Friday, February 8, 2008

Quig et al vs. CHP - Sweet Victory

The most concise and legally accurate description of the helmet law problem in any state, as explained by Richard Quigley....

" ....the government cannot make any objective standards for helmets without taking on liability, and since they are expressly forbidden from taking on any liability, they can never make an objective standard for helmets. There it is.

Without an objective standard it all becomes ad hoc and arbitrary - Ad hoc and arbitrary is the foundation of vague law - Vague law is Unconstitutional." Quig (1943-2007)

Today, February 8, 2008 marked a hearing date in the contempt case of Quigley et al vs. CHP.

It seems a California Attorney General (AG) got a little too big for her "knickers", as you will see. Read on....

This hearing, titled "Summary Judgment Hearing", was for the AG to request dismissal of the case, based on her opinion that the Plaintiffs failed to prove they have a case.

At this same hearing, the Plaintiffs planned to seek a motion to compel compliance with discovery. Great move, and here's why.

And Don Blanscet, CA Abate Executive Director, comments:

"Ask any Attorney what his chances are for Summary Judgment when he is pissing off the Judge by refusing to comply with simple basic discovery rules, to the extent that we are faced to seek a motion to compel."
Here's some history on this case, from the keyboard of Tony "Pan" Sanfelipo himself, founding member of BOLT, when asked for the long and short of it. You'll find the outcome of this hearing below.

(Of course, if you are really into the detailed side of things, there are many informative articles you can read on the
BOLT of CA website).

"As you know, the NTSB issued a recommendation that all states should adopt or amend helmet laws to meet compliance with the FMVSS 218 (helmet standard). That's exactly what North Carolina did in January [2008]. Anyway, the boys in California have been fighting tickets there for 17 years...and winning.

"Now comes the great Quig et al vs. CHP, set for trial in May, 2008. That calls for an injunction and declaratory relief, which in road language means, the CHP would be enjoined (stopped) from writing tickets for non compliance with the DOT standard. Quig beat a number, I think 9, of them tickets with his BOLT baseball cap and DOT embroidered on the back. That case had the judge rule to dismiss the tickets, but Quig didn't want a dismissal, because that would just go away for him and not do anyone else any good. So he asked for an injunction, which would stop them from writing everyone up. So be it.

"Meanwhile, the judge was pissed at the CHP for ignoring his earlier ruling that they stop writing helmet tickets unless they sign them off as correctable.

"In California, you can get a fix it ticket for an equipment violation (remember, helmets are listed by NHTSA as motor vehicle equipment, not safety equipment). So it should be a $10 fix it ticket. The problem is, the biker has the right to ask the cop, "officer, how do I fix this?" In other words, tell me what a helmet is or where I can buy one that complies with the law. Since there is no list, there is no law, or at least any way for a cop to tell you how to fix your problem. So we have them right where we want them.

"Then, along comes the Attorney General (AG) and takes this contempt case on in the 6th Appellate Court. The court rules that there is an exclusion in the evidence rule that says, even if it's an equipment violation, if the condition presents an immediate safety hazard to the biker, the cop doesn't have to sign off as correctable and can refuse to let you drive off until you put on a helmet he likes. Wow. The AG thought she had it in the bag at this point.

"The 6th Appellate also ruled that, although Quig's soft cap presented an immediate danger in their mind, as a matter of law if a helmet has a hard shell, it's correctable. That's what we wanted to hear, because the other plaintiffs in Quigs case, Blanscet, Barron, Bianco and Holmes, were ticketed with hard shell helmets. And so were hundreds of others, despite the injunction against this in the Easyriders F.I.G.H.T. Freedom case (an earlier injunction).

"Are you still with me? This ain't easy to explain. Anyway, the AG thought, hey, Quig is dead now, and the 6th [Appellate] ruled that the cops have discretion on whether the helmet is compliant, so let's motion for summary judgment. That means, the Quig et al vs. CHP is no longer relevant. It's a moot case according to the thinking of the AG.
[And the outcome? .... drum roll please....]

"So this motion for summary judgment came up today in court, and if the court granted this, it's all over now, baby blue. Of course, we were on pins and needles because you never know what a judge is going to do. You know what he's supposed to do, but it don't always work out like that. Anyway, low and behold, the judge dismisses the summary judgment and asks why he shouldn't issue the injunction right there and then. That must of blew the AG out of her knickers. I'm sure Quig is dancing in the clouds. So, we go to trial in May.
[After learning the outcome of today's hearing, Don Blanscet went out trolling for another helmet ticket, and I wondered if he could still get one, given the ruling today...]

"Don could still be cited for non compliant helmet, because this still has to be settled in court. He'll have to troll long hours though if the word is out about the summary judgment loss.

"We also want to ask the Supreme Court to retry the 6th Appellate ruling on Quig's soft helmet because, under Buhl vs. Hannigan, and Bianco vs. CHP, followed by the Easyrider case, it was determined that a cop cannot pull you over without probable cause that your helmet didn't comply. The probable cause was, according to the earlier cases, there was no DOT sticker (which later was found not to be necessary anyway) and that the cop knew the helmet didn't comply or he knew there was a recall of that particular helmet, and that the biker knew the helmet didn't comply.

"Whew! How is anyone going to know all that?
[I can hear Tony taking a big breath as he prepares to continue this narrative.]

"As for the baseball cap, it did have a DOT on the back, so there was rebuttable presumption of compliance, because the earlier cases ruled that fabrication isn't an issue. In fact, for a cop or consumer to consider fabrication of the helmet, is absurd (judges words).

"The FMVSS 218 is a performance standard. It tells you what a helmet has to do or prevent to be compliant. Nothing in the standard talks about fabrication. There is nothing in there about a hard shell, 1 inch thickness or any of that nonsense cops say a helmet has to have. They do mention a retention system (chin strap) and that's why Red and Quig and Don have some sort of lace or chin strap attached to their baseball cap, coconut shell or yamaka cap. These guys are characters...I love them."
Let me tell you folks, if you think this has been easy, think again.

And so, as described above, this is a huge victory.

The Judge dismissed the Summary Judgement. And he put the AG in her place by asking why he shouldn't issue an injunction right then and there.

How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that courtroom!

And as Don wrote to me today, before firing up the scooter to go "hunting" for another helmet ticket [Got Ticket?]:
Quigley vs. CHP won Big !!!!! I mean we won Big!!!! BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Judge says perhaps an injunction is in order for the plaintiffs (thats you !!!!!!!!)
He was very happy with the outcome (ya think?).

As Don says, "we" are the Plaintiffs, and he is right on that point. For this victory was not just for California Bikers, it was for ALL Bikers, as Quigley intended. "Brotherhood knows no boundaries", as is evident here. And this writer is grateful for the work they've put forth to achieve this victory.

What does this mean to you and me? Considerable ground was gained today, through perseverence, a refusal to back down, and a refusal to compromise. They have beat back law makers and law enforcement with the very laws they wrote and [try to] enforce.

But there's no relaxing, as the show is not over.

Trial is set for May 2008. CA Abate and BOLT must still pay their Attorney fees, and they must still keep vigilance. The way looks clearer, but it won't be over until the fat lady sings. They must still fill the Judiciary Fund coffers, to pave the path for the May trial.

Check out the information on the
Judiciary Fund and make a much needed donation. Any amount helps. There are hundreds of thousands of bikers out there. Show them you appreciate what they are doing, what Quigley devoted his life to, and help them beat this down to the "whale dung" level (lowest place on earth) where it belongs.

Ya know? I'm hearing the theme for "Rocky" in my head right now... but I hate those musical tunes that play when I open a web page, so I'll let you remember that tune on your own.

And now for the quotes - and I so love good quotes.....

This quote by Napoleon Hill is for the Freedom Fighters in California, and for all those who had/have faith in them and contributed to this cause.

Victory is always possible for the person who refuses to stop fighting.

And this one by Theodore Roosevelt, is for everyone else. But it's not too late. Send your donation today!

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Great job guys!
Florida Freedom Fighters salute you.

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