Politics, government and public life for Southern California

President Obama moves to fill the 9th Circuit Court

John Owens of the L.A. office of Munger, Tolles & Olson has been nominated to a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Michelle Friedland of the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson has been nominated to a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

President Obama has nominated a pair of Californians to fill vacant seats on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

John B. Owens is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Owens spent more than a decade as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's office in California after graduating first in his class at Stanford Law School. He also clerked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Munger, Tolles could be losing another partner, but from its San Francisco office. The president also nominated Michelle T. Friedland to the 9th Circuit. She graduated second in her class at Stanford and clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

President Obama said "their impressive legal careers are testaments to the kind of thoughtful and diligent judges they will be."

One of these seats has been vacant for nearly a decade. Carl Tobias, law professor at the University of Richmond, says it's the longest appellate court vacancy in the country. He says both nominees are "well qualified and uncontroversial, so they should be smoothly confirmed." That won't happen until next year, he says, given the calendar and the number of nominees ahead of them.


Garcetti promises tough negotiations with DWP labor union

Garcetti gestures

Frank Stoltze

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promises to hold down salaries and require all Department of Water and Power employees to begin contributing to their healthcare costs.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is promising to hold down salaries at the Department of Water and Power during labor contract talks now under way. But it's unclear how much the mayor can squeeze from the powerful union that represents DWP workers, and whether the city council will back him up.

Members of the council often criticize the DWP and its water and power rates, but they also heap praise on the nation’s largest municipal utility.

“There are a lot of tremendous people who work there,” Councilman Tom LaBonge said when asked about the well-paid workers at the DWP. ”When it’s hot, they’re high on those poles, and deep in those ditches.”

Newly elected Councilman Gil Cedillo – a one-time union organizer – dismissed the idea that the city overpays DWP workers.

“I don’t think we’ve been too generous with workers of DWP or with any workers in the city of Los Angeles,” Cedillo said. “They have difficult jobs – some of them are very dangerous.”


Prisons chief to meet with advocates for hunger strikers

California Prisons

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

In his first year on the job, California prisons chief Jeffrey Beard is having to deal with a hunger strike by inmates.

The head of California's prison system will meet Friday with advocates for inmates who've been on a hunger strike for 25 days.

Inmates in the Security Housing Unit, or "SHU," at Pelican Bay State Prison launched the protest on July 8. Prisoners in the SHUs are restricted to their cells for 22 hours a day, with little human contact. They want California officials to change policies that have kept them and thousands of other inmates in restrictive and austere conditions for years and, in some cases, decades.

Thirty-thousand inmates initially refused food.  On Thursday, California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported 499 inmates were still fasting.

"It's getting to be a very critical time, " said Carol Strickman, an attorney on the mediation team for the hunger strike leaders.


Ethics Commission: Wendy Greuel reports more than $500K in campaign debt (updated)

Election Night Greuel

Grant Slater/KPCC

Mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel greets her supporters at her election night watch party in Downtown Los Angeles on May 21, 2013.

The race for mayor ended more than two months ago, but only now are Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel revealing the true cost of running for the top job in America's second largest city. 

Documents filed with the Ethics Commission show Greuel finished the primary and runoff campaigns with $680,000 in debt. Her consultant, John Shallman, is owed more than $132,000, while another $203,000 is owed to Patricia Duchene for printing campaign materials. A $100,000 loan that Greuel gave her own campaign was forgiven. 

Since the May 21 runoff, Greuel has maintained a low-profile, though she told KPCC last month she is considering runs for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors or state Controller's Office. Greuel was most recently City Controller for Los Angeles and she's also a former city council member.


A Democrat and a Republican walked into a room...

California Republican Jeff Denham, left, and Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas held a bipartisan forum on immigration.

Earlier this summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. The House hasn't voted on any immigration bill and that chamber's bipartisan "Gang of Seven" has yet to introduce a comprehensive plan. 

But as Congress prepares to adjourn for the rest of August, a freshman Democrat and a sophomore Republican — both Congressmen from California —  sat down in a public forum Thursday to talk about the economic benefits of immigration.

It wasn't a formal hearing. But it was the only public discussion of immigration in a Capitol Hill hearing room all week. Turlock Republican Jeff Denham, whose father-in-law is a legal Mexican immigrant, indirectly criticized fellow House GOP members who only want to talk about border security. "If we could just shut down the border completely," he said, "what does that do to our economy?"