I have been representing a couple of business owners locally pro bono who were cited for being “non-essential” but open. The first one just concluded with, “FINE! Have it your way, we’ll make it a warning if you don’t make us deal with this.” That is a victory. The citation had a number of procedural and sunstantive defects. It was based on an executive order (our first local shelter-in-place) that had expired, and not the replacement order that was actually effective at the time. It was also not properly served (fucking due process of law grumble grumble). And our local authorities proclaimed loudly that a first violation would be a warning not a fine and this was a first violation. What they claimed was a warning was a poster they stuck on my client’s door at a time BEFORE he had opened and was in compliance. This is like a cop pulling you over and telling you that you were driving the speed limit, but he was warning you not to speed. Code enforcement in this town is a bunch of fascist cunts.
The second one I am fighting is a gym owner who was not open when cited. He and a few friends went to the gym to work out when it was closed. The door was locked. It was a small group. No one paid for the workout.
Both of these business owners spoke put against the lockdown and forced closure- loudly and publicly. Both spoke at a city hall rally asking to open. The first guy (who is Latino for those of you who want to scream about white nationalist protests) got cited the day after he spoke on stage at a protest here. A protest that, like everything here, was at least half Latino. And no one was carrying rifles by the way. This is not Michigan. The second guy also spoke at the protest. Code enforcement has been periodically staking out both businesses. Just in case you are wondering, we have some blight problems in Fresno that code enforcement might be better off focusing on, but hey, that’s just me.
I have been talking with a lot of business owners here and there seems to be a pattern of targeting business owners who speak out. Since the right to protest seems to be on people’s minds, it is a good reminder that such rights don’t just cover protests that you like. I’d love to figure out how to bring a class action against the city, but I don’t know how to make damages out of it. From what I can see, they are backing off on the fines when people push back, so there may not be much there. One more example of why I hate government and why I do what I do
A strange aside: An official from code enforcement called me when we filed the appeal. She knew me. 20 years ago, when I was a public defender, she was a certified law student intern (this means they can appear in court) with the DA. A lazy DA let her do a jury trial against me in a solicitation of prostitution case (cop posing as a hooker). My guy was guilty as hell. But he walked with a not guilty verdict because she forgot to introduce a key piece of evidence. It was fun to remember and remind her of it. It was a fun closing to the jury “THEY DIDN’T SHOW YOU BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE IT BECAUSE THIS MAN IS NOT GUILTY!”
This is a weird career.