By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
A brief rush of new stories last fall detailed the delaying and thuggish tactics used by the governor's contract consigliere. A gaggle of young students -- all of them plaintiffs against the state -- were dragged into intimidating depositions with the governor's hired lawyers. Most dramatic was the case of 11-year-old Carlos Ramirez of the Bay Area. The ACLU included him in the case because he had once passed out in a classroom where the temperature had risen above 90 degrees.
Carlos then became one of 13 students who, over a mind-boggling period of 24 days, were further roasted in browbeating depositions by Governor Davis' gentlemen lawyers. Carlos had asked to be excused from this ordeal because his mother had been killed a few weeks earlier in a drive-by shooting. But no dice. Some guy named Michael Rosenthal subjected Carlos to four days of questioning and -- according to the San Francisco Chronicle-- at one point asked the child some 20 questions just about the school-cafeteria milk. When another teenage student witness told attorney Rosenthal of the pestilence in her classroom, he asked sarcastically, "Did the mouse droppings you saw on the floor affect your ability to learn in U.S. history?"
The student answered, "No." She should have added: "No, sir. Just the way a brain, a heart and a soul apparently didn't affect your ability to become a scumbag attorney." (Memo to Mr. Rosenthal: Please write a protest letter to the editor so I can get another chance to trash you in my reply. Pretty please.)
Davis took some heat over this episode of nauseating gangsterism carried out at extravagant public expense. The Northern California papers -- which tend to pay more attention to Sacramento -- skewered him. The L.A. Times, meanwhile, mildly chided Davis on this issue nine months ago and then briefly mentioned the ACLU suit in a December article but has since, for some reason, decided this issue is no longer newsworthy (even though the now-campaigning Davis blabbers on about education almost daily).
Currently, both sides in the lawsuit are engaged in routine pretrial mediation. But sources familiar with the talks say the Governor's Office remains intransigent. It doesn't have to be that way. Davis has myriad resources and recourses available to him to reach an honorable settlement and even capitalize on it for his own electoral benefit. But it seems his first, second and third priorities are to continue to delay while further enriching the besuited goons over at O'Melveny & Myers.
When the kids come back to school in September, chances are there still won't be enough textbooks to go around. But not to worry. Those curious few who wish to learn more about the inner workings of state government will require no special readings. It'll be enough to look at the rat droppings on the classroom floor to drive home the lesson of -- when it comes to the poor and the powerful -- just who is accountable to whom.