met with the company’s lawyers and filed a suit in 2004 alleging the union had violated their privacy rights. The case might “be portending what is to come,” Krischer said. “What this says now is that employees don’t want to be harassed into joining a union.” The O’Melveny team predicts the case will be resolved this year, though the union could appeal if a decision is reached against it. “The broader point is that you’re going to see a lot more of this type of litigation as union corporate campaigns are on the rise,” Welsh said. “As lawyers representing companies facing these issues, you’re going to see others who are adversely affected by union corporate campaigns fighting back in court.” � Kellie Schmitt PUSHING FOR CHOICE One night before Samuel Alito Jr.’s nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court was sent to the full Senate, Kate Michelman fired up a liberal San Francisco audience by explaining why Alito could be the worst thing for women’s rights in decades. Michelman, a former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that unlike Justice Sandra Day O’Connor � whose seat Alito would fill � the 55-year-old Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge doesn’t care how his rulings affect the average person. “In Judge Alito’s decisions, there are no individuals and, therefore, no justice or regard for human dignity,” Michelman told 75 to 80 mostly women on Jan. 23 at the San Francisco Public Library. “The threat to women’s right of choice and women’s rights in general are in jeopardy.” The next day � two days after the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade � the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee forwarded Alito’s name on a party-line vote of 10-8. Michelman, author of the just-released book “With Liberty and Justice for All,” was in San Francisco to give a speech titled “Rough Waters: Defending the Right to Choose.” She was sponsored by San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, Books Inc. and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. On Jan. 12, Michelman testified against Alito at his confirmation hearings, hoping, she said, to persuade senators that the judge’s holdings were more than “abstract legal theories. We’re talking about real people’s lives.” Michelman insisted that Alito’s confirmation would “solidify the Scalia-Thomas approach to the court” and cut basic rights some thought were safe. She claimed he would incrementally undermine Roe v. Wade, with 20 states ready to criminalize abortions the moment they can. Michelman began her talk by reliving the horrors of her own pre- Roe abortion. In 1969, four years before the epically controversial ruling, she said, she was “a young, Catholic, stay-at-home mom of three little girls” when her husband abandoned her. Two weeks later, she said, she discovered she was pregnant again. Instead of pursuing a back-alley abortion � the preferred option for poor women � she chose a therapeutic abortion, where a panel of doctors declared her mentally unfit to be a mother. But even after going through that, she said, she discovered at the last moment that she still needed her absent husband’s consent � or the doctors wouldn’t operate. As humiliating as that was, she said, she tracked him down and “was able to avoid the back alley.” “I can’t imagine we will tolerate going back to that time,” she said. During a 20-minute questioning period, Michelman told the crowd that people need to realize the debate comes down to one question. “Who decides? Women or government? Government or women?” she said. “Who decides is the most powerful message we have.”

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