Florida homeowners facing foreclosure catch a break in courts

By Alison Fitzgerald, Center for Public Integrity 

Lawyers wait to sign in for foreclosure hearings at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach in July. Photo: Alison Fitzgerald/Center for Public Integrity

Lawyers wait to sign in for foreclosure hearings at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach in July. Photo: Alison Fitzgerald/Center for Public Integrity

Florida homeowners may soon find a more friendly reception in the state’s courtrooms after a state Supreme Court panel found that some judicial practices designed to speed up foreclosure cases may be improper.

The Court’s Local Rules Advisory Committee said last week that a judge’s order in Palm Beach County that allows banks to defeat homeowners’ motions to fight foreclosures in court simply by ignoring them went beyond the judge’s authority. The committee referred the rule to the state Supreme Court for review. (more…)

Timeline: The Tortured History of the Senate’s Torture Report

By Kara Bradeisky and Sisi Wei, ProPublica 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Ca., outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Ca., outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee

The Senate began investigating the CIA’s detainee program nearly six years ago. It completed a draft of its report two years ago. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has finally released the report’s blistering executive summary. (The full report remains classified.) What took so long? It’s a tale of White House indecisiveness, Republican opposition, and CIA snooping. (more…)

Broward’s criminal justice system failing mentally ill, too costly

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein, left, and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein

Editors Note:
Last month, BrowardBulldog.org  published the story of Broward’s “Forgotten Soldier” – a mentally ill ex-Marine in his late fifties whose journey through the county’s long broken mental health system was marred by illegal confinement and a lack of appropriate care.

The compelling story of the Forgotten Soldier was written by Owen McNamee and Douglas Brawley, two assistant public defenders who represent him. Last week, their boss, elected Broward Public Defender wrote to Broward Chief Judge Peter Weinstein to compare the treatment of the mentally ill by the criminal justice systems of Broward and Miami-Dade. Finkelstein concluded that Broward’s mental health system is backwards, cruel and unnecessarily costly.

“We need to get back on track and Miami-Dade has provided a successful model to follow,” Finkelstein said. Here is Finkelstein’s November 19 letter to Weinstein: (more…)

They say “Drink Responsibly,” but what does it mean?

By Stuart Silverstein, FairWarning drinkresponsibly

The “drink responsibly” or “enjoy in moderation” messages tucked into liquor and beer ads don’t impress Jennifer Romo.

“Nobody actually takes that seriously,” said Romo, a 21-year-old political science major at UCLA. She added: “‘Drink responsibly,’ what does that even mean?”

A recent study, alcohol industry critics and even a risqué parody on the animated sitcom South Park echo Romo’s skepticism. (more…)

Ballot measure backers spend big, win big

Editor’s note: The Center for Public Integrity tracked political advertising in races for the U.S. Senatestate-level offices and state ballot measures. Use these three interactive features to see who was calling the shots and where the money was spent. 

A screengrab from the Drug Free Florida Committee against Amendment 2 in Florida, a measure to allow medical marijuana. The measure failed. Drug Free Florida Committee/YouTube

A screengrab from the Drug Free Florida Committee against Amendment 2 in Florida, a measure to allow medical marijuana. The measure failed. Drug Free Florida Committee/YouTube

By Liz Essley Whyte, Center for Public Integrity

Big money was a boon to groups fighting for and against ballot measures across the states on Election Day.

In 21 of the top 25 most expensive state ballot measure races in terms of television ad spending, groups that won the war on the airwaves also won at the ballot box, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of unofficial election results and preliminary data from media tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG.

But surprising upsets also showed that in the wild world of direct democracy, money isn’t everything. (more…)

The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster

By Justin Elliott, Jesse Eisinger, Propublica redcrosssandy
and Laura Sullivan, NPR

In 2012, two massive storms pounded the United States, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hungry or without power for days and weeks.

Americans did what they so often do after disasters. They sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Red Cross, confident their money would ease the suffering left behind by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac. They believed the charity was up to the job.

They were wrong. (more…)

Broward continues to fail its mentally ill; The sad case of Broward’s ‘Forgotten Soldier’

By Owen McNamee and Douglas Brawley 
Special to BrowardBulldog.org 

South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines.

South Florida State Hospital in Pembroke Pines.

Editor’s Note: Owen McNamee heads the mental health division of the Broward Public Defender’s Office. Douglas Brawley is an assistant Broward public defender and attorney for the Forgotten Soldier.

Twenty years ago eighteen members of a Broward Grand Jury issued a scathing report that concluded the county’s mental health system was under-financed, fragmented and leaderless. They found the system was failing thousands of mentally ill and disabled persons and causing hundreds to wind up in jail or endure forced hospitalizations without needed treatment.

Twenty years later, we are still failing this vulnerable population. (more…)

Broward courts use fees to prevent sun from shining on judicial records; a $132,000 demand

By Alison Fitzgerald, Center for Public Integrity 

Rendering of the new Broward courthouse now under construction.

Rendering of the new Broward courthouse now under construction.

When the Center for Public Integrity last summer requested records from Florida’s 17th judicial circuit regarding the procedures and policies surrounding foreclosure cases, officials were more than happy to comply — for a price.

A price of $132,348, to be exact. (more…)

Tobacco industry batting a thousand with federal judge, while FDA strikes out

By Myron Levin, Fair Warning marlboro-packs5-WIDE

What are the odds?

In 2009, Congress passed landmark legislation directing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products, aiming to cut the toll from the leading preventable cause of disease and death. Three times since, however, cigarette and e-cigarette companies have filed successful legal challenges to thwart rules intended to make their products less appealing to consumers–and less accessible to kids.

The three cases, which, among other things, have blocked graphic cigarette warning labels and delayed regulation of e-cigarettes for at least a few years, were decided in favor of industry plaintiffs by the same federal judge, Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Leon’s rulings have reflected concern about government overreach, and a tone of deep skepticism about the FDA’s legal positions “Please! This conclusion defies common sense,” he wrote, dismissing one of the agency’s arguments. Given how cases are normally assigned, the fact that Leon was assigned all three is extraordinary—and extraordinarily good luck for the industry. (more…)

Latino workers dying at higher rates in job accidents, report shows

By Stuart Silverstein, FairWarning celltower1

As Latino workers take on more and more of the nation’s toughest and dirtiest jobs, they increasingly are paying for it with their lives.

Preliminary federal figures released last week showed that of the 4,405 U.S. workers killed on the job in 2013, 797 were Latinos. That equates to 3.8 of every 100,000 full-time Latino employees in the U.S. dying in workplace accidents during the year. (more…)

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