Hope Bakery Union Scuffle Continues; English Muffins are Safe for Now

An employee, John Hankins, who had organized a vote in which two-thirds of the employees of Arkansas bakery Southern Bakeries LLC voted to remove the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Local 111,  told a federal court Thursday that he should be allowed to intervene in the National Labor Relations Board’s petition to temporarily ban the bakery’s union decertification.

In its April 24 opposition to Hankins as intervenor, the NLRB argued that Hankins did not have an interest in the proceeding that would entitle him to proceed as an intervenor.

Hankins said that even a temporary reinstatement of Local 111 would injure him and his colleagues.

The union alleges that between at least 2012 and the withdrawal, Southern engaged in activities designed to intimidate the employees and encourage the demise of the union. It said that Southern installed cameras to give the impression it was monitoring union activity. Additionally, the union alleges, Southern told employees they were paid less under union representation than they would be otherwise, and that they were denied raises as a result of union membership.

In the meantime, around May and June 2013, Hankins passed around a petition to about 200 Southern employees, seeking a vote on whether to retain Local 111’s representation. This was a response to what Hankins said were the union’s repeated attempts to block elections in which the outcome would not be in its favor. As a result of the two-thirds vote against the union, in July 2013 Southern withdrew recognition of the union, according to court documents.

Southern denied the allegations.

Southern, located in Hope, Arkansas, produces on a large scale a variety of bagels, breads, rolls and English muffins. 

The case is National Labor Relations Board v. Southern Bakeries LLC, case number 4:14-cv-04037 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas.

LSAC Agrees to $8.7 million Settlement Over Claims of ADA Violations

 The Law School Admission Council has agreed to pay more than $8 million to settle allegations brought by the DOJ  and  California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing that the council failed to properly accommodate disabled test takers in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit alleged that LSAC routinely denied testing accommodation requests, even in cases where applicants had a permanent physical disability or submitted extensive supporting documentation. The law school test takers’ disabilities included attention deficit disorder, visual impairment, dyslexia, a severe shoulder injury and paralysis, according to the suit. Most asked for extra time to complete the test, while others requested a large table on which to write, a computer or a scribe, the complaint said.

The settlement calls for LSAC to pay a total of $8.73 million in damages and penalties, of which $6.73 million will be equally distributed to an estimated 6,300 individuals nationwide who applied for testing accommodations on the Law School Admission Test over the past five years, court filings said. LSAC didn’t admit any wrongdoing under the agreement and continues to deny the plaintiffs’ allegations, according to court documents.

LSAC said in a statement that it had agreed to resolve the suit in order to avoid prolonged litigation.

In addition to requiring a $6.73 million payment into a settlement account, the agreement calls for LSAC to pay a $55,000 civil penalty and compensatory damages of $585,000 to DFEH; $225,000 to the federal government; and a total of $135,000 to the three test takers. LSAC has also agreed to pay $900,000 in attorneys’ fees to the DFEH and $100,000 to the test-takers’ attorneys at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, according to court documents.

The case is The Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Law School Admission Council Inc., case number 3:12-cv-01830, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Arkansas Times Profiles My Former Sunday School Teacher, Pulaski County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson

REPOSTING FROM: http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/this-is-a-job-that-weighs-on-you/Content?oid=3284905

This is a job that weighs on you’ 

Homicide Diary: Pulaski County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson.

What follows is the latest installment of Homicide Diary, an ongoing project in which we speak to those who have been impacted by or who deal with the aftermath of homicide in Little Rock — victims’ families, prosecutors, cops, community activists and others. As of May 6, the number of Little Rock deaths classified as homicides since Jan. 1, 2014 is 24. By this time last year, that number stood at six. In April of this year alone, there were 11 deaths classified as homicides in Little Rock, the highest single-month count in years.

He wanted to be a literature professor. That was his dream once. His closing arguments still show it sometimes, as he sneaks a literary allusion every once in awhile into the accounts of kids shooting kids over weed and slights on street corners, snippets of the great abstract struggle between chaos and order that authors have waged on paper since Gilgamesh. Somewhere along the way, however, he realized that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life staring down classrooms full of college kids who would rather be somewhere else, so he went to law school. Johnson has been with the prosecutor’s office since 1990.

I really thought that I wanted to be a public defender. I wanted to protect people’s rights. I wanted to make sure that people got fair trials. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “If you’re waiting until after a person is charged, that ship has sailed.” That’s why I decided to be a prosecutor. 

I was hired in November of 1990. Back then, you started out taking complaints as a lawyer. People would come in and complain about cats going to the bathroom in their flowerbeds, or actual complaints where somebody came and beat them. So I did that. I got moved to circuit court pretty quickly, within a couple of months of working here.  

I had my first murder trial in August of 1991. It was a guy named Dana El Greco Frazier. He and some friends were drinking, and he spilled his drink on his pants. His friends started giving him a hard time about having pissed himself, so he got mad and shot one of them. My supervisor, the guy I was going to try the case with, left and went to the attorney general’s office, so I got left with the case. Things were a lot different then as far as how the office was and how we did cases. We have two people sitting on all our trials now, and we certainly don’t have someone who has been a lawyer for less than a year trying our murder cases by themselves. But I did, and he got convicted and got 40 years on it. The pressure must have been intense. But I can’t remember it. I know it should have been a lot of pressure. I know I should have been scared. 

This is a job that weighs on you. People ask: How can you do it? There are people here who believe that we’re all subject to some degree of post-traumatic stress. I think that might be an exaggeration. But it’s something that you carry with you all the time. I don’t know if you’re a Stephen King fan, but I recently read the sequel to “The Shining,” and there’s a character in there who puts all the ghosts that haunt him in a box in his head. I think that, for me, that’s sort of how it is. You have all these things you can’t get rid of that haunt you, and to survive, you gotta put them in a box. You compartmentalize. You can go visit it, but if you’re going to move forward, you’d better get a good lock.

age 2 of 3

To do this job well, you have to open yourself up to it. You have to be willing to. In the Anne Pressly case, they tore her house down and we knew they were going to before they did. I learned a long time ago that going to the scene of a crime puts everything in perspective, so I went to her house and sat in it for the longest time. I knew what was coming with the trial, and I knew that we were going to be asking the jury for the death penalty, and I had to allow myself to feel all that. But when it’s over, you just gotta put it away and not roll around in it, because it doesn’t serve any purpose. I don’t talk about my work a lot at home. That’s what work is for, and I try to keep my home separate. That’s a whole other compartment. 

I remember once, my friends’ mom was talking about how a job changes you and I disagreed with her. I said I didn’t believe a job can change you. But I was wrong. I didn’t know it at the time. Now, I don’t know how it couldn’t change you. I think it would be wrong for it not to. You’d have to really be turning your back on everything for it not to change you. I don’t think that the people that work here can do as good a job as we do and remain immune, and be untouched. 

When someone is killed, all the homicide files come through me. I get the last say on all the homicides. If we don’t file it, I meet with the victim’s family, just because we feel like that’s something we owe to them: to tell them that we’re not going to charge the person who has done this. Those are the worst conversations. It’s one thing to be immersed in it and to do something about it. But when it’s over and you didn’t get a good result for the victim, or over before the thing even starts — before the fight even starts — those are the hardest times. Those are the moments people don’t see. We had a meeting last week where one of the biggest men we’ve probably ever had in the office was in there. It was a homicide, and when we told him that we couldn’t prosecute it, he squeezed his head so hard it sounded like wet rope stretching. You could hear it in his hands. You could hear the pain.

With the victims’ families, everybody’s different. Some of them thank us. Some of them write letters, or they’ll talk to you after the verdict comes back and give you a hug. I used to sort of try to stay apart from that. That was wrong. It’s better to let people thank you. It’s more for them, and it’s something that’s important for the victim’s families: to show their gratitude. They feel so helpless, and that’s one of the hardest things for them, the feeling of helplessness. 

The flip side of all the bad is the immense amount of good you see — the capacity to survive and carry on and forgive. I didn’t have any access to that at all before I started here. You have to be hurt to forgive. You have to be knocked down to have to survive. And I hadn’t seen anyone in my life with the sort of challenges that we come into contact with here. That’s the upside. 

I don’t buy the desperation argument. I do buy that people come from bad situations, and I do buy that that can shape how they are. But I’m a humanist, and we see and we meet many, many more people who overcome their circumstances, whether that’s financially or not. They don’t do what the slightest minority of people do. 

There’s a kid who I prosecuted years ago who was 14. He got life without [parole]. He should be coming up soon for one of his hearings. But about three years ago, I got a letter from him. He was thanking me. He said that the judge and I are the most important men in his life. He said that, but for us, he’d be dead. What do you do with that? I didn’t write him back. I didn’t think that’d be right. I didn’t want to give him hope that maybe things could change for him. 

It’s just stupid. It’s just a waste. In the big picture, a murder doesn’t add up to anything. But in the finite sense that we deal with it, with the victims’ families, it accomplishes the retribution part. For them, that can’t be minimized. The hardest thing about a lot of the cases is that they’re just the manifestation of chaos, and it’s 360 degrees, from getting witnesses to come talk to you, to getting juries to care about your victim. Chaos to me is when the rules don’t apply. In that instance, the rule that you want to apply is to make people care what happened, to make them care that the laws are enforced to protect all of us, to make juries care about the belief in what we’re trying to tell them. 

I think we win most of the battles, but maybe we’re losing the war. On a down day, you feel like that. But I don’t think you can get caught up in the big picture of it. If you do, the whole thing just washes over you. You’ve got to take it one case at a time, and just win as many as you can. Then, maybe, at the end of the day, it’s a better place. I haven’t lost my faith in humanity, because I don’t see “humanity.” I see individuals. It’s not a group. It’s not a block mentality. So no, I don’t think I’ve lost faith. I’ve gained hope, and my faith has more value now, because I can see the challenges in it. Blind faith? What good is that? If you’ve got faith knowing the darkness, that’s better.  


Trials of the World: Journalist Wasn’t Asked, Didn’t Answer

Swag cat

There’s a big trial going on at the Old Bailey this involving former staff of News of the World, who have been charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct and hacking phones.

Today, Clive Goodman, the paper’s former royal editor testified that he hacked Kate Middleton 155 times, including listening to her voicemails on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He also revealed for the first time he directly hacked the phone of Prince William 35 times and Prince Harry 9 times, adding that police had failed to ask him a single question about it in the eight years since he was arrested on related charges.

Goodman said he had not been asked about this by the police or any other authority when he was arrested on related charges in 2006 or any time since.

“I’ve never been asked before. The Metropolitan police, Crown Prosecution Service did not ask me these questions in 2006 and 2007. I’ve never been asked by any inquiry any time about this,” he said.

He offered no explanation for why he hacked the decidedly boring Kate 155 times, while hacking the much more interesting Harry only 9 times. Seriously, you know Harry gets up to way crazier stuff.

He first hacked Middleton on 21 December 2005, the jury heard, and continued to hack her on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. His first hack of Prince William was revealed to have taken place at the end of January 2006.

He also hacked the phone of Kate Waddington, the personal assistant to Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, 160 times.

Pro Tip: Prosecutors should probably make sure they ask open ended questions to find out what criminal suspects know.

In unrelated news, check out this picture of Benedict Cumberbatch:


Law School Grad Decapitates Bird in Front of Hotel Guests


A University of California, Berkeley, law school graduate apparently didn’t think decapitating a bird in front of horrified hotel guests was against the law in Vegas during an October 2012 bender. Hewas sentenced Monday to up to four years’ probation and 16 hours of animal shelter work per month for beheading a chicken-sized exotic bird during a drunken escapade in October 2012 at a Las Vegas Strip resort.


A likeness of the victim (above). 

Justin Alexander Teixeira, 25, apologized Monday to the state of Nevada and to people affected by the death of the helmeted guineafowl named Turk. Teixeira, of Placerville, California, pleaded guilty in May 2013 to one felony charge of killing another person’s animal

“It was the worst moment of my life,” Teixeira said in his first public comment about the incident. “If there was anything I could do to undo it, I would.”

To the horror of hotel guests having breakfast nearby, Teixeira wrung the animal’s neck, tossed the bird’s body and flipped the head into some nearby rocks. Pro Tip: What happens in Vegas goes with you to your court-ordered volunteer job. 

AR Insurance Dept. Warns About Scammers

The Arkansas Insurance Commission has issued a consumer alert to be on the lookout for scammers in the weeks leading up to the open enrollment period of the Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange) related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which begins October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014. 

Specifically, the Department warns: 

  • Enrollment does not open until October 1, so you cannot enroll in coverage until then. 
  • Coverage does not begin until January 1, 2014, so if someone promises coverage before then, that is a red flag. 
  • You should not response to unsolicited phone calls of any kind, especially ones asking for personal financial information, personal health information, or money. 
  • There is no fee to create a Marketplace account or to enroll for health insurance through the Marketplace. 
  • Scammers often put a small twist on a popular insurance company name. Just because it sounds like an insurance company, doesn’t mean it is. 
  • There are already fake exchanges on the internet which may pop up during an online search. 
  • Use http://www.arhealthconnector.org or http://www.healthcare.gov to stay informed. 

The Department is currently training licensed insurance agents and brokers, who will be known as “Guides” or “Navigators” to assist consumers with the open enrollment. These trained assisters will be licensed by the department and their names will be available on the ARHealthConnector.org website. They will assist consumers at no charge, once they are trained and licensed. 

If you suspect fraud, it should be reported to the AID Consumer Services Division at 800-852-5494.