Jury awards $250,000 to US woman jailed without seeing a judge

FILE - This 2012 file photo released by the Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office in Mississippi shows Jessica Jauch, who was jailed 96 days without seeing a judge. A Mississippi jury in federal court awarded $250,000 in damages to Jauch, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In 2012 she was jailed on a drug indictment and eventually cleared after video didn't show her committing a crime. (Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
Updated 21 March 2019
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Jury awards $250,000 to US woman jailed without seeing a judge

  • Jessica Jauch jailed 96 days without seeing a judge, a case spotlighting how Mississippi state still struggles to provide access to lawyers
  • After finally seeing a judge, she was appointed a public defender and was eventually cleared of the drug charge

JACKSON, Mississippi: A Mississippi jury awarded $250,000 in damages Tuesday to a woman jailed 96 days without seeing a judge, a case spotlighting how Mississippi still struggles to provide access to lawyers or bail to people jailed before trial.
The verdict included $200,000 in damages against Choctaw County Sheriff Cloyd Halford and $50,000 against the county. It was handed down Tuesday after a two-day trial in federal court in Aberdeen. The jury was only determining how much Jauch was owed, after US District Court Judge Sharion Aycock earlier ruled that the county and Halford were liable.
Jessica Jauch was originally arrested on traffic charges in 2012 and held in Choctaw County after being served with a drug indictment. While in jail, she was forced to temporarily sign over her daughter’s custody rights to her mother. After finally seeing a judge, she was appointed a public defender and quickly made bail. Eventually, she was cleared of the drug charge after undercover video didn’t show her committing any crime.
Daniel Griffith, a lawyer who represented Choctaw County in the trial, said Jauch testified that other women who were arrested would bond out quickly. Jauch’s own lawyer, Israel Fleitas, declined comment. Griffith said Halford and Jauch shook hands while jurors were deliberating Tuesday.
“I can tell you the sheriff is a good man,” Griffith said.
Griffith said the county government’s damages will be paid by insurance. He wasn’t sure if Halford is insured or if he will have to pay his share of the money personally. Jurors awarded the $250,000 as compensatory damages, rejecting additional money for punitive damages.
Halford had argued that he didn’t have to take Jauch before a judge until court met because she’d already been indicted on a felony drug charge, thus establishing probable cause for her detention. The problem was that in Choctaw County, like many rural Mississippi counties, circuit court only meets twice a year, and the next meeting was months away.
The county and Halford also argued the illegal detention was the fault of failures by state court judges. It’s unlikely Jauch would have ever collected money from judges because they’re generally immune from lawsuits.
Aycock originally agreed with the county, dismissing Jauch’s case in 2016. But the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals was sharply critical of Aycock’s ruling, reinstating Jauch’s case in 2017 and calling her detention “unjust and unfair” and “alien to our law.” The full 5th Circuit and the US Supreme Court refused to hear further appeals by the county.
Mississippi has continuing issues with people being arrested before trial and held for months or years with little access to a lawyer or bail. Since Jauch was arrested, the state Supreme Court has enacted new rules of criminal procedure last year that are showing some progress in keeping poor people from being stuck in jail without a lawyer or bail. Those rules say that, among other things, those arrested before being indicted are supposed to appear before a judge within two business days, and anyone arrested after indictment must be arraigned within 30 days.
Griffith, who represents a number of local governments, said those rules are making a difference, along with the publicity surrounding Jauch’s case and others in which governments have been sued for jailing people.
“Nobody wants to be sitting where the sheriff was sitting,” Griffith said.
He said Choctaw County jailers are now sending a list of inmates who need a court appearance to a judge every day. Ultimately, though, Griffith said Mississippi needs a statewide system of public defenders, instead of the part-time defenders who are assigned in most counties. Lawmakers failed to act this year on such a proposal put forward by a task force.


Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

Updated 19 July 2019
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Forget ‘manmade’: Berkeley bans gender-specific words

  • Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but ‘human-made’
  • Berkeley’s effort to be more inclusive is drawing both praise and scorn

BERKELEY, California: There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn.
That means “manpower” will become “human effort” or “workforce,” while masculine and feminine pronouns like “she,” “her,” “he” and “him” will be replaced by “they” and “them,” according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and “first of” ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the US to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation’s free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country’s political divisions soon after President Donald Trump’s election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like “men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government.”
“As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it’s important that our laws reflect that,” said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. “Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation.”
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title “first partner” instead of “first lady,” saying it’s more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom’s experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is “remarkable and sends a message,” Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
“Anytime you’re talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it’s a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender,” said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
For Hel Baker, a Berkeley home caregiver, the shift is a small step in the right direction.
“Anything that dismantles inherent bias is a good thing, socially, in the grand scheme of things,” the 27-year-old said.
“I don’t, by any means, think this is the great championing for gender equality, but you gotta start somewhere,” Hel added.
Lauren Singh, 18, who grew up in Berkeley, approved of the move, saying, “Everyone deserves to be represented and feel included in the community.”
Not everyone agreed with the new ordinance. Laramie Crocker, a Berkeley carpenter, said the changes just made him laugh.
“If you try to change the laws every time someone has a new opinion about something, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a bad habit to get into,” Crocker said.
Crocker, 54, said he would like city officials to focus on more pressing issues, like homelessness.
“Let’s keep it simple, get back to work,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to get homeless people housed and fed. He, she, they, it — they’re wasting my time.”