Los Angeles Times Reports Eureka is Birthplace of California's  (Racist) Housing Crisis

"Article 34, which remains in effect, requires voter approval before public housing is built in a community. At the time it passed, the real estate industry argued taxpayers should have a right to vote on low-income housing projects because they were publicly funded infrastructure similar to schools or roads. The campaign also appealed to racist fears about integrating neighborhoods and featured heated rhetoric about the need to combat socialism." 

On February 3, 2019, the LA Times reported, Article 34 grew out of a fight in the northern coastal city of Eureka in 1950. Residents there collected signatures to overturn a decision to build public housing financed by a federal program inaugurated during the New Deal. Eureka unfortunately remains racially, and demographically divided. Nonwhite residents under 50 years-old consistently report being excluded from participating in Eureka events. Eureka received national attention because a local "progressive" group was excluding nonwhites, whether intentional or not.

We receive complaints younger people are also being excluded while other young people appear to have cult like allegiance to these groups. Calling themselves environmentalists some groups have joined forces with slumlords in Eureka to prevent any low-income housing from being developed. Eureka's politicians are often backed by the same lawyers and bankers each election. Rumors are circulating local grants are being channeled to benefit national political parties while Eureka falls into disrepair.

February 3, 2019

Fred Fletcher 

California Proposes Reducing Cannabis Taxes to Fight Illicit Market 

Assembly Bill 286, dubbed the Temporary Cannabis Tax Reduction bill, would temporarily cut state excise taxes for legal marijuana retailers from 15 percent to 11 percent and also suspend cultivation taxes altogether through 2022.  The proposed legislation, which is sponsored by state Treasurer Fiona Ma.  “The whole aim of legalization is to compete with the illicit market and to get people to buy from the regulated establishments,” he said. “You can’t do that if the taxes are so high and onerous that people are driven out of that market.”

This is at odds with the taxing scheme in Humboldt were the black market is estimated to be 1,500% larger than the white market.  Yesterday, the Court refused to dismiss the Measure S lawsuit attorney Eugene Denson and I filed. The lawsuit seeks to return the tax to a crop tax as approved by the voters. The suit challenges the constitutionality of an amendment our county supervisors made to impose the tax whether or not plants are grown. 

Fred Fletcher

January 29, 2019

Human Rights Update

Judge, Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the US District Court in Oakland, on Sunday granted a request by more than a dozen states to temporarily block the Trump administration from putting into effect new rules that would make it easier for employers to deny women health insurance coverage for contraceptives. 

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

New Laws in California for 2019

Farm Employee Overtime

In 2016, California became the first state in the U.S. to require employers to pay overtime for farmworkers who work more than eight hours. The first phase of the new rules will begin in January, when agricultural employees will earn overtime after working 9 1/2 hours in a day or 55 hours in a week. Currently, California farmworkers can get overtime after working 60 hours in a week or 10 hours in a day.  The change only applies to businesses that employ at least 26 people. The rules do not apply to smaller agricultural employers until 2022. Discloser, our office consults with agricultural employers on compliance matters and we represent employees on wage and labor claims. Aside from wage and hour claims, sexual harassment and discrimination are constant concerns on the farm. 

Street Vendor Permits

A law going into effect in January will allow local governments to design permit programs for vendors and limits when they can be criminally prosecuted. It pertains to anyone selling food or other merchandise from a pushcart, stand or “non-motorized conveyance.” I anticipate the City of Eureka will embrace this new law and its economic benefits. I predict the County will ignore this law until the County is forced to follow it by a judge.  

Home Kitchen Businesses

A new law encourages Counties (like Humboldt) to permit home kitchens for the purpose of selling food products. California Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, who authored the bill, says that homemade food sales are a vital part of self-reliant communities. “Legitimizing these home businesses will offer a means of economic empowerment and pathways for many to achieve the ‘American dream,’” Garcia said when the bill was signed. Humboldt historically resists new opportunities which provide residents access to residual income. Perhaps after the County Supervisors election in 2020 progress will be made on this front.  

Fred Fletcher

January 17, 2019

The Measure S Lawsuit

Measure S is the cannabis cultivation tax the voters passed. We are challenging the County Supervisor's decision to amend Measure S as passed by the voters. The Supervisors amended the tax to apply to the property owner, not the farmer, and regardless of whether any crop is grown.  

Yesterday, we filed our response to the County's demurrer to the Measure S lawsuit. (Set to be heard January 28, 2019.) The County hired a large Sacramento Firm (founded the year I was born) to defend the lawsuit. They argue it's impossible to tax farmers for the actual crop grown because the County can't verify how much was grown. We informed the Court, governments since the beginning of governments have taxed farmers for crops actually grown, and we cited the Book of Genesis as our evidence.  

The amendments by the Supervisors have been misreported. The Supervisors amended Measure S to tax the permitted area regardless of the amount of crop grown.  As such, the supervisors have amended the tax to be assessed against fallow land, without regard to crop grown. We provided the Court authority that Measure S as amended is a property tax and is unconstitutional. We ask the Court to return Measure S to its original state which acted as an excise tax on legal crop actually grown. 

We will update this one. 

Fred Fletcher

January 15, 2019


County Supervisor's Can't Silence Critics, including Humboldt's Supervisors. 

In a 3-0 decision, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Phyllis Randall, chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, violated the First Amendment free speech rights of Brian Davison by banning him for 12 hours from her “Chair Phyllis J. Randall” facebook page.

Last election my office received a few complaints from citizens who were censored for making comments critical of politicians, on the left and right (somehow our local politics are becoming politically polarized). Now these citizens may have recourse. This First Amendment decision could impact local elections nationwide by allowing the public to be heard.    

Fred Fletcher

January 8, 2019

Update on Nation v Trump filed in the 9th Circuit

This lawsuit challenges HUD's rule which forces subsidized apartments to evict medical cannabis users. Plaintiff was evicted from her HUD apartment on July 10, 2018 when a maintenance man discovered some medical cannabis in her bedroom. She remains homeless and is not alone.

The lawsuit not only challenges HUD's rule but relies upon Murphy v NCAA (decided May 2018) to challenge the constitutionality of the Controlled Substance Act itself relative to medical marijuana in the State of California. The Supreme Court in Murphy v NCAA resurrected from near death the anti-commandeering doctrine, which in laymen's terms means the Congress cannot make orders directly to the States. 

We are optimistic this lawsuit will prevail. If the District Court issues an order in our favor appealing the decision would pose a political pitfall for the Trump administration. 

I will update this one.

January 3, 2019

Fred Fletcher 

Update on Volkswagen Diesel Fraud Case

We filed an action in Butte County on May 17, 2018 with the intent of having a jury decide punitive damages. We would be the first party to bring the defeat device case to jury trial.  Peer reviewed studies proved thousands of people with lung diseases died from the fraud.  

 

California moves to provide interpreters in all court cases

Posted by Lacy Fletcher on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 Under: Court
Associated Press

Going through a divorce has been difficult for Sepideh Saeedi. Not understanding what's happening in court because she isn't proficient in English has made the process even harder.

"When you don't understand what the judge is saying, what the other side's attorney is saying, it's very stressful," Saeedi, 33, who speaks Farsi, said after a recent court hearing in Redwood City, Calif.

Legal advocates say throughout the state, litigants in divorce, child custody, eviction and other civil cases who have difficulty with English are going into court without qualified interpreters. Instead, many are forced to turn to friends or family members -- or worse yet, the opposing party -- for translation.

That's because California only guarantees access to an interpreter in criminal cases, not civil cases.

But the state is looking to change that. Under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, California's Judicial Council this year approved a plan to extend free interpretation services to all cases by 2017.

"You can't have a court hearing without having your client understand it correctly," said Protima Pandey, a staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid.

Pandey said she always makes sure an interpreter is available for her clients, but many litigants in family court don't have attorneys to do that for them.

California court officials say extending interpreter services to all cases won't be easy.

California has the nation's largest court system spread out over a vast geographic area with many rural counties. The state has about seven million residents with limited English proficiency who speak over 200 languages.

The courts have also faced funding cuts in recent years that have seen courthouses close and staff cut. There is no estimate yet on how much it would cost to provide interpreters in all cases, but the plan approved by the judicial council said the courts would need more than the $92 million they were spending.

"California's judiciary is committed to language access and eager to work out the best way to get that done," said California State Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, who heads the group in charge of implementing the state's language access goals.

Critics say the state has dragged its feet.

"Our input all along has been that they can do it sooner," said Mary Lou Aranguren, legislative chair of the California Federation of Interpreters, a union representing court interpreters. "There's a lot of excuses the courts have used for years."

California was among 10 states that did not have a law, rule or guiding document requiring courts to provide interpreters in all criminal and civil cases, according to a 2014 survey by the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School. The other states in the survey: Alaska, Illinois, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont.

A 2013 letter from the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice said state law and court rules placed limits on providing free, qualified interpreters in non-criminal cases, and courts were not using all of the money in a fund used to pay for the services of interpreters.

"It's understandable that people think the court hasn't moved as quickly as it should have," said Ventura County Superior Court Judge Manuel Covarrubias, vice-chair of the language access implementation task force.

He said the courts have been working on the issue but have been sidetracked by financial difficulties.

The state last year passed a law authorizing courts to provide interpreters for free in all civil cases. Where there isn't sufficient funding, the law says courts should prioritize cases, starting with domestic violence, harassment and elder abuse civil cases.

Outside the San Mateo County courtroom where Saeedi appeared, a sign informed people that they had to bring their own interpreters. Saeedi has an attorney who she said is able to explain the proceedings to her afterward. She also relies on an online translator service available through Google to check words and phrases that come up.

San Mateo County court officials say they provide interpreters in all domestic violence family law cases, and in other family law cases, only when they can. They have had trouble finding qualified interpreters, and don't want to hire new interpreters too quickly for fear the state funding used to pay for expanded services may dry up.

"That would be irresponsible to the employees we hire," said John Fitton, the court's executive officer.

Some courts have been extending the provision of interpreters. Los Angeles County, which was part of the Justice Department's probe, has been among the most aggressive in expanding access to interpreters, legal advocates say.

In addition to domestic violence restraining orders, the court now provides interpreters to anyone who needs them in other family cases, as well as eviction, child guardianship, conservatorship, civil harassment and small claims cases.

The rollout has faced challenges. The court has found it difficult to find certified interpreters in some languages with origins in South America, said Carolyn Kuhl, the court's presiding judge. And travel times for interpreters needed in more than one courthouse on the same day can be a challenge.

But so far, the court has been able to meet the needs, and judges are pleased, according to Kuhl.

"Not having to worry about the language skills of someone in the family or whoever else might be there to interpret is a relief to these judges," she said.

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