Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fighting to Maintain Public Access to Public Records

Great piece by Thom Cole in the Journal today. Lots of good quotes from me. But really, this is absolutely absurd. They know the records are public and they can't change that, so they're trying to make it too difficult for you and me to find them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fear of Public Records

The right to inspect public records including court filings is a common law right in the US. In Nixon vs. Warner Communications, the US Supreme Court wrote, "It is clear that the courts of this country recognize a general right to inspect and copy public records and document, including judicial records and documents."

So why are court officials and government officials often trying to block the public's access to this information. Well, my best guess for example, here in NM where the Administrative Office of the Courts have gone on a binge trying to undue public access, that someone in AOC has something in his past that caused him to have a hard time finding a job. Now that he has clout, he has decided to prevent people from doing public records research as a form of pay back. Pretty petty and pathetic!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Making New Mexico the Laughing Stock of the Nation

I just heard that AOC, the Administrative Office of the Courts, has recommended that all criminal cases that don't result in a conviction and all criminal cases that result in a deferred sentence, meaning a conviction that gets dismissed after the defendant completes probation are to be removed from the state judiciary website.

Murder, rape and domestic violence have the highest non-conviction rates. AOC wants to make New Mexico the state that actively seeks to protect violent people so that they can continue being violent. This is absolutely the dumbest possible thing a state can do.

This will effectively nullify the ability to do a background check. Period. Any employer who wants a safe workplace, can give that concept up. Better not to hire at all..

Flying Below the Radar

A good investigator understands the benefits of keeping a low profile while working on a case, but realizes that at some point the other side will know that he's involved. The ideal situation involves getting your hands on information before the other side gets the chance to interfere with that process.

There is no doubt that word spreads fast about an investigation. You can knock on only so many doors before telephones begin to ring. Therefore, you need to structure your investigation to perform the tasks that have the most potential benefit first. You don't want to lose that opportunity. You also need to be flexible, because any new promising lead should be pursued as soon as it develops.

Once the other side knows that you are involved you have to keep to your head down and keep moving forward. But expect resistance to your efforts. What should you do? Whatever you do, don't butt heads. It doesn't work. It's better to find another seam to follow than to run head first into a wall. There are almost always multiple approaches to get to the same result. Knowing which avenue to follow is one of the main differences between a good investigator and a bad one.

Most important of all is the rule that you never fight the battle in public until you have enough information to stand on your own. Publicly attacking the other side before you have all of the information you seek almost guarantees that you won't get what you are after. You may score a brownie point-- but scoring an "I got you" isn't the same thing as winning the big prize.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Arrogance of Incompetence

This is something that sticks in my craw as the saying goes, and I bet my fellow professional investigators too. As a profession we are constantly belittled by those who think they're above what we do. For example, we are not some hoity-toity "Opposition Research Firm" that does really piss poor work, but gets paid a whole bunch of money. Then, when their candidate is losing to our candidate, they run to the media and say "looook they are paying a sleazy PI to do exactly the same kind of work that we do" (well, let us be honest- the quality of the op-research firm's work pales in comparison to what we pros do" but they do get paid a bunch more for it.

This happened not just when Edward's folks tried that with the national bloggers, but also when I did Ben Ray Lujan's campaign. I unearthed a consent decree with the federal trade commission for price fixing by BRL's opponent, and the high and mighty "we are op-researchers NOT sleazy investigator" spent 20K of BRL's opponents money researching how many times BRL showed up at a volunteer non-profit board that he was gracious enough to donate time to. BRL wiped his opponent off the floor by a double digit margin in no small part do to the great price fixing commercials we ran against his opponent.

I have also been the target of campaign mailers myself- rather than the opponents focusing attacks on the candidate himself- a clear sign that their campaign was in disarray.

Anyway-- I am going to say this for all the professional investigators out there. We are a whole lot better at investigation than you wannabees. Perhaps we don't bill the five figures you folks can because of your political connections. But, it's doubtful that you get panicked calls from campaigns that hired us pros first, unlike the calls I get after they see your work...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Step in the Right Direction

The ABQ Journal today called for the reintroduction of restraining order information on the state judiciary website in order to stop protecting abusers from their own actions. They said it quite articulately. Hopefully the powers that be will listen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Narrow Interests vs The Greater Good

The public's right to access information is often attacked by individuals and groups whose narrow agenda runs counter to what's best for the majority of us. By way of example, we can look no further than a new law in New Mexico prohibiting a governmental entity from asking a job applicant if he has ever been convicted of a crime until the "final" job interview. No more asking that question on the job application or during an initial interview. That way his being a convicted felon won't interfere with his ability to get a job.

The supposed logic is that too many people that screw up "once" are being denied the opportunity to get work because employers (in this case governmental, but soon I'm sure private employers too) don't want to risk hiring a convicted criminal. Truth be told, most criminals do not turn their lives around but we've already discussed that previously. (Leopards and spots).

The same goes for the legislators that introduce expungement bills. They want those who have a criminal conviction expunged to be able to lie legally and say "no" to the question of having been convicted of a crime. That want all records destroyed.

The real problem with this is that personal responsibility and public safety lose out to dishonesty. Yes we want people to return to society in a productive manner. But, aren't co-workers and members of the public entitled to know if they have to work with someone that might not be cured of his propensity for criminal conduct? It is far better to let them demonstrate honesty and show that they accept personally responsibility. After all, most employers would be glad to hire someone that absolutely gets it. Not someone trying to hide from who he is.