Peace be with you
Today I went to watch a trial of a houseless man named Aaron Peoples. Aaron was charged with three counts of violating Eureka’s Municipal Code 93.02 (a) (Illegal Sleeping). In attendance were three Eureka cops, the Eureka City Attorney, Sheryl Schaffner, of course Aaron, and Eureka Attorney Tracy Herrin. He was also charged with some other charge which, though I am unsure of the exact code right now, amounts to “homeless in possession of a shopping cart.”
You may recall Tracy Herrin as the sister who successfully defended Mike Porter from Arcata’s Camping code. More recently she was the lawyer of Katy Evans, a mama living at YeeHaw. She took on Sheryl Schaffner over the constitutionality of EMC 93.02 once before in the case of the City of Eureka Vs. Russel Hauf. I might add she does this kind of lawyering for free, and usually pays the cost of copies, filings, and transcripts out of her own pocket.
Russ lost his motion to dismiss due to the unconstitutionality of the law. He was found by the judge factually not guilty, and couldn’t appeal, well because, he won. When Tracy wrote Russ’ motion the Jones v. Los Angles case was still headed to the supreme court and so current case law. Now however, Jones has been settled out of court and Tracy will recreate the Jones argument from scratch.
Sheryl will argue Eureka has to uphold the ordinance because of all kinds of major problems might be caused without it (actually somebody shit on a business’ doorway back in 1998, and they haven’t forgave the hippies since), and Tracy will argue that the Code contains the phrase “such as sleeping activities,” which makes it cruel and unusual punishment, and unconstitutionally prohibits freedom of movement.
Neither Sheryl or Tracy are civil rights attorneys per se, but both are good lawyers and Tracy has made sure they studied the applicable case law. Of course I am cheering for Tracy and Aaron. It’s like a Rocky sequel – humane treatment vs. the rule of law. I’ll announce the court dates, rooms, and times as we get closer (I think the motion hearing is in May). If it is heard in the jury room we can probably get 300 people in there, so don’t think there won’t be room for ya.
Tracy wanted to take one of these constitutional infraction challenges before the judge who normally hears all the infraction cases. It may seem weird to you for that not to be the way it normally should be, but to us who have been challenging these kinds of cases for years it seems unthinkable. The motion will be heard before judge Morrison none the less.
Today was Tracy’s first day on this case, and the Prosecution was ready to proceed with trial. Tracy asked for a continuance to prepare the motion. Then Sheryl asked for time to prepare the answer. Then the judge asked Tracy if she would like time to answer the answer. Then bam it was set right on top of everyone’s vacation. Not to worry what’s a couple of weeks on top of all of that anyway.
The cops were sent back to the streets, to reappear in some unforeseen trial if Aaron may suddenly deny he slept on the nights of his ticketing. The cop who arrested* Aaron for supposed “stealing a rusty shopping cart” was the only one who really wanted the trial to go ahead today, and he being the only one in his off duty cop looking suit might explain why (cops get overtime to witness off duty). It seems stupid for a cop to want to argue “his word” against a “houseless persons word” when the lawyer representing the houseless person was just told by the judge there was absolutely no evidence of such a crime. Anyway the cops were sent away, and the lawyers and the judge seemed actually enthusiastic at the prospects of the arguing such a motion. *It was originally filed as a misdemeanor rusty shopping cart charge, but because there is absolutely no evidence it was reduced to an infraction so the cop could save face (maybe get a scared “transient” to plead guilty).
I’ll post quotes here, but have no way to scan the documents and no place to put them online. I’ll get you the case number and when the paperwork has been filed (and the file isn’t on a judge’s desk) you can look through the file and even get pages photocopied at the court clerks office. I think it is a dime a page, but some government offices charge fifty cents. This is handy if you have need of a motion on something and you know a case it was used in – you can buy a copy of the motion (court clerks office), recheck the case law (case law changes all the time), rewrite it with information about your case, and file it as a motion in your case.