Saturday, August 08, 2009

What Happened During Jury Duty?

On August 5Th, I spent most of the day at the Multnomah County Courthouse, having been summoned for Jury Duty. What happened there that day can best be described as bizarre. Without giving you information (names,etc.) that could land me in some sort of Contempt situation, let me explain what I'm talking about.

After we all (there was about 200 of us) had settled in, a Judge came into the Jury Room to explain what we should expect. The Judge seemed to go out of their way in making sure we all knew their name. I found that to be a bit strange.

It wasn't long before the clerk began reading out jurists names, and telling these panels which courtroom they should report to. Later in the morning a particularly large group (30 or so) was told to report to the Judge who had briefed us earlier. It couldn't have been more than 15 minutes later that the all returned to the Jury Room. This was surprising to me, as I couldn't figure out how these 30 people could have been interviewed so quickly.

At around 11:30 another large (30) group was called to report to the same Judge's courtroom. I was in that group. Before we got to the courtroom, we were met by the Judge's assistant in the hallway who sheepishly led us in to the room. We were assigned numbers and seats and the Judge came in. First we were told of the charges brought against the Defendant. Next, we were introduced to the defense and prosecuting attorneys. We were told that the Defendant was not in the room, and that should have no effect on our work (huh?)

Next we were asked if any of us felt like we could not be objective in hearing this case. I was surprised when one jurist raised his hand to say that someone from the earlier pool had told him something the Defendant had said aloud to their pool. Of course this was a problem. The Judge asked if anyone else had heard what the earlier jurist had said. Another 5 or 6 hands shot up!

Long story short... our pool was excused same as the first pool. But something doesn't smell right.
1) Why didn't the Judge tell the first pool to keep their mouths shut about what they'd heard from the Defendant?
2) The Judge told us in their 25+ years as an attorney and Judge, this was the first time this had happened in their courtroom. They certainly gave no indication that it was upsetting to them.
3) I'm wondering if the Defendant was a person of color. In the 200 jurists, I could identify 1 African American woman, 2 Hispanic Americans, and 3 or 4 Asian Americans. That would make for around 3-3.5% minorities. If I was a person of color, I would want that percentage MUCH higher. If I was their defense attorney, I'd want that number MUCH higher as well.
4) I wonder if this may have been some kind of test/theatrics.

All I know is that of 200 people who showed up for Jury Duty on August 5th, about 20-30 actually did something. And they wonder why people try to get out of Jury Duty.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Is 20th Good Enough For You?

2009 State Medicaid Rankings
Vermont provides the highest quality Medicaid services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while Mississippi provides the worst, according to United Cerebral Palsy’s report “The Case for Inclusion 2009.”

Find out where your state stands in the ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia:

1. Vermont

2. Arizona

3. Alaska

4. New Hampshire

5. Massachusetts

6. Michigan

7. California

8. Hawaii

9. Colorado

10. Connecticut

11. New Mexico

12. Delaware

13. Minnesota

14. New York

15. Idaho

16. Pennsylvania

17. South Carolina

18. Florida

19. Rhode Island

20. Oregon

21. New Jersey

22. Wisconsin

23. West Virginia

24. Kansas

25. Washington

26. South Dakota

27. Montana

28. Wyoming

29. Missouri

30. Oklahoma

31. Georgia

32. Maryland

33. Alabama

34. Nevada

35. Maine

36. North Carolina

37. Utah

38. Kentucky

39. Iowa

40. North Dakota

41. Virginia

42. Indiana

43. Tennessee

44. Nebraska

45. Ohio

46. Louisiana

47. Illinois

48. District of Columbia

49. Texas

50. Arkansas

51. Mississippi

Thursday, August 06, 2009

End of Operation Cool Air??

Today Bill and I will complete the installation of the air conditioners donated to Operation Cool Air. How do I feel about this? Honestly, my back is glad it's coming to a (temporary) close. My mind and spirit are truly grateful that we were able to alliviate the suffering of around 30-35 people through the generosity of those who donated 14 new and used air conditioners to the cause.

On the other hand, I'm feeling like we let a whole lot of other people down. There's still 2 months ahead of us where their is a real possibility for more extended, dangerous heat. What about those folks? I kid you not when I say things like PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES RUN A HIGH RISK FOR INJURY WHEN OVERHEATED. During the last heat wave seizures and uncontrolled asthma in at least 3 of these individuals was staved off by our efforts. Who knows what else we were able to prevent.

When and if the heat returns, I won't be able to sit back and feel ok about what we accomplished. I will be in your ears, in your minds, and hopefully... in your hearts.

Taxes and The People

I don't want to spend too much time on this issue, but in fairness, I believe both sides of this important story should be told. First, we have the small businesses "ovewhelmingly" opposing the tax hikes proposed by the Oregon Legislature. I don't know why these small businesses would do so. I'm a small business, and I don't oppose them.

Then you have Oregonians in general, being in favor of the tax hikes. That's where I fit in. I believe it's time that businesses of all sizes pay their fair share of taxes in Oregon.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Did You Expect Something Different?

As I mentioned in the Statesman Journal a few months back, closing the school for the Blind was a bad idea from the beginning. The money saved by the sale will be gone in no time, while these blind students will be left with the same education in public schools that brought them to the OSB in the first place.

As a reader of this article who goes by the handle of Blazerfan74 says in response to it... "I agree completely. As a special education teacher, I can attest to the fact that I, and pretty much all of my colleagues, would be ill-equipped to provide the services a student like this would require. This move by the state is a huge mistake. I hope this student nails the state in due process."

Now, a student/family is challenging this decision. I too hope they kick the state's hiney. From the AP...

Student challenges closure of blind school

by The Associated Press

Friday July 31, 2009,

SALEM -- A student has filed a legal complaint with the state Department of Education that says the Oregon School for the Blind must remain open to comply with federal special education laws.

The student, who lives in the North Clackamas School District, says in the complaint she will not receive an adequate education after the Salem boarding school closes in September.

It is the first such complaint since state lawmakers voted in June to close the school that has been operating since the 19th century.

Supporters of the closure said students will get a better education for less money in their home districts. The student, however, contends in her complaint that the new individual education plan she has been offered by the North Clackamas school district is unacceptable because it offers fewer hours and fewer types of specialized instruction.

The complaint requests that the student continue at the Oregon School for the Blind until a resolution in reached. The school, on eight acres near Salem Hospital, could be sold after it closes Sept. 1.

Federal education law entitles students to continue to receive the same educational services as they had under a previous individual education plan until a dispute over a new plan can be settled.

Jake Weigler, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education, said nothing about the complaint would require keeping the state school open. "The (education plan) outlines the services that are to be provided, but not necessarily the location," Weigler said.

He said the state will try to mediate a solution acceptable to the family and the school district before ordering a formal hearing. Possible solutions include having the school district provide more services, having some services provided by another source or placing the student in a residential school for the blind in another state.

The student, who is visually impaired and mentally disabled, has attended the Salem school for nearly two years. She was receiving transition services, which helps students prepare for life after school.

Weigler said 28 students are transitioning away this summer as the school closes. He said 20 have reached agreements on how they will be educated.

-- The Associated Press