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Plastic Surgeon Attends Virtual Traffic Court During Surgery; Nearly 400,000 Texans Still Under Boil-Water Advisory; Democrats' Dream Of $15 Minimum Wage Slipping Away. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 1, 2021 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Here is how the courtroom video interaction started out.






Are you -- available for trial? It kind of looks like you're in an operating room, sir.

GREEN: I am in an operating room. Yes, I'm available for trial, go right ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: OK. Let me briefly advise you the proceedings are livestreamed on YouTube. Traffic trials, by law, are open to the public.

And limiting physical access to the courtroom, it's how we're making them open to the public. OK?



KEILAR: CNN's Dan Simon joins me now for more on how the court appearance played out.

I mean, what was this all about? A simple traffic ticket?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this one certainly belongs to the category of "you can't make this up."

Here is a board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Scott Green, had a simple traffic ticket. Also cited for not having required two license plates on his vehicle in California.

Could have paid a fine, instead opted for traffic court, where we found him last Thursday. You can see the judge was not amused.

Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: So unless I'm mistaken, I'm seeing a defendant in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient.

Is that correct, Mr. Green?

GREEN: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Or what, should I -- should I say Dr. Green? But I don't know that.

GREEN: That's OK. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient if you're in the process of operating that I would put on a trial notwithstanding the fact that the officers here today.

GREEN: I have another surgeon right here who's doing the surgery with me so I can stand here and allow them to do the surgery also.

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: Not at all. I don't think so. I don't think that's appropriate.

We have -- I'm going to come up with a different date when you're not actively involved or participating in -- attending to the needs of a patient.

Let me see if I can get a different date here.

GREEN: I apologize, Your Honor. Sometimes surgery doesn't go as --


UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: You know, it happens. We want to keep people healthy, keep them alive. That's important.

March 4th, 3:00, how about that?


SIMON: Well, the doctor might be wishing he paid the fine, which was $272, because, in addition to that video going viral, and now, of course, on CNN, he is also being investigated by the medical board of California.

We received a statement that says, "The medical board expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients. The board is aware of this incident and will be looking into it, as it does with all complaints it receives."

And at this point, Brianna, no word from the doctor. He will be back in court on Thursday -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Dan Simon, thank you so much for that.

I want to bring in Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at NYU's Langone School of Medicine.

Elie, how do you think about, first, how the judge handled the situation, seemed the reasonable side of this equation, and what are the legal concerns for the doctor?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I thought I had seen it all in a courtroom setting. I guess not.

The judge clearly did the right thing. A relief to see him shut this down immediately.

It's interesting. Lawyers, like the rest of the world, had to adjustment to the new Zoom reality. With the exception of the occasional doctor-turned-defendant, lawyers and judges and courts found a good way to adjust.

Some ways more efficient. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court. Until 2020, there was no way to see what the court was doing real time unless you worked in the courtroom in Washington, D.C. Now, for the first time in history, they're live streaming the audio of their events.

Made a big difference I think in terms of transparency. We've carried some of that audio on CNN. That's a good thing for the legal profession.

KEILAR: And, Art, just the ethical issue here. We've seen some -- seen some of what are funny moments because of this. I remember one lawyer couldn't figure how to get the cat filter off his face. Everyone had a chuckle. That poor guy.

This is not that. This is someone where the judge said the welfare of the patient, they should be having regard for that. What are the ethical concerns here?

ARTHUR CAPLAN, PROFESSOR OF BIOETHICS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: You know, Brianna, this one is clear-cut. This is arrogance. This is a violation of professional standards.

There's no standard of care that would allow you to appear in traffic court and do an operation at the same time. And I can't imagine any patient giving informed consent.


Someone comes to me, how about I operate on you, by the way, save a little time, I'll be in traffic court while doing that. No one will consent to that. This guy should have his license suspended in my opinion because he

really violated every ethical requirement in the book for protecting patient welfare.

I don't see the other side. There isn't any other side.

KEILAR: In the hospital setting, how does this proceed as being investigated, Art?

CAPLAN: A complaint to the board. They'll launch an investigation. Take testimony from people there. Probably ask the surgeon what he was up to.

But hopefully, you know, they're going to be tough. Sometimes these boards are a little lenient on their fellow doctors. Occasionally, just a tap on the wrist.

This is a pretty serious violation. Admittedly we don't know if anyone was harmed. I agree with that. Nonetheless, clear-cut violation.

I wonder, when the patient finds out what was going on, what will they say. I doubt they'll say anything nice.

KEILAR: Elie, that's, my question. The patient clearly will find out. This has gone viral.

What recourse does the patient have even with no harm done, but a possibility. If this doctor's judgment had not been shut down by the judge, maybe there could have been?

HONIG: Yes. An interesting question. I think it's very likely we'd see a civil lawsuit from this patient. Ultimately, patients have to prove damage. If there was no actual damage done, the plaintiff could win a verdict.

But when comes time for damages, how much is this plaintiff owed? No damage, it could be a very low amount.

I think it's likely we may see a civil suit. And given how egregious it is, as the professor pointed out, how egregious it is, I could very well see some sort of a settlement just to make it go way from the hospital and doctor's perspective.

KEILAR: Elie and Art, I appreciate both of your perspective on what's really an insane moment here but you're very sane counsel on it. Appreciate it from both of you.

HONIG: Take care.

KEILAR: Next, nearly 400,000 people in Texas still do not have clean water in the wake of the winter storm that busted pipes across the state. We'll take you there live.


[14:41:25] KEILAR: Nearly 400,000 Texans don't have clean drinking water two weeks after devastating storms hit the state. As power has been restored across Texas, hundreds of public water systems are still not fully operations and thousands have to boil water before they can use it.

Our Ed Lavandera has been tracking it's recovery. He's in Bishop, Texas, doing that.

Where are the biggest issues here, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Harris County, in the Houston area, has the largest number of boil-water notices that have gone out still to thousands of residents.

As you mentioned, there's about 386,000 people across the state of Texas who are still receiving these boil-water notices.

And it really speaks to the intense damage that was inflicted by this winter storm now two weeks ago, and the fallout from all of that.

So it is taking quite some time to repair the infrastructure, busted water main pipes, water problems in people's homes, and a supply issue as well in getting all supplies to be able to fix all of this damaged infrastructure.

So it is clearly taking some time, but that number continues to steadily drop. Over the weekend it was over about 500,000 people getting the boil-water notices.

It's important to remember that all of these water systems across the state of Texas are run at a very local level. So it's within municipal and city areas that -- where you see these organizations that run the water systems here in the state.

And that is -- what you're hearing and seeing the reporting from all of these different organizations across Texas.

Reporting the number of people who are, getting these notices to have to boil their water, and still dealing with all of this, Brianna, two weeks after that horrible winter storm first hit the state.

KEILAR: Yes. It's so much hardship for such a long period of time. And we know you'll follow it.

Ed Lavandera, in Bishop, Texas, for us, thank you.

Next, the Democrat's dream of a $15 minimum wage seems to be slipping away at least for now. Speaking with former Congressman Joe Kennedy about a path forward.

And live to Kentucky as UPS rolls out the third COVID vaccine here in the U.S.



KEILAR: When the Senate moves to pass the Biden COVID relief bill later this week, there will be a big component missing for Democrats, and that is a $15 minimum wage, a federal minimum wage.

As for as a plan "B," that would mean penalizing corporations for not bumping wages up on their own.

Multiple aides tell CNN that that would raise questions and that it would take time.

And over the weekend, as it became clear that the process would put the relief bill in jeopardy, Senate Democrats abandoned it.

I'm joined by CNN political commentator and former Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us to talk about this.

It's really a crucial part of the bill for Democrats. Is this fight for a $15 federal minimum wage dead?

JOE KENNEDY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And pleasure to be with you, Brianna. Thanks for having me.

No, it's not dead and can't be dead. Look, we've got to break this down from a couple of different levels here, right?

First, we have seen enormous issues around income inequality and economic mobility over the past several decades. That mainly is the single biggest piece that Congress needs to do in order to try to make sure that working families are able to make ends meet.

Second, we've literally spent the last year, almost to the day, talking about how essential workers have carried our country on their backs so that we could still get to work, stocking grocery shelves, box stores of our society.

You can't sit there and praise them for a year and turn around and say, hey, we are not going to give you the resources in order to be able to make ends meet.

Lastly, so much of this moment is now about re-examining the rules and structures to our society that continue to perpetuate inequity.


Well, the arcane rules we're in the midst of in the U.S. Senate that says we can cut taxes for the wealthy in this process but you can't actually use that same process to actually help out working families.

That's what's broken in this country. And we need to fix it. We need to raise this wage.

KEILAR: This has become -- of course, Republicans are not on board because this has really become an internal debate in the Democratic Party as you're aware.

Progressives wanted the White House, the vice president to overrule the Senate parliamentarian, who said that this $15 federal minimum wage would not be eligible for this process known as budget reconciliation being used to pass the Biden relief bill.

At a certain point, you know, what does this look like for progressives pushing back on the White House, saying you won the election? You have both chambers of Congress.

What is that going to look like as they try to force the issue?

KENNEDY: Look, think this is obviously at the moment framed as a progressive issue. I think it's bigger than that.

And I think the president understands that, right? This is an issue that's literally in his bones. He is -- he was known as middle-class Joe, working-class Joe throughout his time in the U.S. Senate. He ran on that.

And I think the American people has a great deal of faith in that character that is literally at Joe Biden's -- in his heart and his soul.

So I think that the issue at this point isn't where -- where he is. It's what needs to be done in order to make sure we're able to get the votes in the United States Senate in order to actually make this change.

And -- and Brianna, again, it's been decades since we've been able to raise this became. We've seen enormous aggregation of wealth for the wealthy while allowing this perpetuation of economic inequity to continue to fall on working class workers.

One last piece to this, right, which many people don't know. The minimum wage for tip workers in our country is $2.13 an hour. People go into work and only guaranteed $2.13.

You can't tell me that the federal government is spending trillions of dollars on our economy, that families making $2.13 don't deserve a raise.

KEILAR: Congressman Joe Kennedy, thank you so much for being with us.

KENNEDY: Pleasure. Thanks so much.

KEILAR: Let's get to Capitol Hill now for a quick look at where the COVID relief bill stands.

I want to bring in CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, on this.

This is in the Senate's hands now.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and the Democrats and Republicans are walking into a minefield legislatively later this week because the process that they are using allows any Senator to offer any amendment, as many as he or she wants, and there will be many.

And that means that Democrats are trying to ensure that they can keep intact their $1.9 trillion bill and ensure that the amendments that Republicans are offering do not cut against the core of that bill.

And behind the scenes, both publicly and privately, Democratic leaders are urging their members to stay united ahead of critical votes this week to ensure that this $1.9 trillion plan goes ahead.

Now, as you mentioned, the minimum wage will not be part of this bill because it falls outside the scope of the rules, according to the Senate's parliamentarian. And the talk among the left to overturn the ruling of the parliamentarian just is not going anywhere.

Senate majority whip, Dick Durbin, the number-two Democrat in the Senate, told me earlier, he does not think that the strategy pushed by the liberals to overturn the parliamentarian's ruling will fly. They'll have to pursue that separately.

There's a wide range of measures in this bill, from providing money to small businesses and schools and vaccines to extending jobless benefits to also ensuring that individuals and families get relief checks if they make under a certain income threshold.

That's all still part of this proposal. But can Democrats keep their entire caucus united?

That is going to be the big test as they head into, later this week, the key votes to get the bill out of the Senate and perhaps back to the House for one final vote to send it to Joe Biden's desk by March 14th -- Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, a lot going on, on the Hill.

Manu, thank you so much for that.

Just into CNN, California lawmakers have agreed on a plan to get kids back into the classrooms by the end of this month.


Plus, New York City's attorney general says she's now received a letter to investigate Governor Andrew Cuomo over more sexual harassment allegations. We'll speak live with a New York lawmaker who claims that Cuomo bullied him.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, here we go on this Monday afternoon. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

Here's the top story today. A potential game-changer in the fight to eradicate the pandemic. Nearly four million doses of the just-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being shipped across the United States right this very moment.


This third COVID vaccine requires only one shot and is stored in standard refrigeration temperatures, which is good news. The Biden administration is wasting no time just to get this shot into Americans' arms.