Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Yo, heads up San Diego Union-Tribune, Orange County Register, San Clemente Sun Post News, San Clemente Times: Stop snoozing! Here’s a story for ya.

Imagine that you’re home when suddenly you hear a pounding on the door. Under threat of arrest if you fail to comply, you have to pack up and get out – immediately. Except you don’t get to pack up everything. Some of your property gets seized.

Your landlord has obtained a court eviction order. But you’ve never heard anything about the order until this moment. You’ve never been given an opportunity to show up in court and fight the eviction. And when you go to the municipal court to file a motion to quash the eviction, the clerk of courts refuses to accept the papers and writes “Cancelled” across your motion.

Michael K. Riley, a disabled film maker who was living at 222 Avenida Cabrillo in San Clemente, CA, claims this is what happened to him during a Kafkaesque series of events that led to his being put out of his apartment and left powerless to challenge the eviction in his local courts. Further, he says, his protest to that court decision was denied by the California Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District.

Disabled guy fights back

Now, in papers Riley tells me he and his former roommate Michael D. Wilson filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Central District, California, and the day before with the California Supreme Court, Los Angeles branch, he’s fighting the eviction by Cabrillo Investors, the landlord, on several grounds – not least of them that Riley has been denied access to court papers ordering his own eviction.

The case is complex. Michael D. Wilson, no longer lived in the apartment at the time Riley was evicted, Riley told me. In addition, Riley claimed in telephone conversations with me that the landlord was evidently hostile to projects that Riley was conducting as a documentary film maker; that there was harassment by the landlord; and that Riley complained to the local buildings department that the landlord “had built a unit on the premises without obtaining a permit.”

Why does Southern California news
have to get covered by a
cranky old guy in a cubicle in New York?

I’m not getting any deeper into any of that. The “newsroom” here at the New York Crank consists of one part-time cranky old guy in a cubicle who’s putting out this blog a couple of times a week while trying to do other things that actually put food on the table.

This needs a local reporter in California who has the time and nexus do all the usual reportorial things like calling up the landlord and the clerk of courts to get their sides of the story, talking to Riley’s former roommate, obtaining background from experts in California landlord-tenant law, and following the case to its conclusion.

Are you listening, any of you Orange County reporters and editors? Why does some cranky old guy sitting in a cubicle in New York have to dig up your damn stories for you? Get off your fat, lazy duffs!

A few samples of the horror story

Just to whet your appetite, though, let me share a few random paragraphs from one of Riley’s self-written court briefs:

This seizure of property occurred 1) based upon a Notice to Vacate from Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona who is no longer Sheriff; 2) based upon a Notice to Vacate setting the date for eviction that had long since expired; 3) under a purported judgment entered by a clerk as a clerical error in plain excess of jurisdiction; 4) in a case in which no cause of action was stated; 5) in a court which never acquired jurisdiction through the service of any party interested in the defense; 6) by a court which denied Plaintiffs their right to file a defense; 7) by a court that refused Riley’s right to file a defense under the American Disabilities Act.


Cabrillo Investors has no right to seize or hold the property taken unlawfully. As attorney for Cabrillo Investors, Gary Gough is now using that property to impair the ability of Riley and Wilson to present their defense. He is holding that property hostage to force them to drop all litigation.


The denial of access by members of the public to “public” records of actions filed in public court violates the constitutional rights of all persons. A right necessary to the preservation of all other rights is deemed fundamental. This right is fundamental as it is necessary to redress of grievances under the First Amendment. Due to the nature of the right, any member of the public has standing to complain of those provisions in order to uphold the rights of all.


And though Wilson did everything Cabrillo requested of him, at the end of the day, Cabrillo sued him any way. And although he was the only named defendant in the unlawful detainer, Cabrillo never served him with process. And now Cabrillo has a judgment against Wilson for thousands of dollars in a case Cabrillo never had a right to file under state law to file. Cabrillo had no right to file an unlawful detainer against a person they knew was no longer in possession.


When Riley attempted to file a motion to allow him to file an opposition to the unlawful detainer before the entry of the default, Michael McCartin of the Municipal Court wrote “cancelled” across a clerk’s stamp in violation of petitioner’s rights under ADA and refused to allow him to appear. So the claim by Gough and Cabrillo that Riley is somehow to blame for not filing an appearance before the entry of the default is utterly fraudulent.
Okay, members of the southern California press. Over to you, if you wouldn't mind terribly waking up today.

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