Fred Fletcher, September 15, 2019

Farewell to Humboldt

My family and I are relocating to Oregon although an office will be maintained in Eureka for awhile. We moved to Humboldt with hopes of helping to improve the community, and learned billions of dollars of cash floating around a rural county unleashes a distopia: "a place where the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror."  Humboldt is full of wonderful individuals who are intimidated, uninformed, or tired of trying. Humboldt's golden age was when people did not inhabit her, and so we leave Humboldt. Please destroy English Ivy wherever you see her. 

August 18, 2019

Fred Fletcher 

Is Latin a Dead Language in Humboldt?

Latin is still used to describe legal doctrines. 

  • "Defacto" means "in fact"
  • "Ex parte" means "by one party"
  • "Fiat" means "let it be done"
  • "De novo" means "anew"

The term "de novo" is commonly used to describe the right to a new trial of an administrative hearing officer's decision if appealed. This is an important right that can effect disability payments, permit and license revocations, and property rights.  Without the right to a traditional "de novo" review of an administrative hearing officer's decision property and civil rights are at risk. An administrative hearing officer is someone the Government pays to determine the rights of its residents. Sometimes these hearing officers are unqualified, bias, or conflicted so California law allows their decisions to be reviewed by judges "de novo" or "anew."

Two Humboldt Superior Court Judges Kelly Neel, and Gregory Elvine-Kreis have determined the term "de novo" means the exact opposite of it's Latin origin. Both judges have held that a "de novo" review of an administrative hearing officer's decision is limited to the record at the administrative hearing meaning the review is not "anew" but is the opposite.  Our judges have decided nothing "anew" is allowed to be presented on appeal to challenge the hearing officer's decision. This is an astonishing holding (postmodernism?) which appears to contravene the findings of every other Judge in the State who has pondered the issue.  Will the Court of appeals agree with our Humboldt Court by turning Latin on it's head and disposing of due process? 

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Fred Fletcher

July 15, 2019

Supreme Court Resurrects Property Rights from the Grave

Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, No. 17-647, 588 U.S. ___ (2019)

Ms. Knick bought 90-acres of land in 1970 in Pennsylvania.  In 2008, rumors started to circulate a dead body was buried on her land. A relative of the dead body convinced (probably bought) the City Counsel to designate the land as a cemetery which forced Ms. Knick to allow visitors on her land. Ms. Knick sued in State court where her case was dismissed because the City had not filed an enforcement action against her. 

Ms. Knick petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn a catch-22 for property owners. She claimed the City turning her property into a cemetery was an illegal taking (without just compensation) under the 5th amendment. Prior to this decision property owners were barred from seeking relief in Federal Court until they had sued and appealed all the way to the State Supreme Court. 

The US Supreme Court overturned this rule and now property owners can sue directly in Federal Court when a locality takes property without just compensation. This decision may bring an end to our local bureaucracy. 

Humboldt Planning and Building Department, Director John Ford on bottom right

Eureka Public Transit System

I've been grounded from driving since Mother's day due to a medical condition giving me an opportunity to review Eureka's public transit system.  On average public transit in Eureka is as fast as walking. 

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 farm workers 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 farm-workers 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. 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 Water Bill Passes: Big Implications

Posted by Fred Fletcher on Sunday, December 11, 2016 Under: Water Bill

The California water bill now ready for the president's signature dramatically shifts 25 years of federal policy and culminates a long and fractious campaign born in the drought-stricken San Joaquin Valley.

A rough five years in the making, the $558 million bill approved by the Senate early Saturday morning steers more water to farmers, eases dam construction, and funds desalination and recycling projects. Its rocky road to the White House also proved a costly master class in political persistence and adroit maneuvering.

“I believe these provisions are both necessary, and will help our state,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, and their staffs, crafted the final water package, which the Senate approved on a 78-21 vote. They also made the hard-ball tactical choice to fold it into a widely popular infrastructure bill, which eased Senate passage while it left retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer fuming.

“I think it is absolutely a horrible process, a horrible rider,” Boxer said during floor debate Friday. “It’s going to result in pain and suffering among our fishing families.”

Boxer cited, in particular, California’s salmon industry, whose members fear the diversion of water will deplete rivers critical to salmon reproduction.

Boxer’s post-midnight vote against the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which included the approximately 98-page California bill, was likely to be the last of her 33-year congressional career. It was a sour ending for her long-time Senate partnership with Feinstein, with whom she’s amicably served since 1993.

Though ultimately futile, Boxer’s stand against the California water bill also foreshadows some of the big challenges ahead once the legislation takes effect. These include healing the rifts that have pit one region of the state against the other, managing the new Trump administration’s implementation of the law and coping with the inevitable litigation.

“It’s ugly, and it’s wrong, and it’s going to end up at the courthouse door,” Boxer predicted.

This year’s final California water package includes many elements, some of which are not especially controversial.

Non-native predatory fish in the Stanislaus River will be test-targeted for elimination. Money will support water recycling projects in cities such as Sacramento and San Luis Obispo, and to desalination projects like ones proposed for Southern California.

More controversially, the bill streamlines potential construction approval of Western water projects that could include Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River and Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley. The bill’s funding includes $335 million for the water storage projects, which is only a fraction of their total cost.

With highly technical but important language, the bill also directs the pumping of more water to farms south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and seeks to ensure that Sacramento Valley farmers receive all of their allocated water.

“This water is for the tens of thousands of small farms that have gone bankrupt, like a melon farmer who sat in my office with tears in his eyes,” Feinstein said.

Boxer, echoing environmentalists, countered that the real beneficiary will be “big agribusiness.”

All sides agree the California water package marks the biggest federal shift in the state’s water use since the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which focused more on protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Farmers hated the CVPIA but, in a mirror image of this year’s water bill, it was included in a bigger package that rolled right over one of the state’s protesting senators.

The Republican senator who was left standing alone in fighting the 1992 bill, John Seymour, was subsequently defeated by Feinstein. One of the other big losers in that earlier legislative fight, the Westlands Water District, is among the victors in this year’s bill, after spending more than $1 million on lobbying in the last two years.

IT’S GOING TO RESULT IN PAIN AND SUFFERING AMONG OUR FISHING FAMILIES.Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Other California water districts, farmer organizations and environmental groups poured resources into trying to shape the final bill. Feinstein stressed that she went through “dozens of versions” and consulted extensively with both the Obama administration and state officials to craft the legislation.

House Republicans, in turn, kept the pressure on by repeatedly passing more aggressive California water bills. These competing measures, led first in 2011 by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, and then by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, kept presenting Feinstein with an issue that would not go away.

Last year, for instance, Feinstein and Boxer jointly introduced a 147-page Senate bill not long after the Republican-controlled House approved a 170-page bill along largely party lines. The competing bills helped frame the subsequent negotiations.

“My House and Senate colleagues and the people of the Valley have fought long and hard to get this legislation passed out of both chambers,” Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said Saturday.

The fighting, at times, turned personal. Last year, Feinstein angrily accused a McCarthy staffer of trying to sneak ambitious California water language onto another must-pass bill, while California’s House Republicans united in an extraordinary denunciation of the state’s two senators for alleged inaction in the face of an emergency.


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Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. Warning may contain more opinions than facts.