Editorials

Struggle, arrest in San Luis Obispo courtroom was over-the-top

Attorney, bailiff scuffle in San Luis Obispo courtroom

In this video obtained via a California Public Records Act request, state Deputy Attorney General Jennie Mariah Kelly is seen struggling with a bailiff during a morning recess Oct. 20, 2015, at San Luis Obispo Superior Court. There is no audio wit
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In this video obtained via a California Public Records Act request, state Deputy Attorney General Jennie Mariah Kelly is seen struggling with a bailiff during a morning recess Oct. 20, 2015, at San Luis Obispo Superior Court. There is no audio wit

We didn’t witness the courtroom struggle that ended with a deputy attorney general wrestled to the ground by a San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s deputy. We do have video, but there is no sound, so it’s hard to say exactly what transpired.

Still, after watching the video a few times we have to ask: Was this level of force really necessary?

Deputy Attorney General Jennie Mariah Kelly was forced to the ground by one bailiff, then surrounded by five more bailiffs, handcuffed, escorted away and arrested on a misdemeanor count of resisting arrest.

What gave rise to such treatment?

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Kelly had been “speaking loudly” and “acting in an unprofessional manner.”

During a recess in the trial — neither the judge nor jury was present — she continued to harangue the opposing attorney. A courtroom bailiff stepped in to calm the situation, the Sheriff’s Office said, by telling Kelly she would be removed from the courtroom if she didn’t stop shouting.

Apparently, she didn’t comply — and she was indeed forcibly removed from the courtroom.

Yes, Kelly should have toned it down, especially after being repeatedly admonished for her behavior by the trial judge and warned by the bailiff.

But surely, there was a less drastic way to diffuse this situation. Courtroom takedowns may make for great TV, but in real life, they should be a last resort saved for bad guys who present a clear danger —not for attorneys who have a propensity to shout and wave their pens around.

For their over-the-top performances, actors on both sides of this unfortunate drama earn badly played brickbats.

Pismo Beach joins SLO in banning polystyrene: Who’s next?

We toss a big biodegradable bouquet to the Pismo Beach City Council for voting to ban food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene. (Most of us refer to it Styrofoam, though the folks at Dow don’t like us to call it that.)

Until now, the city of San Luis Obispo has been the only jurisdiction in the county that outlaws polystyrene, which is a big source of litter and, because it doesn’t biodegrade, sticks around way, way too long. On top of that, polystyrene can break down into small pieces that are easily windborne and can be eaten by birds, fish and other wildlife. Yuck.

Many food and drink establishments — including big chains — already have made the switch to more environmentally friendly containers. Good for them.

For those that haven’t, the Pismo Beach ordinance — which comes up for final approval Dec. 15 — gives them until Jan. 14 to make the switch, though they can apply for a one-time, six-month exemption for economic hardship.

The city of Morro Bay also is considering a ban on polystyrene.

Here’s a question for the other four cities and the county: What are you waiting for?

A welcome to Paso Robles’ new city manager

We offer a welcome-to-Paso bouquet to newly hired City Manager Thomas Frutchey, who was unanimously selected by the City Council this week.

Frutchey, 65, has a long career in city government. He’s currently the city manger of Pacific Grove, and he was previously city manager in Oxnard, Campbell and Los Altos Hills. He’ll take over the top job in the city of Paso Robles next month.

Frutchey succeeds City Manager Jim App, who served for 18 years, helping the city weather the San Simeon Earthquake, the Great Recession and the drought. Through it all, he’s been highly professional and accessible, and he’s always had Paso’s best interests at heart. One example: When the recession began, he was among the first local government officials to refuse to accept a pay raise, and he continued to decline raises in the years that followed.

Jim will remain on the job until Dec. 30. We wish him the best, and in lieu of a bouquet, we offer him a garland of Paso grapevines.

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