Lawsuit Filed With the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Claims, ‘Humboldt County fines people millions of dollars for things they didn’t do’

Notice to abate cannabis gavel feature 1The legal battle wages on against Humboldt County’s cannabis abatement program, with stakes raised Thursday in the Ninth Circuit. The class action federal lawsuit challenging Humboldt County’s cannabis abatement program was denied by the Northern District Court. Now, The Institute of Justice has appealed that ruling. If the Appeal is granted, it could have implications for other counties, cities and states with similar cannabis (or other property) abatement programs, as these rulings apply to all of California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska. 

On May 12, in a blow to impacted property owners, the Northern District Court Judge Robert M. Illman granted the County’s Motion to Dismiss all claims.

“[T]he Plaintiffs’ assertions as to their supposed injuries ring hollow,” Judge Illman wrote, adding, “[N]o Plaintiff has sustained any actual injury in the nature of excessive fines and fees in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and given the fact that any future injury is speculative at best, Plaintiffs lacks standing to pursue a claim that they have been subjected to “excessive fines and fees.”

Judge Illman said further:

“The [First Amended Complaint] contains no competent allegations which establish that any action taken by the County that shocks the conscience, that was arbitrary or discriminatory, or that interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. In other words, Plaintiffs have not even approached “show[ing] as a threshold matter that a state actor deprived [them] of a constitutionally protected life, liberty, or property interest,” or that the land use actions involved in this case failed to advance legitimate governmental purposes.”

Screenshot of opening brief filed Thursday in the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court by the Institute for Justice. Click here for the entire opening brief.

Screenshot of opening brief filed Thursday in the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court by the Institute for Justice. Click here for the entire opening brief.

The nationally acclaimed human interest law firm the Institute for Justice, which initially brought the class action Federal lawsuit in October 2022, refutes the Northern District Court Judge’s interpretation of the law. On September 21 they filed their opening appeal brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for CORRINE MORGAN THOMAS, et al., v. COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT, CALIFORNIA.

The Institute for Justice explained why they are appealing the magistrates decision to dismiss their complaint entirely, stating,

“The trial court…ruled that Plaintiffs’ allegations were implausible and unworthy of the presumption of truth. The court declared—at the motion-to-dismiss stage— that the County’s code enforcement has been “even-handed, proportionate, non-discriminatory, and non-arbitrary.” Plaintiffs ask this Court to reverse and remand the case to a judge who will apply the law correctly and impartially.”

The cannabis abatement program was born right after the legalization of cannabis The Institute for Justice wrote, “Humboldt County[‘s] respon[se] to the legalization of marijuana… [was] amending its code to maximize revenue at the expense of civil rights.”

The Institute for Justice highlighted some of the issues with what they call the “fine-driven code- enforcement program,”  where, “Innocent people are trapped unless they pay their way out,” stating,

“The County charges people with cannabis-adjacent offenses based on permitting violations on their property. Under the guise of nuisance-abatement orders, it fines them millions of dollars while it denies them the permits they need to “abate” the violations. People who appeal wait years for hearings that never come. All the while, the County uses ruinous fines and permit denials to pressure people into settlements.”

The Institute for Justice insists, “A punishment system uninterested in guilt is unconstitutional,” and they elaborate to the appeals court how Humboldt County’s cannabis abatements violates the Constitution in five distinct ways, which are:

“First, a system designed to squeeze money out of people without providing them a hearing violates procedural due process. Second, the County’s arbitrary issuance of penalties and its indifference to innocence violate substantive due process. Third, making non-remedial permits contingent on settling abatement cases is an unconstitutional condition. Fourth, the penalties for cannabis-related violations are unconstitutionally excessive, both on their face and as applied to innocent purchasers. And fifth, the Seventh Amendment guarantees a jury in suits for penalties like these.”

Over 1,200 properties have been impacted by the cannabis abatement program since it began in 2017. In addition to the plaintiffs, hundreds of notice recipients who applied for an appeal hearing within ten days of receiving their notice, are also a part of the “class,” who are eagerly awaiting a favorable decision. In some cases, abatement recipients sit in limbo with their property, infrastructure and millions in penalties and various remediation and administrative costs on the line. All class action plaintiffs expressed concerns with increased stress and uncertainty, some, like Rhonda Olson and the Thomases, even struggle with subsequent health issues they attribute to the abatement.

A handful of abatement recipients, four of which are plaintiffs in this suit, photo by Nichole Norris 

A handful of abatement recipients, four of which are plaintiffs in this suit. [Photo by Nichole Norris]

The Institute for Justice told the Ninth Circuit that the impacts are far reaching beyond Humboldt County and the tactics are being replicated in other areas, further illustrating the importance of this appeal. 

Oral argument at the Appeal level is discretionary with the Court, however The Institute for Justice argued in their opening brief, 

“Plaintiffs-Appellants respectfully submit that oral argument is warranted in this case given the importance of these issues for the named Plaintiffs, the hundreds of class members affected by Humboldt County’s Code Enforcement program, and the people in other jurisdictions that are now emulating the type of suspicion-less and fine-driven code enforcement that Humboldt pioneered to maximize government proceeds from cannabis.”

At this time the briefing schedule is this: Humboldt County’s counsel replies with a rebuttal to the Institute of Justice brief within 30 days. Then the Institute for Justice has 21 days to answer the rebuttal, and oral arguments may or may not be scheduled thereafter at the Court’s discretion. 

Stay tuned to RHBB for more on this story.

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I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago

It seems pretty simple to me.

If a property has code violations it is the responsibility of the owner to remedy them or pay fines. That is an issue that involves only the county and the current owner (and not any previous owner).

If the code violations are the doing of a previous owner, the current owner should have standing to sue the previous owner in order to shift the financial burden to the person who created the violations. That is an issue that involves only the current and previous owner (and not the county).

Anyone who was intentionally misled by a shady real estate agent (and I do believe this occurred in some cases) should have standing to sue the agent. That is an issue that involves only the current owner and the real estate agent (and neither the county nor previous owners).

It seems like some folks want to play a game of three card monte where no one is responsible for anything. Caveat emptor applies here as it almost always does.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

So the “code violation” you speak of in the Thomases case (and others) is that the previous owner grew cannabis in a structure they now own and do not grow cannabis in. Without cannabis this would not be up for debate, the county does not often tell folks (yet) to remove unpermitted structures unless cannabis is a part of the allegation. Ancillary structures, yes, but only is cannabis is alleged, even by previous owners. Ex is a precious owner left a cannabis leaf in the floor of the structure or wire lines, the county has insisted on demolition thus far (see the selinos case featured in punished for another’s crimes attached).

Culpability is an interesting matter to consider as well. The county busted the previous owners twice before they fled the county, the parcel sat with no action from the county until a week after of the clean title transfer to the Thomases, who were left footing the bill for a structure the prior owner used for cannabis. You speak of “responsibly,” and I ask why is the county not in part responsible for the existence of the structure for a year after two raids? Is it is such an environmental issue, they allowed it to exist knowingly.

Additionally the Thomases structure was featured in the real estate ad when they purchased the property, and large part of why they bought it it to facilitate Doug’s workshop and remodel. He is a retired Hollywood set designer and highly skilled craftsman remodeling their home. It will cost over 100k to remove the structure and necessitates removing over 25 trees some old growth in the redwood forest. This is all in the name of protecting the environment of course.

I work on cases with duped new buyers often and have inquired to real estate offices about the matter of disclosing liability for these raided, abated and even previously permitted parcels. I know two local agents who understand what is at stake so far, for unsuspecting buyers. These properties are complete liabilities and no one is telling the buyers. But it’s a challenge to know there are issues when the abatement is not served until after the property changes hands nor issues listed on the title report, which is the case for all plaintiffs (excluding Blu).

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Why did you place the words “code violation” inside quotation marks? Is the structure both permitted and constructed to code standards? If not, is that somehow not a code violation?

Sounds like the Thomases fell victim to a Humboldt hustle, but not at the hands of the county. They should be able to seek remedy from their real estate agent and/or the previous owner.

Additionally, I suspect demolition could be accomplished without tree removal although it would probably need to be done without heavy equipment and would likely be quite expensive.

Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

I put quotations there because I’m quoting you, and to make a point. If cannabis wasn’t alleged to have been grown in the Thomases (and others) structures it wouldn’t be an issue for code enforcement, or be accompanied with such extreme fines and penalties of $6-10k per day. The county would not be asking them to remove many of these structures if cannabis hadnt been grown by the previous owners inside of it.

I work in a law office on both traditional and cannabis related abatements regularly, and there is an extreme discrepancy with the standards for structures in cannabis abatements, not to mention the fine amounts.

I’m glad the rat and cockroach infested Eurkea hotels are fixed up, BUT look at the selinos fire dept shed (https://kymkemp.com/2022/03/21/punished-for-anothers-crimes-humboldt-county-demands-new-owners-destroy-any-unpermitted-building-used-for-cannabis-cultivation/).

It is built better than the code many say, and their in-laws home was also. But because there was a cannabis leaf and empty wire lines inside they were told by code enforcement to demolish both structures, one we desperately need for fire safety in salmon creek (where you can’t get regular renters Fire insurance it’s so dangerous).

IF you look closely, these rural, mostly district two and five (72%/ 17%) structures are not actually the issue for the county, it’s the prior owners use to cultivate cannabis inside of them. And frankly it’s hard to not to find a leaf in any structure in the rural parts of the county, or garden pots, pvc pipe, perlite and other gardening supplies.
And what is a leaf or wire lines doing to harm the environment exactly? I do site visits regularly with folks, and a big part of my job is having to point out the rules as applied to them, for example what the county considers solid waste or water crimes. Just yesterday I had to say, “I know this doesn’t make sense but that empty bucket is too close to the empty gully…” It’s void of logic they often say.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Built better than code? Well that’s partially what the courts will determine. And the remarks of a law firm representing anyone is very much to be taken within grain of salt. And it is not hard to find plenty of places without any evidence of pot farming in its history. But this is making noise about irrelevancies.

The result of these lawsuits will likely be a crackdown on all unpermitted structures and, like everything else in the county, outraged self righteous pot fanatic whinging about justice will create even more hardships for everyone else. As usual.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

I know it’s hard for some to get past the word cannabis without making assumptions but None of the people involved in the lawsuit grew cannabis.

I was quoting the local fire volunteers, engineers and builders who said better than to code.

I don’t find 7 million in fines and loosing one’s land irrelevant personally. The law changed around the forced removal of unpermitted structures after code enforcement featured my article at the Supervisors meeting in march 2022, so good thing it wasn’t so irrelevant to everyone.

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Nichole, I’ve been trying to find an answer to this question for several years now.

What is the maximum civil penalty for a code violation? What I’ve been able to find (with non existent experience doing legal research) is a state code that indicates that the maximum penalty for a planning and building code violation is $1000.

Is there something I’m missing? How is the county able to apply 6+ figure fines for a code violation?

You can’t get 10 years in prison for a misdemeanor. There’s not an infinite ceiling to penalites for any alleged crime. This program seems to violate state law

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

That’s a great question and part of what IJ is arguing, well not state law, but the eight amendment of the constitution. I am not positive on the fine amount for unpermitted structures not related to cannabis allegations, I’d guesstimate 1k. I do know that grading violations cap out at 1k in CA without the allegation of cannabis. With cannabis it’s up to 10k per day. Also if you grow grapes for wine without a permit it’s a $100 fine for the first year which I also find interesting to compare.

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Are these egregious daily fine amounts for violations related to cannabis spelled out in prop 64?

I just don’t see how a municipality can wave a wand and make code violations suddenly punishable by hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. There are legally prescribed limits to the level of punishment (financial as well as incarceration time) that can be assessed for various levels of crime.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago

Here is some good information on the subject…

https://janssenlaw.com/can-counties-really-charge-10000-per-violation-of-county-zoning-ordinances/

‘Can Counties Really Charge $10,000 Per Violation of County Zoning Ordinances?’

“As you may or may not be aware, Humboldt County is charging $10,000 per day per violation of County Codes related to unlicensed cannabis cultivation. Such violations include grading violations, building permit violations, and violations of the cannabis ordinance. The question is whether the County can really impose such a stiff penalty and what statute authorizes such a penalty? The short answer is likely no, the County does not have authority under the California Government Code to impose such a penalty.”…

…”Given the express language in Government Code section 53069.4 limiting the imposition of administrative penalties to those penalties outlined in Government Code section 25132 and the Minor court’s reasoning that Government Code section 25132 and Penal Code section 19 must be read together to set the amount of penalties for misdemeanor violations, the imposition of penalties over $1,000 for misdemeanor violations of county code is not authorized since there is no “enabling legislation” to allow the county to fix additional penalties. Therefore, the imposition of additional penalties for misdemeanor violations would violate California Constitution, Article XI, section 7 which provides, “A county or city may make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with the general laws.” ”
_________________________

Unfortunately, Janssen Malloy, LLP, has not taken the County of Humboldt to task on this matter.

What’s up with that?

They have more than likely garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients that were hoping that Janssen Malloy, LLP, would do just that, and correct this ongoing injustice…

So, why haven’t they?

They are talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

Last edited 7 months ago
fndrbndr
Member
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Thank you for investigating the law. In response to the abatement letter folks receive, the above California codes should be sent to the planning dept.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

The fines are spelled out in Humboldt County code specifically

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

But can a county override state law and impose more serious penalties than allowed under state law? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

From what I can see, these fines are in total violation of state law. Why haven’t any lawyers attacked this aspect of the ordinance? The county couldn’t just decide that speeding on Redwood Dr carries a $10,000 fine because speeding is a violation, not a felony, so the punishment is limited by statute.

Just because the county got addicted to high price tag fines for cannabis crimes (back when they were crimes, and even felonies, rather than code violations) doesn’t grant them the right to continue that behavior in perpetuity regardless of legal status of the behavior in question.

The IJ lawsuit may have value in a wider sense, I’m not really sure of that, but it all seems like a massive waste of everyone’s time to be arguing these high level concepts about violating constitutional rights when the abatement program is in apparent and unambiguous violation of simple state law.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago

It’s an anomaly in state law that the maximum fine for a criminal misdemeanor is $1,000 total but civil code violations are subject to ongoing fines of up to $10,000. daily.

It’s seriously disproportionate and out of whack but that’s the law in California.

It does seem like IJ might have had better odds attacking that gross disparity.

But the legislature could fix that if they wanted to. Why don’t they?

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

Federal law reigns over state and county and that’s what this lawsuit pertains to. The state is not always our friend last I checked. The constitution is our ally.

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

I understand the logic of a national firm like IJ arguing a constitutional angle. Their interest is in achieving national precedent in federal courts for limits on local government ordinance.

What I don’t understand is why no local attorneys have challenged these abatements on the grounds that they violate state law around maximum penalty for a code violation or misdemeanor

Farmer
Guest
Farmer
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Why is the planning dept. Allowed to charge a higher fee for Ag exempt building permits for cannabis farmers or change higher rates per hour than other businesses?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago

Let’s say a building code violation is a misdemeanor…

https://www.sjcourts.org/divisions/criminal/what-happens-in-a-misdemeanor-case/#:~:text=Misdemeanors%20are%20primarily%20offenses%20with,of%201%20year%20or%20less.

“Misdemeanors are primarily offenses with a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fine and a county jail term of 1 year or less. However, there are some offenses which exceed this general criteria;…”…

________________________

But misdemeanors involve an arrest, etc., sooo…

Let’s say a building code violations is an infraction…

https://www.shouselaw.com/ca/blog/vehicle-code/the-difference-between-an-infraction-and-a-misdemeanor-in-california/#:~:text=Infractions%2C%20under%20California%20law%2C%20largely,amount%20is%20the%20base%20fine.

Infractions and misdemeanors are both offenses in the California criminal justice system. The main difference between the two is in their severity and in how they get punished.

Infractions are less serious offenses than misdemeanors. They are punishable by a maximum fine of $250 (though certain traffic infractions carry fines of up to $500). Unlike misdemeanors, they do not subject an offender to actual jail time.

Last edited 7 months ago
Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

This is what I’ve found in state law;

“(A) For the first violation, an amount that does not exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) or the amount of the permit fee required by the ordinance multiplied by three, whichever is less. In the absence of a permit fee, an amount that does not exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000).”
-Section 53069.4

That same section goes on to lay out higher levels financial penalty in subsections (B) and (C) for subsequent violations of the same codes. And then says this;

“(D) Notwithstanding subparagraphs (A) to (C), inclusive, an administrative fine assessed pursuant to this paragraph shall not exceed five hundred dollars ($500) unless both of the following findings are made in the administrative record prior to the assessment of the administrative fine:
(i) The person who violated the ordinance did so willingly or the violation resulted in an unusual and significant threat to the public health and safety.
(ii) The payment of the administrative fine would not impose an undue financial hardship on the person responsible for the payment.”

That would seem to apply to all of the primary class members in this lawsuit. None them appear to have violated the ordinance willingly and none of the violations appear to have “resulted in an unusual and significant threat to the public health and safety.”

And it seems that for almost everyone caught up in this abatement program the payment of these fines would “impose an undue financial hardship on the person responsible for the payment.”

The county is in clear violation of state law and all of these fines are illegal. No appeal to the constitution required

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Is the structure both permitted and constructed to code standards? If not, is that somehow not a code violation?

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

If you know the name of the Thomases real estate agent it seems like sharing it might protect others from finding themselves in a similar situation.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

There will likely be an addition to the real estate release of liability to that effect soon. The real winners will be as usual the lawyers.

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Again. All the titles were clean at purchase. This isn’t generally the real estate agent’s fault.

Last edited 7 months ago
Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

The disclosures required of sellers and agents go far beyond the issue of clean title.

A title search reveals recorded documents but would not reveal past or current cannabis activity, code violations or myriad other conditions affecting the value of the property.

Sellers and agents can and should be held financially liable for failure to disclose.

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Any local real estate agent who doesn’t know about the prevalence and potential pitfalls of unpermitted structures in SoHum is not very familiar with local real estate.

ForestGrump
Member
ForestGrump
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Don’t know where you are coming from, but this feels like victim blaming.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

That is a remarkably disingenuous position. If pot had never been grown in an unpermitted constructed building that violated zoning, construction requirements and other laws, it would still be an unpermitted building violating zoning, construction requirements and other laws. Indeed, if someone was sold such and who knew it, they would case against the seller because it was not useable for the purpose sold.

Only pot thinking – the law is wrong so I get to ignore it- would see no issue in that.
And think because the law did not take it on itself to fix the violation, no one should be required to do it. And in fact should be required to grandfather-in a known violation, i.e. Codewash it magically to become permitted simply because it changes hands. That would lead to building being constructed all over the place without permits so they could be sold and magically made legal.

The only real issue is whether the county has the legal authority to fine the new owner for the presence of the illegal building which they refuse to remove. And there is the real bone of contention- the refusal to remove something that it is impossible to get permitted. The new owners want the fruits of the illegal tree. The county wants them to remove it. Or maybe just agree it couldn’t be further developed into housing or business use? No one has said. I wonder if the new owners had agreed to remove it, whether they would have been given a substantial period of time to do it without fines? Again no one has said. Besides it is unlikely the building really would cost as much as claimed to get it to a place where it would not engender fines. There are likely people who would do the removal in return for the salvaged material given enough time.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Again I’m going to preface this with- none of the people involved in the lawsuit grew cannabis, all the titles were clean at purchase, no violations were given until the property changed hands to the innocent buyers. Does that make sense? You may have a hard time following if not.

I’m not sure where you live but where I live almost everyone has an unpermitted home and /or structure. Ever hear of the code enforcement wars of the 80s? If we want to make more people in the county homeless and have others removing valuable structures we could use for fire depts, buildings that had taxes collected on them for years, I suppose that could add up for you. But it doesn’t align with the needs of the people where I live and it’s incredibly destructive to the environment too. Going back to the selinos fire dept shed as an example . the county suggested they burn it down as a solution, but it’s made with toxic foam fire retardant and no one wants that in the land or in their water. The structure is very valuable and useful for our volunteer fire dept. Do you believe a prior owners old dried cannabis leaf should necessitate the new buyer remove a valuable fire dept shed?

doug
Guest
doug
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Youre not hearing what is being said Guest. the general fine for not coming into compliance on a code violation, like a garage you didn’t get permission to build, is $100 a day not $10,000 a day.This is an illegal take of their property. That is the claim this poor case fails to make.$100 for 30 days hurts at $3000, but 30 days at $10,000 takes your whole property at $300,000.If i were these people, i would go ask the pacific legal foundation for help. they are spawn of satan, but they will get the job done. And this is money not politics. enough with these PJI do gooders. Their writing and their legal tacts are both lackluster from what is quoted here.bck on track, the county wouldnt give the whitethorn resident a hearing and kept charging him the daily fee. that is pretty egregious.the county didnt have the abatement notice flagged in the property file when the ruth lake people were doing their due-diligence research.who is this judge who said nothing was out of the ordinary with regard tothe county’s actions?Is Roberth Illman an elected judge? He is named properly. He makes me ill. Is he elected: when does his term end? let’s help him find a job he is better suited for by voting “no” to them next time. He has unreasonable expectations about what ordinary people can afford it seems to me.This right here is preposterous: “[N]o Plaintiff has sustained any actual injury in the nature of excessive fines and fees in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments,”BullSplat!

Last edited 7 months ago
doug
Guest
doug
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Youre not hearing what is being said Guest. the general fine for not coming into compliance on a code violation, like a garage you didn’t get permission to build, is $100 a day not $10,000 a day.
This is an illegal take of their property. That is the claim this poor case fails to make.
$100 for 30 days hurts at $3000, but 30 days at $10,000 takes your whole property at $300,000.
If i were these people, i would go ask the pacific legal foundation for help. they are spawn of satan, but they will get the job done. And this is money not politics. enough with these PJI do gooders. Their writing and their legal tacts are both lackluster from what is quoted here.
bck on track, the county wouldnt give the whitethorn resident a hearing and kept charging him the daily fee. that is pretty egregious.
the county didnt have the abatement notice flagged in the property file when the ruth lake people were doing their due-diligence research.
who is this judge who said nothing was out of the ordinary with regard tothe county’s actions?
Is Roberth Illman an elected judge? He is named properly. He makes me ill. Is he elected: when does his term end? let’s help him find a job he is better suited for by voting “no” to them next time. He has unreasonable expectations about what ordinary people can afford it seems to me.
This right here is preposterous: “[N]o Plaintiff has sustained any actual injury in the nature of excessive fines and fees in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments,”
BullSplat!

old guy
Guest
old guy
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

title search and title insurance, foolish not to do due diligence on liens, etc.. when buying property. otherwise you’re just buying debt and liability.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  old guy

Unless and until the alleged violations are adjudicated and fines and penalties assessed, there are no liens. This is an example of why buyer’s due diligence and seller’s disclosure is critical.

The Thomases could easily have discovered that the grow structure was not permitted. The seller was also required to disclose known code violations whether or not the county had issued a notice.

The county also has the prerogative to focus on non-code improvements that have been, are, or could be used for cannabis instead of going after all code violations equally. Doing so doesn’t somehow bring the non-cannabis related violations into compliance. It also doesn’t matter if it was built to code if it was done without permits and in violation of zoning requirements.

Finally, anyone banking on the IJ appeal should read the decision that’s being appealed. The judge pretty thoroughly dissected every claim advanced by the lawsuit.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

The Thomases purchased from an LLC, and the owners fled the country. What do you suggest they do? There was no abatement to find until a week after they purchased the property. I know folks who live in Humboldt know better to look, like rhonda but even she found no indication of issues until she received noticed after the property changed hands. No other county was doing this before either, so it’s not something people from out of the area like the Thomases would know to look into. corrine worked in real estate and did her due diligence. The county allowed the structure exist unabated with taxes paid for decades. What about their part in that?

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

If the Thomases did their due diligence, then they must have known there was a large unpermitted structure on the property. It doesn’t matter if it was ever used for cannabis or if taxes were paid on it or if the county didn’t act on it – it was still a code violation. And since code violations go with the property, the building became their issue.

The IJ appeal is great theater, but like the lawsuit, it will be decided on legal points and authorities, not human interest stories and emotion.

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

In rural areas, many if not most properties contain unpermitted structures. The county is shooting itself in the foot if people are afraid to purchase property that produces a large number of taxes they rely on for fear they will get punished in the future. And…why are only cannabis properties being punished this way?

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

You may well be right. This could backfire on the county.

But targeting canna related code violations is well within the purview of the county. Courts have a long history of deferring to local decision makers as long as they can articulate a public policy reason for the action they’re taking.

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

They do. I’m not saying that the IJ will win. But I’m very concerned first with the people struggling with this and then I’m worried about the fallout economically to the county. I don’t think this program as it stands is in the best interest of the County.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

And the remedy for your concerns is to elect people who will make better decisions.

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

Possibly…but I enjoy kvetching on the internet as do you.

Ben Round
Guest
Ben Round
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

There is supposedly an opportunity to retroactively AOB (Alternative Owner Builder program) properties / homesteads. Is that not available to these people? If so, is that because they did not build the place / buildings themselves?

Last edited 7 months ago
fndrbndr
Member
7 months ago
Reply to  Ben Round

You cannot enter the AOB program once an abatement has been issued.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  fndrbndr

Wow that sucks

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Farce

This is a part of the lawsuit farce, rest assured. All permits to resolve the abatements are on hold. Also worth mentioning the AOB has changed since Peter, Dan and the United stand folks headed the cause. Both versions are on my desktop to print, dissect, contrast and compare. It was initially meant to “encourage the creativity of the builder” and be simple for the average person to realize. But I suspect there have been some changes. Ask the owner of Yeehaw. But I will say I also have good news from the county to report on that matter hopefully, perhaps a new ordinance soon, fingers crossed.

fndrbndr
Member
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

From what I’ve learned recently. The AOB has gotten much more difficult. What people are now doing is finding a contractor to sign off on the construction. It costs more but you essentially still build yourself and get your project through the planning dept much faster. I’ve heard of AOB taking 3 years to get approved.

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

“And…why are only cannabis properties being punished this way?”

Is it true that only cannabis properties are being punished this way?

I don’t know for certain, but I think code enforcement does enforcement on non-cannabis properties too. Do you have a reason to believe otherwise?

A FOIA request might yield proof one way or the other. If it’s true, that would make a good news story.

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Yes, I am sure that this level of financial penalties are only on cannabis related properties. Nikki’s articles though have pointed out that this could become retroactive on other properties in the future. So for instance, someone who bought a property in 2024 from someone who bought a property in 2000 could become liable for bringing that shed on the back forty that was build 40 years ago and was never used for cannabis up to code.

Last edited 7 months ago
Steve Koch
Guest
Steve Koch
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

That is already the case.
If you buy a property with an unpermitted structure, you are responsible for getting that structure permitted or removing it.

The point of permitting (theoretically) is to prevent ramshackle, unsafe structures from being built and sold.

That is why you should check the permit history for a property when you intend to buy it.

Of course they are going to go after unpermitted structures (whether or not they were used to grow marijuana).

The issue here is not whether unpermitted houses/etc are ok.
The issue is that the process, fines and penalties for these unpermitted structures are grossly unfair and excessive.

The courts may say this is a issue that needs to be solved politically, not judicially (i.e. why is the Board of Supervisors ok with this?).

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Others are being punished in the same way. It’s just the fines that differ. A similar situation occurs with speeding where fines double in work zones.

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

What is the largest penalty you are aware of for building code violations that didn’t involve cannabis?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Good points, Kym.

“Why are only cannabis properties being punished this way?”… indeed…

That is the arbitrary and discriminatory part that Judge Illman incorrectly denies has happened.

As far as the County, “shooting itself in the foot if people are afraid to purchase property…”, the county may actually be trying to assure they are due, and/or, keep receiving, the amount of tax money that they have become so accustomed to.

Cannabis properties sold for exorbitant amounts, and are taxed commensurate to those exorbitant amounts.

Any subsequent sale now will likely be for just a small fraction of the previous purchase price.

That means that if these properties do sell, the County will then only be due, or receive, just a small fraction of he previous taxes collected.

It would be in the County Government’s financial interest to delay, prolong, or outright prevent, by any and all means, the sale of any and all property, at a lower price than those properties are currently assessed at.

This they have achieved, by the uncertainty and risk that the County has established in regards to anyone purchasing any property in Humboldt, by financially hammering new property purchasers like the Thomases.

The County has been very complicit, by willingly collecting grossly inflated and exorbitant taxes on properties for decades, and they have no intention of losing their previous income stream, even though virtually everyone else in Humboldt has.

They will stop at nothing in order to maintain that stream as is, regardless of the collateral damage that will surely ensue.

They will not have shot themselves in the foot, until after they have parasitically bled every other soul in Humboldt completely dry.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Well they do have to pay for that satellite spy software so they can spy on their own residents and strangle them. What’s that thing cost- like $400,000 a year? Yeah real nice

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Farce

It’s a contract for three years last I checked that amounted to about 300k annually.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Thank you for the clarification

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Farce

Anytime. they had to shut it down during COVID too for some reason (about 8 months) and I never could figure out why. I just suspected it was a shift in funding priorities idk?

Steve Koch
Guest
Steve Koch
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

If the goal is to depopulate rural areas (for political or environmental reasons or to reduce infrastructure support costs, for examples), this would be effective.

If the county wants to reduce the number of people living in unpermitted, possibly dangerous structures, this approach would be effective.

Politicians like to push people around, best to give them as little $ and power as possible.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Koch

When speaking with the elders here I have discovered there has been an effort to depopulate the rural regions for decades. In the 80s the policy makers and code enforcement officials admitted their attempt to eradicate the “riff raff.” Now it seems a similar attempt but delivered via cannabis legalization. Environmental rhetoric was/is often used for the depopulation effort, and sometimes folks with good intentions have glommed on thinking they were helping when they just didn’t know better.

In reality cannabis enforcement (and compliance) has drastically impacted an entire legacy and culture, disenfranchising people who took care of their land in various ways that benefit all in the county. Ex. When a fire breaks out on salmon creek that could potentially spread far and wide, the county benefits from rural resident volunteer networks that protect people and the land before it spreads. Folks who live in rural communities are more self sufficient because they have to be. They bring value to the county but this is rarely discussed.

Ernie Branscomb
Guest
Ernie Branscomb
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

Humboldt County is well known for “shooting itself in the foot”. Just look at what they did To the Tooby Ranch sale. After approving the sale they changed their minds after a done deal. They totally locked up any progress and forced folks to build without permits. Bypassing the chance to have appropriate construction and taxable improvements.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

I disagree with your framing and look forward to hearing your comments after the ninth circuit’s decision.

Why would the Thomases assume a structure that had existed for so long would need to be removed a week after they purchased it, particularly because the pre owner grew cannabis in it? They were targeted for the prior owners cannabis, not the structure being unpermitted. Again the county does not go after unpermitted structures (as often) unless it relates to cannabis.

The fate of this case could very well shape the trajectory how the enforcement of unpermitted structures not related to cannabis, unfolds across the country too. Again this could happen to anyone.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

My “framing” is grounded in the law while the IJ lawsuit is all about framing. And that’s why it’s been dismissed without leave to amend. No one should be surprised when the appeal gets denied.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

IJ goes to the Supreme Court often. Their last ruling was related to excessive fines, fees and forfeitures and they won unanimously. As IJ stated in their opening brief “Plaintiffs ask this Court to reverse and remand the case to a judge who will apply the law correctly and impartially.”

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

IJ is missing the point that none of the plaintiffs have yet been ordered to pay any fines, fees or penalties. Blu’s resolution of his case underlines that any actual harm is speculative and most or all of the financial penalties can be negotiated away. The other claims advanced by IJ seem equally flawed. After the current appeal is denied I doubt the Supreme Court will be granting a hearing to the IJ.

Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

I don’t imagine you are a lawyer, and there is zero point for laymen’s to debate this. again this nationally acclaimed law firm with ~35 offices around the country, is well aware of what they are doing. law firms don’t tend to invest in lawsuits they plan to loose. if you read their filing you will understand better about the costs before the fines are imposed. I know the Thomases and Rhonda well and for you to say they have no costs is a slap in their faces. They are at risk of loosing everything they have in their retirement.

The fines are imminent according to code enforcement also, as I quoted them in articles attached here, saying, “the county never looses.” Every appeal hearing they’ve had (very few) Goes in favor of the county, aka unconstitutional.

Without this lawsuit the Thomases are looking at ~100k, and rhonda is looking at hundreds of thousands in fines as a settlement minimum at the appeal, and hundreds of thousands in demolition fees each. There are so far zero cases that did not end up with a fine at the appeal and they are all excessive even when reduced. I watched one young gal get hundreds of thousands in fines for a trespass grow for example. She even called in the grow herself to complain and the county wouldn’t help her, only abate her.

Blu is a good example? For why the lawsuit is happening yes. Blu is rare in that he didn’t let the county bully him into a compliance agreement, most did. I worked with him on his abatement from day one in May 2018. I was there for every attempt to settle over the years. Despite his innocence Code enforcement insisted he pay 30k-10k and sign a compliance agreement for years and denied his attempt to pay a fine for the rain catchment pond and close his case. the county was unwilling to work with him in any capacity until days before IJ filed when Someone caught word about a lawsuit. He settled after 4.5 years only because of the county refusing. In that time he was unable to develop his land for tourism and no one could know the level of impacts to his businesses and family.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

The old saying “the law is an ass” no doubt applies here.

A criminal misdemeanor is subject to a fine of $1,000 total. But a civil code violation can rack up unlimited daily fines of $10,000.

That is seriously out of whack. But it’s what California law allows.

I apologize if my comments seem insensitive to the plight of the plaintiffs but they’re grounded in the harsh reality of the law.

I don’t expect we’ll agree. You’ve been living and breathing these cases for years. I haven’t. You’re emotionally invested in the outcome and its impact on the plaintiff’s lives and possibly on the larger community. I’m not.

I didn’t say the plaintiffs haven’t had costs related to code enforcement. I said “none of the plaintiffs have yet been ordered to pay any fines, fees or penalties.” I believe that’s true. And it’s why the judge says any alleged injury is speculative.

Who knows? Maybe the IJ appeal will be the vehicle for overturning the wildly disparate outcomes allowed by civil and criminal law.

But the appeal doesn’t seem to frame the issue in a way that would allow for that result.

But we’ll see.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

This is an opening statement for the appeal. This isn’t everything that’s going to be filed my Gaia. This is an introduction to the ninth circuit and the county for why it’s being filed essentially.

I get it, I studied with the best and he is constantly reminding me of this when I get on my justice rants. It is out of whack and maybe this suit is what could help change that?

My concern is that these tactics are being used across the state and nation and if some lawsuit doesn’t set some precedence we are all in real trouble. I don’t even own land or have a dog in the ganga fight, and I still understand the implications. If you do not frequent sohum please let this battle be. Folks are suffering here extensively, it’s a rural Humboldt exodus and this is a beacon of hope for many. Folks don’t need more propaganda , it’s been rife with that phony stuff for generations.

And How is is speculative if every single person in their shoes paid an excessive fine? They have spent a tens of thousands each without factoring in what they would have owed had IJ not taken on the case.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Propaganda? Not sure where you got that. Forgive me for not being impressed with the reasoning of the IJ lawsuit. But don’t worry, the appeal won’t be decided in the comments section or on the back porch of the Mateel. But people should also keep in mind that it may not be the magic bullet they’re hoping for.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

Um, I got that from The drug war, remember ? Please crack and egg on a frying pan somewhere else is all I’m saying. Thanks.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Hmm…I’m not impressed by the IJ lawsuit but I’ve never been for the cynical, racist, counterproductive war on drugs. Cannabis should never have been illegal but here we are 85+ years into federal prohibition. Still listed on Schedule 1. Still denied banking. And with botched corporatized state legalization. And draconian local abatement. [Find one place where I’ve said I support any of this and I’ll apologize and donate to the local non-profit of your choice.] But I think at least some of the plaintiffs knew they were buying properties with code violations. And in my opinion the trial court decision is more persuasive than the IJ appeal. Sorry, that’s how I see it.

As for cracking an egg in a frying pan somewhere else, apparently as a dismissive comment, I’ve not heard that one before.

Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told
Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

Where are you getting the idea that california law allows unlimited fines for code violations?

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago

If imposing fines of $10,000 a day for 90 straight days was so clearly illegal don’t you think the IJ lawsuit would have started there?

Just cite the code section that prohibits it and it’s case closed, right?

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

https://kymkemp.com/2023/09/24/lawsuit-filed-with-the-ninth-circuit-court-of-appeals-claims-humboldt-county-fines-people-millions-of-dollars-for-things-they-didnt-do/#comment-1661798

I cited one part of the code that places limits on penalties for county planning violations earlier. I don’t understand why this behavior hasn’t been challenged on these grounds. I’ve been asking for several years and no one has been able to answer me.

Where do you get the idea that there is no legal limit to the financial penalties that can be assessed for a code violation?

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

“I don’t imagine you are a lawyer”…

You aren’t a lawyer either, are you? Glass houses.

Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Who said I claim to be a lawyer, context is important. I am a laymen as I said in the next sentence 😉

“ I don’t imagine you are a lawyer, and there is zero point for laymen’s to debate this. again this nationally acclaimed law firm with ~35 offices around the country, is well aware of what they are doing.”

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Doesn’t the fact that you needed to add the words “(as often)” show that your argument is, as you worded things elsewhere, “void of logic”?

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Yeah let’s talk logic. Saying “as often” is pointing to the fact that the traditional abatement program handles a lot less unpermitted structures than the cannabis abatement program. That’s a fact, see every code enforcement annual report since 2018 with hundreds of cannabis abatements annually and a handful of traditional abatements related to unpermitted structures. Yeehaw for example. I cannot think of many other non cannabis related parcels who have issues with unpermitted structures. Can you?

The traditional and cannabis abatement programs are entirely separate, with separate fines and rules. What’s the real world difference in an unpermitted structure someone grew cannabis in in the past and those that were not used for cannabis? If we are talking logic, and this is about unpermitted structures, wouldn’t the fine be the same either way?

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Speeding fines are commonly doubled if they occur in work zones. This seems like a similar scenario legally. The penalty for the same violation varies with circumstances of the violation.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

Really…???

You are actually associating what the County does with a work zone…???

You do realize how hilariously ridiculous
that is, don’t you…???

You must be joking, right…???

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

What’s the equivalent of the “work zone” justification in this case then stars? Why are cannabis regions being targeted in this way only?

ForestGrump
Member
ForestGrump
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Well spoken, thank you!

trout fisher
Guest
trout fisher
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

The problem is some people are dragged through this hell for greenhouses that have never contained more than vegetables. Old log decks from the 1950’s and 60’s that were fully legally approved timber harvest plans by the board of forestry at the time, and considered up to snuff back then. A lot of what people are being held liable for now, is stuff that was the approved logging standards of the time. Should a small landowner 6o yrs later have to clean up after the timber industry of yore, who created the mess by following CA state Timber Harvest rules and guidelines of 60 yrs ago? These things need remediation, but the state should be funding it, and unwitting small landowners should not be heavily fined for a mess the State of CA originally created and approved.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  trout fisher

There were basically no timber harvesting rues before the early 70’s. Al those roads, landings and crossings were constructed by the logging outfits before there was any permit system or environmental review. I was a lucky greenhorn when I bought my place with well-constructed roads and landings that don’t fail. Many were not so lucky. And in almost all cases if you got abated with even one weed plant on site you were then heavily fined/forced to clean up those logging constructs- even when they were functioning just fine for decades! CDFW went nuts over our wonderful “legalization” and created many new violations to fine and collect much money. The environmentalists didn’t help. When given an opportunity to weigh in they gladly wrote into the county regulations some over-the-top requirements. Ex) Perlite. None of us want perlite near fish-bearing creeks where it can hurt the fish. Growers who did that should be fined and made to clean it up. But the environmentalists wrote that it should apply to the entire county. I have helped friends move good soil w/ perlite from their abated mountaintop gardens- miles from any downhill fish-bearing creeks. Blowing through gasoline to remove soil because…it’s a written violation not because it makes any sense. In Mendocino County you can have perlite because they did not invite environmental groups to chime in on their “legalization” process. Just one example of how Humboldt sucked and continues to suck…Are we going for environmental restoration or are we more interested in generating fines, compliance and collecting outrageous fees? I’d say the latter and it’s disgusting, punitive and sad…also counterproductive. And further- where did all the money go?! The paper bags full of cash delivered to John Ford’s back office? Corrupt AF- that’s Humboldt County!! But please…do not let me get started…

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Farce

The perlite rule is wild, It’s in almost every bag of gardening soil. I didn’t realize that wasn’t in effect in Mendocino. Thanks for the tip.

I am a robot
Guest
I am a robot
7 months ago
Reply to  trout fisher

This is exactlybthe situation for my son who owns a property in Ranch Sequoia. He has not been to the property in this century, but a neighbor built a hoop house and grew cannabis there several years ago apparently. When code enforcement came along the property was abated for “grading violations”. If you know Rancho, you know the entire place is a grading violation.
You folks saying “you should have known better” may now explain why my son should be dinged $10,000 a day for grading that was done 30 years before he was born.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I am a robot

Yes this is sadly all too common. Humboldt GIS is off, some folks get raided for the wrong parcel. yes sometimes people are abated for trespass grows too. I hope your son appealed it and didn’t sign a compliance agreement, because he would be a part of the class for the suit. Folks who did nothing in response (also common) typi get $900,000 liens.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  trout fisher

Thanks for the perspective trout. Yeah it’s a regular occurrence for folks to get violations for logging legacies. One of my first articles on the abatement program featured a family who spent hundreds of thousands remediating logging legacies. Rhonda Olson’s barn ( apart of the lawsuit) was built by a logger for his trucks even, and he paid taxes on the structure for decades. No violations or issues for the structure until cannabis became legal. Now it will cost more than the property cost for her to remove it.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

It would seem that there would be a statute if limitations on building code violations….

Is there one?

Wouldn’t there have to be?

Isn’t there a statute of limitations on just about every other violation or crime?

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

There should be! I don’t think there is sadly but it’s a great question, I’ll last an expert.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

I’m confused. Most everything in my neighborhood was built in the 50’s and there was no Building department then, no permits, no codes. So…everything just got grandfathered in -or so I thought! And these houses and properties have changed hands since then. Are we all living in non-code houses with non-code barns and non-code garages that can be abated at any time?! Because they are non-code. They are pre-code. It’s a wonder they haven’t all fallen down without those county permits to hold them up and make them safe! Or is it just when you have a weed plant growing that then your old house suddenly becomes non-code and open to abatement?

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Farce

That’s how it appears, yes farce. Though I forget the grandfathered in cut off date. I believe houses built in the 60s do not require permits. I’ll have to ask ED.

ForestGrump
Member
ForestGrump
7 months ago
Reply to  trout fisher

and it continues to this day…3 acre conversions, <40 acre clearcuts,

Thatguyinarcata
Guest
Thatguyinarcata
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

What’s the maximum total penalty allowable under state law for a planning and building code violation?

ED Denson
Guest
ED Denson
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

In the first place the creator of the nuisance should be the party responsible for it. The Humboldt County Code allows this to occur, but Code Enforcement ignores it. Secondly, the fact that a prior owner used a building for marijuana cultivation has nothing to do with the current owner who does not use the building for marijuana cultivation. To me it is obvious that the new owner should be treated under the law as any person not cultivating unlicensed marijuana. We call it equal protection under the law. People with unpermitted buildings are not being cited where no cutivation is alleged. Third, the prior owner in most cases is no longer in the country and/or has no assets to sue for. Fourth these abatements in the cases of the Thomases and Rhonda Olson, were not in the public record at the time of the property sale and were addressed to the prior owners when posted after the sale. When the county found the prior owners had skipped, they attacked the new owners. Welcome to Humboldt County you dreamers of quiet retirement or helping the communty.

thetallone
Guest
thetallone
7 months ago
Reply to  ED Denson

Humboldt County’s corruption and contempt for it’s citizens seems to know no bounds.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  thetallone

It’s primarily it’s corruption and contempt for it’s Southern Humboldt citizens, in particular that seems to know no bounds…

And that would be discrimination.

Farce
Guest
Farce
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Yeah- They don’t really mess with folks up in the north part of the county. It’s very discriminatory. Folks down south really should have stood together instead of those who could racing off to get grow permits and leaving all their neighbors to get strangled by John Ford. He really divided everybody with their fear and greed. He’s like the devil himself…feeding on peoples’ weaknesses and gullibility…destroying them all

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Can you imagine if the same thing happened to the indigenous communities here? It would be called something else I’d wager.

Giant Squirrel
Guest
Giant Squirrel
7 months ago

If you buy a house in town with unpermitted construction then you’re liable for cost to come into compliance and it should be the same in rural areas

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Giant Squirrel

If you live in a town (particularly in district 3&4) you might not know this or understand the issue, but 72% of abatements went to district 2, 17-% went to district 5, 10% went to district 1.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

That have anything go do with where pot growing was most turned a blind eye to?

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

During one of a few handfuls of appeal hearings I did hear code enforcement speak of “high cannabis concentration areas” yes there was a concerted effort to target certain areas and lots of grandmothers veggie greenhouses were wrongfully noticed and folks like the plaintiffs too. the nuns at the monastery even got an abatement warning letter because of where they are located.

This tactic is being used in Sonoma county and others as well now. I just got a report from a gal who had to tear down her yurt because her county code enforcement alleged her veggie greenhouse was full of cannabis.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Quite the opposite, actually.

It’s where the abatements didn’t happen, that the blind eye was obviously turned to.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Documentation is simply so much easier when it has already been done in a criminal case. Just saying.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Virtually no abatements to Districts 3 & 4?

99% of abatements to Districts 1,2, and, 5, combined, and yet only 1% to Districts 3, and 4, combined?

And Illman represented that there was no discrimination?

That’s completely ridiculous.

I like stars
Guest
I like stars
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Have you reached out to the members of the Board of Supervisors for comments? It would be interesting to have them share their views, especially those who represent Districts 2, 5, and 1.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  I like stars

The county and supervisors cannot comment with the pending litigation. Rex bohn was quoted a couple times in the opening brief however asking code enforcement why the fines are excessive, saying, “are the fines me at to scare the panties off them?”

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

“are he fines “meant” to scare the panties off of them?”… ???

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Yep, I found that quote in a code enforcement hearing way back in the day. I’m paraphrasing but Rex mentioned to Karen meynell about how code enforcement sends out notices for ~30million in fines and asked if we should bring it back to something more reasonable or if the fines were “meant to scare the panties off them.”

Twice quoted in the opening brief I reported on here.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Giant Squirrel

If you get an abatement for activities not even on your own property, or for a trespass grow, then you are ok with their being no remedy other than paying outrageous fines just because the County has no idea where the true property lines lie?

Kym Kemp
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  Giant Squirrel

If you have a house in town, what you build really can affect your neighbors. If you live a quarter mile from your nearest neighbor, it’s hard to believe that an unpermitted hoop house has a deep and scaring impact–enough to justify telling people not only what to do on their own property but to fine them thousands of dollars for not removing.

Granted, the Humboldt County Planning Department is fairly lenient as far as I’ve seen if they believe people are working to remove unpermitted structures and tends not to apply the penalties.

Also, there are some egregious destruction of properties that I understand why the community has interest in getting them cleaned up.

Life is nuanced.

Last edited 7 months ago
Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Kym Kemp

This lawsuit is not nuanced. And, if zoning is to be ignored because of being remote, where is the point at which it can be enforced? One violation per square mile? Ten? A thousand? Laws are not good at picking and choosing. This owner but not that one? Who gets to choose? Who gets chosen? They are broadly applied. If there is a real need other than an opinion, there is applying for an exemption. Self awarding exemptions is what created this problem and thousands of diesel generated lighted grow houses dotting the wilderness.

Lone Ranger
Guest
Lone Ranger
7 months ago

Sounds like more greedy Democrats just like their own Senator Bob Menendez, only worried about his greedy self. Doesn’t care how many Americans struggle as long as he gets cash in his pocket just like Humboldt county and ole Hunter Biden.

I am a robot
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I am a robot
7 months ago
Reply to  Lone Ranger

Nothing like Clarabelle Thomas taking millions of dollars in “vacations ” from billionaires…..

Awaiting Approval
Guest
Awaiting Approval
7 months ago
Reply to  I am a robot

Why is it an issue for the Honorable Clarence Thomas to have friends who happen to be billionaires? I’m sure no fetuses were harmed while the Honorable Clarence Thomas was on vacation with his wealthy friends.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
7 months ago

An amazing amount of incompetence from the government, but a remarkable and astonishing amount of whining from people who should have done due diligence…

This battle needs to be dragged into the courts, and remember:

It is every citizen’s right to attempt to manipulate the legal system to the limit of their own ability to compensate legal staff…

If you can’t fix it and can’t sell, refinance and get cash and then walk away…

Write off your losses and start over again.

Quit whining.

Thanks so much.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

Every time you comment on my articles I remind you the plaintiffs did their due diligence and the titles were clean. If you have 7 million plus over a hundred thousand demolition fees rhonda could use it, or maybe 1.1 million plus 200k in demolition fees for the Thomases? I wouldnt call that whining, it seems to me they are standing up for their constitutional rights. this could just as easily happen to you as it did to them, so it’s a good thing the lawsuit will have far reaching implications or all property owners are in real trouble. We have a constitution for a reason.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

I agree with you.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago

I don’t. If they got a title report, they would have known zoning for sure. The first thing to look up is the nature of the zoning. Does it allow building? Does it allow more than one building. If it doesn’t, than any exemptions will show up. It will certainly include a description of property taxes, which also would likely be in conflict with unpermitted structures. A clean title that doesn’t correspond to the actual property would be a wake-up call.

North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
Guest
North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
7 months ago

If you buy a contaminated property (Diesel, oil, gasoline)….,? It’s your responsibility to clean it up.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

Not a single plaintiff has an oil issue in their abatement. It’s typically inconsequential hoop houses that have been removed, or substantial structures that have existed for decades and had taxes paid on them, which will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to remove. Blu, the volunteer firefighter, had a pond approved by sanctuary forest used for water storage for fire, which is common where he lives. Rhonda had an overgrown vineyard and a “graded flat” was an old logging deck from the 60s if I recall. Obviously people should clean up oil spills, but that has nothing to do with this case.

North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
Guest
North westCertain license plate out of thousands c
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

What happened to escrow?
The place that looks to see if there are fines or leans on the property!

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago

The plaintiffs (excluding Blu) were abated days after they purchased so there was no way to know of fines or liens in advance for the agent or buyers. The county was not recording abatements at the time, though they asked the supervisors for the right to do so before these plaintiffs abatements if I recall that was in 2018. I believe the county said they are recording the abatements now. I’ve not substantiated that and I’ve heard otherwise from property owners.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago

Nicole Norris,

Illman’s statement…

” “The [First Amended Complaint] contains no competent allegations which establish that any action taken by the County that shocks the conscience, that was arbitrary or discriminatory, or that interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”…”

( “[…did, or did not do, exactly one thing or another… ]”…, …needs to be added at the end…)

This is an incomplete sentence, as written.

It lacks a factual conclusion.

“It contains too many “thats”, which in fact, renders this first statement to be absolutely meaningless.

Take the four “thats” out, and suddenly, it does have meaning.

A bullet point, (•), represents each, “that”, which has been removed…

Ignore but take note of each “bullet point”…

Here goes…

“The [First Amended Complaint] contains no competent allegations which establish • any action taken by the County • shocks the conscience, • was arbitrary or discriminatory, or • interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”
________________________________________

However, with the 4 “thats”, which were unnecessarily included, and without anything further written after “liberty”, it’s legally nothing more than improperly constructed, meaningless word salad.

IMO.

Run it by the proof readers.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

The first that can either be left or removed, and the sentence has meaning.

Leave the first two, “that’s”, and remove the second two, and you get…

“The [First Amended Complaint] contains no competent allegations which establish that any action taken by the County that shocks the conscience, was arbitrary or discriminatory, or interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”

…and you have…

(…actions taken by the county shock the conscience…)

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest
The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

🤔🧐

Nichole Norris,

Yep, found it…

Page 44, lines 25-27.

“Third, the FAC contains no competent allegations which establish that any action
taken by the County that shocks the conscience, that was arbitrary or discriminatory, or that
interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”
_____________________________________

Forget all the extra “thats” for a second…

What I realized is that what is [dys]functionally the same, or similar, is that…

…What is actually missing, is the word, “was” from where it should be, between the words, “action”, and “taken”, between the end of line 25 and the beginning of line 26, page 44.

That would seem to be a crucial missing conjugation of the verb, (“be”), a verb being necessary in order to properly complete a sentence.

Also please note that when I cut and pasted the text above from the legal document onto my comment,the sentence structure is physically broken and altered between “action” and “taken”, and skips a line…😉

That also indicates that an omission occurred there, doesn’t it…???🙂

I hope that by finding that error in that legal document, that I have assisted you in some meaningful way.

What is also potentially missing is a comma from where it should be, between the word “County”, and the word, “that”, line 26, page 44.

But that may be irrelevant.

The need for that comma is a bit more nuanced, and takes on a special difference in meaning, considering the missing “was” that precedes it.

If the missing “was” was properly included, the subsequent comma may or may not be necessary, and there would be no further confusion of the meaning or completeness of the remainder of the incomplete sentence.

As written, the sentence is just gobbledegook.

Add the missing “was”, and it all makes sense.

As in…

“Third, the FAC contains no competent allegations which establish that any action…

…[was]…

…taken by the County that shocks the conscience, that was arbitrary or discriminatory, or that
interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”

_____________________________________

Oops!

Judge Illman boobooed!!!🤦‍♂️😂😁

🤔🧐And I caught it…!!! 😉😂😁🤷‍♂️

Mystery solved.

Last edited 7 months ago
The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

Nichole Norris, the altered sentence structure I mentioned didn’t show up on my comment, so I double checked with a comment and edit test of that cut and pasted segment, and determined that it only showed up during a comment edit…

Go figure… This is the way it appeared during the edit…

I’m pretty sure that it indicates an omission… the omission being the word “was”…

Tap to fully view the screenshot of the cut and paste during the edit function…

Screenshot_20230924-214012.png
Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

I am SO grateful you looked, I was very curious but didn’t have time. I am super careful about quoting people and legal docs, I couldn’t imagine I made a mistake, but it happens. Anyway thanks again for double checking, that’s Wild, and great catch!

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

In no way was I suggesting that you had misquoted Illman or the legal document.

I could see how you may have thought that at first.

Thanks for also then understanding that it was a mistake on the legal document that I was trying to call attention to, hoping that by identifying it, it would benefit the many people that have been harmed by this code enforcement abuse.

It just didn’t make sense to me as written.

It is only a “sentence fragment” as written.

A Judge would frown on that, if it was written that way by an attorney, but I’m not sure what a Supreme Court Judge might think of it when written by a lower court Judge.

Should someone notify the IJ of the error?

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

Here is a better screenshot of the telltale glitch, which revealed the omission, in this case, “was”, after cutting and pasting the text from the legal document into a comment, and then entering “edit mode”…

(Do you see it?)

This sort of thing might be of use in finding future mistakes in legal documents, or to double check them…???

Just a thought…

The missing, “was”, after, “action”, really alters, and/or, obliterates, Judge Illman’s intended meaning.

Screenshot_20230924-215149.png
Last edited 7 months ago
Nichole Norris
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Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

That’s a direct quote from the ruling, I’ll definitely double check that!

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago

If there were not an equal number of abatements for building code violations or grading violations not related to cannabis cultivation, and there were primarily only abatements related to cannabis cultivation along with building violations and grading violations, then the code enforcement nuisance abatements were very clearly arbitrary and discriminatory.

The cannabis cultivators were clearly being singled out and targeted based on the County Planning Department’s perception that they had the deepest pockets.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

I got a very threatening letter (for a felony/misdo wobbler) from the deputy attorney general for doing my job, blowing the whistle on this matter on KMUD in 2021. The code enforcement official I interviewed said the reason cannabis folks were being targeted with such extreme fines vs. traditional abatements lessor fines, “was because they can afford it… they didn’t pay taxes for all those years.” Claims Unfounded of course. Turns out I have rights as a reporter and “evesdropping” isn’t applicable in my case. But Boy they didn’t want anyone knowing about their canna-bias as I call it, that’s for sure.

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

“Claims Unfounded of course.” Yelling “prove it” is not the same as being innocent. In the case of illegal growers, the government should not have bothered with criminal cases. They should have always gone after these growers for back taxes. Still should.

Nichole Norris
Guest
Nichole Norris
7 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Yeah the county’s letter targeting me for my work was 100% unfounded. It’s not unlawful to be a reporter who interviews county officials, even those who say things that are unsavory for the county. It was an important point that someone needed to make—There is a canna-bias in code enforcement. I didn’t yell prove it, they did, and so I did 🙂 want to see the receipt’s?

[edit]
Guest
[edit]
7 months ago
Reply to  Nichole Norris

No, but it is unlawful to record someone without permission, especially claiming to be a citizen and not a reporter. Integrity is key in journalism.

Marcia
Guest
Marcia
7 months ago

There needs to be complete transparency when a property is sold, so a new owner never gets blindsided by fines, penalties, abatements, etc. I’m not sure where this disconnect is happening, but it shouldn’t exist. A new owner should know exactly what they are buying, and what it will cost them to own it, before they buy it. I’m glad this case is being pursued, and am grateful to the team pleading it. I hope that it will help those who are involved in property transactions to fix the transparency issue, and help new owners fix their properties, not punish them. That’s not welcoming them to Humboldt. .

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Marcia

What a charmingly naive take that anyone buying property is not risking buying a dog. That is why so many types of pre purchase inspections exist. Once bought, it’s their dog. Now it is likely a criminal action pre purchase inspection will become required.

Frankly the issue does not seem to be one of helping purchasers fix properties as much as purchasers refusing to fix.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago

Third, the FAC contains no competent allegations which establish that any action
taken by the County that shocks the conscience, that was arbitrary or discriminatory, or that
interfered with rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.

(Test)

Eyes Open
Guest
Eyes Open
7 months ago

If the county taxes an unpermitted structure, they are in on it. Meaning, if they want to abate it, they should return all tax money.

Truth Be Told
Member
Truth Be Told
7 months ago
Reply to  Eyes Open

That’s good redneck/stoner logic but it might help to think of county departments as Balkanized fiefdoms presided over by jurisdictional chieftains.

The Assessor determines taxes due for the value of land and improvements, permitted or not. The Assessor can rat you out to Code Enforcement and Planning and Building depending on local policy.

The Treasurer doesn’t care about permits and collects the tax as determined by the Assessor. And will literally sell your house out from under you, permitted or not. if necessary.

Building and Planning issues permits but has nothing to do with with setting or collecting taxes and doesn’t care if they’re paid or not.

Code Enforcement pursues violations against permitted and unpermitted structures and also doesn’t care if taxes have been paid or not.

Code violations go with the land which is why buyers need to do due diligence and sellers and agents need to make full disclosure.

Once opened, code violation cases remain open until closed, sometimes for decades.

Alternately, because there is no statute of limitations, code violations can fly below the radar for decades before a case is opened. It doesn’t matter if taxes have been paid for decades or not.

I’m not saying all of this is right, fair or equitable, but it’s the way it’s always been and the way it will be unless and until it’s changed.

The Real Guest
Guest
The Real Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  Truth Be Told

A very convenient and cozy arrangement for the County. They get to have their cake and eat it, too.

And then, meanwhile, they all wash their dirty, corrupt, money grubbing hands together, and act like they have nothing to do with each other…

I’d say they have taken it a little bit too far when they are permitting trespass grows and the associated trespass buildings, and the simultaneously issuing abatements, search warrants, and state and sheriff’s actions for the trespassed upon properties and their true owners.

That is some slipshod, crooked, incompetent, unconstitutional bullshit, wouldn’t you say?

Last edited 7 months ago
Guest
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7 months ago
Reply to  The Real Guest

If it’s unpermitted, are they collecting taxes on it? Seems the point would be that the county doesn’t know.

Kicking Bull
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Kicking Bull
7 months ago

It’s possible some commenters have confounded ensuring every word spoken and action taken align with ones highest principles and values with following the dictates and mandates of a bloated, corrupted, and corporate captured government -and its representative stooges- for ‘taking responsibility’. “The great crisis of our time is our minds have been manipulated to give power to illusions” -V Shiva

mcdonalds is built to code
the Great Cathedrals are not

Nothing more needs said re the “abatement program”. Great this case goes on. Thank you IJ NN and KK-

F. Hue
Guest
F. Hue
7 months ago

Who came up with the cannabis code fine dollar amounts? WHO approved these amounts? What justifies these amounts? How can they conceivably and rationally expect an elderly couple new to the area, to coordinate the demolition; removal and disposal of a 3 story barn, in addition to coming up with the money to do so, in ten days, in Humboldt County?? It’s completely irrational and they know it’s impossible! It’s entrapment, fining someone for something you know is impossible to accomplish in the time frame given. You have one minute to get somewhere it takes ten minutes to get to or I’ll fine you 10k for every minute you’re late! Oh by the way, the road is closed, gotta go around and you’ll need to stop to get gas but the gas station is the other way! Welcome to Humboldt County, enjoy your new property! Are these county officials completely lacking any conscious to understand how unethical and wrong they are? Corruption comes from unchecked power! Who governs that department, the BOS? And who governs them, who approves their policies?

Guest
Guest
Guest
7 months ago
Reply to  F. Hue

Actually the amount of the fines is the real issue. And maybe time frames. And it is likely that will be the only give. The unpermitted building will still be unpermitted. That seems to be the crux of the issue- the insistence on not wanting to remedy the zoning violation at all and it is being used otherwise by pot growers to leverage their own position.