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How Winning a Lawsuit Can Impact Your Reputation: A Lesson Learned from an Important Win

published April 13, 2023

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In the legal profession, a win in the court room is always a reason to celebrate, but a recent victory involving the City of San Francisco v. All Persons in this matter was not the result most expected. The court ruled in favor of the City, meaning that over a hundred homeless individuals living on the streets of the city had to vacate the property they had occupied. This controversial decision has sparked much public outcry, as the implications of the ruling have left many without homes.

It all started when the City of San Francisco requested a court order declaring that the homeless individuals who had been living in an encampment on a plot of city-owned land were unlawfully occupying it. The City was seeking an injunction to force the eviction of all of the individuals currently residing on the property. The court granted the City's request, and the occupants of the encampment were forced to leave their homes.

This ruling has prompted national outcry from those who believe that the court—and the City—are ignoring the plight of homeless individuals. The decision to evict residents from their homes—even if they are illegally occupying the property—seems particularly egregious when the City provided no alternative solution for the individuals. There was no relocation plan in place, leading to questions of what the City did to provide these individuals with a safe place to stay.

In addition, those against the City's decision argued that, under the law, individuals are not legally obligated to vacate their homes, even if they are occupying the land without permission. While the City may have a legal right to remove individuals from its property, it is questionable whether this right should be exercised in this instance, considering the circumstances of these individuals.

At the heart of the matter lies the question of whether the court and the City of San Francisco are using their legal authority in a just manner. The City's decision to evict the individuals from their homes on the grounds of unlawful occupation has created a situation in which the individuals must now search for alternative housing, which is almost impossible given the current state of the city's housing market. For this reason, many view the City's decision as a cruel one, as it does not take into account the plight of the individuals it is evicting.

The City's actions in this matter have not only caused public outcry, but have also led to criticism from lawyers, activists and homeless advocates who believe that there should have been an alternative solution that respected the individuals' human rights. It has raised questions of whether the court should have used its power to order the eviction of individuals who have been occupying the property without permission.

The City of San Francisco v. All Persons has caused controversy both inside and outside of the legal profession, as the ruling is seen as an infringement on the rights of homeless individuals. It remains to be seen whether alternative solutions, respecting the individuals' human rights, will be found. Until then, the plight of the affected individuals is in a state of uncertainty.

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns the Death Penalty Case of Victor Saldano

In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the death penalty case of Victor Saldano, who had been convicted of murder in an Arizona state court. Saldano's case raised serious questions about due process, the application of capital punishment, and the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

Victor Saldano Guilty of First-Degree Murder in Arizona

Victor Saldano was sentenced to the death penalty for first-degree murder in Arizona in 1997. The case against Saldano was based on circumstantial evidence, which suggested that he had been involved in a violent altercation with a 20-year-old woman, who had been found dead in her apartment. The prosecution claimed that Saldano had killed the woman, but there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Saldano Regarding Due Process

At the time of the trial proceedings, Arizona law prohibited criminal defendants from presenting “mitigating circumstances” at the sentencing stage of their trials. This meant that the jury was unable to consider any evidence that showed that Saldano had not acted with premeditation when he committed the crime. The U.S. Supreme Court determined that this violated Saldano's right to due process and effectively rendered his conviction unconstitutional.

Victor Saldano Receives New Sentencing Hearing

Based on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, Victor Saldano was granted a new sentencing hearing, at which he could present evidence of his innocence or mitigating factors, such as psychological disorders or mental retardation. However, subsequent proceedings in the case reaffirmed the jury's initial decision that Saldano was guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The underlying facts are not in dispute. Sixteen years ago a salesman in Southern California was shot and killed. It transpired that the killing was murder for hire, set in motion by a prominent auto dealer. The dealer subsequently was convicted of masterminding the plot. His assistant — call him James Jackson — was at first charged as a co-conspirator.

In 1992, when the case went to trial, Jackson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of being an accessory after the fact. He served a three-year prison term, with time off for good behavior. The San Bernardino Superior Court granted him a certificate of rehabilitation. Then he vanished into civilian anonymity.

Not for long. In 2001 a television company, Discovery Communications, produced a documentary about the 1988 plot. The show identified Jackson as a bit player. It included a mug shot of him, taken at the time of his arrest. He sued for invasion of his privacy. The producer responded that the Jackson portion was based upon official records of a public judicial proceeding. Images of Jackson, counsel contended, were therefore "privileged" under a string of Supreme Court precedents. Case dismissed.

Last December the California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed. The crime of 1988 may not have been "newsworthy" in 2001, but this was of no consequence. And true, Jackson had lived "an obscure, lawful life and become a respected member of the community." No matter. The press has an "absolute right" to report the contents of public records. The case had become history, said Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, and "there is no indication that the First Amendment provides less protection to historians than to those reporting current events."

The California court relied chiefly upon the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Cox Broadcasting v. Cohn in 1975. The case involved the gang rape and murder of a 17-year-old in Georgia. At the time, Georgia law prohibited publication of the names of rape victims, but a reporter for Station WSB-TV picked up the victim's name from the indictments. In a news broadcast, the reporter identified the dead girl. Her father sued for invasion of privacy. He won in the lower courts but lost on the station's appeal.

The high court defined the question: "Whether the state may impose sanctions on the accurate publication of the name of a rape victim obtained from public records — more specifically, from judicial records which are maintained in connection with a public prosecution and which themselves are open to public inspection." Said Justice Byron White: "We are convinced that it may not do so."

Justice William O. Douglas sweepingly concurred. The state may not penalize truthful publication of "news of the day." Any other rule "would inevitably induce self-censorship by the media, thereby inhibiting the rough and tumble discourse which the First Amendment so clearly protects."

Justice White was not so sure of that. "Powerful arguments can be made that, however it may be defined, there is a zone of privacy surrounding every individual, a zone within which the state may protect him from intrusion by the press, with all the attendant publicity." Nevertheless, the court sent the TV station home free.

Since the Cox Broadcasting case in 1975, the high court repeatedly has reaffirmed the gist of its holding. In cases from Oklahoma, West Virginia, and most recently from Florida in 1989, our right as reporters truthfully to report judicial proceedings has been upheld. The Florida case involved a one-paragraph report of a rape in Jacksonville. The victim sued the weekly Florida Star for disclosing her name. The newspaper won, 6-3, but Justice Thurgood Marshall observed pointedly that "our cases have carefully eschewed reaching the ultimate question, of whether truthful publication may never be punished."

The long and short of it is that we of the press have an unqualified right to publish accurate and timely reports of judicial proceedings. We also have a right to resurrect old cases, such as the 1988 murder for hire in California. It may not be "news of the day," but we can do it. The question in cases such as the case of James Jackson is, Should we do it? Tell me. After a long life of rough and tumble, I must be turning soft.

(Readers are invited to send dated citations of usage to Mr. Kilpatrick. His e-mail address is

This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of uclick and Universal Press Syndicate.

published April 13, 2023

( 4 votes, average: 3.5 out of 5)
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