Well that drug on for way too long. Last I left off, I wasn’t optimistic about my tow hearing decision and had just completed the actual ticket hearing, which too, I wasn’t confident about. In both cases the Hearing Examiners were incompetent and didn’t seem capable of accurately processing information. Since then, I received the decisions and they both were exactly what I expected; they found me liable. My next move was appealing both decisions. The tow hearing appeal was simply through a statement to the City Clerk. But the ticket portion would have to be in Appeals Court in front of a Judge. Judges are actually smart and while I’ve encountered many who didn’t seem to care much, most justices engage the facts and consider details.
With my appeals trial a couple months away I spent my spare time preparing. One day while in my car at my local park watching the sunset an officer pulled behind me and told me to move. I asked Officer Zacharias why and he said because “there’s no parking.” Having just dealt with the exact same issue I was completely familiar with section 80.69 of the Municipal Code and knew it required signs be present, and there were none. Plus, I’ve been going to this same park doing the same thing for 20 years and I’ve never seen anyone cited or told to move like the officer told me that day. Even the park itself uses these spots for valet parking during events. Following this officer’s order meant I could never park there and watch sunsets again so rather than allow his foolish enforcement to disrupt my pursuit of happiness, I told him to write the ticket so we could figure out who was right via the courts.
In truth, this officer issued me an order and when I refused, he felt challenged; no amount of legality was going to stop him from penalizing me for telling him “no.”
One of the biggest drawbacks to specialized societies with poor education is that workers know little outside of their speciality. Combine that with profit-over-purpose American principles and the self esteem deficit and you have my situation; an officer writing a profitable ticket because he doesn’t understand the underlying law and his low self-regard won’t withstand me proving him wrong. I recorded the encounter even educating him about his err but he still wrote the ticket thereby sending me into yet another battle with LADOT. In the subsequent days I made it a point to document that there were no signs and that the park allows guests to park where Officer Zacharias cited me.
LADOT tries to pull a slick move
I contested ticket #2 and, in true revenue-interested form, LADOT found me liable. I requested a face-to-face hearing and they tried to pull a slick one on me. I opened my mail on a Friday only to find out they scheduled my hearing for the following Monday. What type of notice is that? Luckily I could arrange but this severely hindered my efforts to prepare a case. I showed up Monday and went through the normal process of checking in. There was a couple sitting in the lobby discussing what they would say in their hearing. Sadly the facts weren’t on their side. I explained to them that this hearing process is merely a rubber stamp pseudo-Constitutional process for revenue retention and it’s just a formality before going to an actual competent decision-maker. Then a Parking Officer walked in from outside, proceeded through the lobby and into the back office. It was “Spottswell,”the officer who cited me. What a coincidence that the same officer that cited me 10 miles away in Hollywood several months before just so happened to have a hearing on the same date at the same downtown location as me. Or is it? A second possibility may be that LADOT is using the same officer to impersonate citing officers. This would be a good way not to inconvenience LADOT’s revenue generators or take chances with their varying testimonial skills in hearings.
Anyway, they finally called me in, waved me down for weapons and showed me to Hearing Examiner Chad Manual’s office. Hearing Examiner Manual was stylishly dressed with a tidy corner office. He swore me in and we began. Being I didn’t have time to prepare my case my first line of defense, that the park was privately owned, was easily surmounted. My later research revealed the park in question was no longer privately owned and the city did in fact run it. Adequate preparation time would have revealed this fact to me. I then raised the question of there being no signs present and proved it using pictures that the nearest sign was on the opposite side of the road and two hundred feet beyond where I was cited. At one point Hearing Examiner Manuel cut me off from speaking when I was making a good point. I think he was trying to limit my testimony. I forced him to hear what I had to say by explaing that I wanted it considered. The hearing took around 10 minutes and I was out of there.
In addition to learning the park was not privately owned, my later research also revealed that the road I was cited on was not a “designated roadway,” meaning Officer Zacharias should have cited me with 86.03, which applies to parks. Even in that case signs would still need to be present. I put a map together explaining these facts, mailed it to LADOT and asked them to consider it since they didn’t give me time to prepare a case.
Two weeks later I got the decision. As expected they found me liable. I immediately filed an appeal and now I would have to see a judge twice in 2020. I had to endure Christmas with and extra $100 of my hard earned money tied up in in the City of Los Angeles’ coffers. I was anxious to get back to where I was before this ticketing madness started.
Appeals Court Hearing #1
In January I finally got my appeals hearing for ticket #1. I woke up early, went to the courthouse, made it through security and went to Department 44. Inside I sat down and observed the judge’s style of logic as he dealt with cases prior to mine. I realized he didn’t like fluff and only wanted facts so he could make quick decisions. I modified my style, choosing to put all exculpatory information first and allow him to probe based on what he felt might make me culpable.
It was finally time for my hearing and Judge Moreton called me up. I first explained that there was no reason for the enforcement and presented him with an email from the Vice Principal of the Hollywood High School saying the bus service the signs are meant to clear space for does not occur during summer session. Then I mentioned the matter of the 10+ year precedent already set by the city. Within five minutes he dismissed the case.
The same thing I had explained over and over again to various LADOT authorities was a no-brainer to this judge. He advised me to take the matter to city council if I wanted to restrict LADOT’s behavior, which I plan to do. The following day I drafted a letter to the city clerk, which had been taking their sweet time on deciding whether to reimburse me for the towing and impound charges. I told them that my appeal was successful and when I received the judgment in the mail, I filed that one too.
COVID19 Paralyzes Los Angeles
I was hoping to ride ticket #1’s success momentum into the ticket Officer Zacharias gave me at the park but the COVID19 pandemic closed it down until further notice; I couldn’t take more pictures evidence. Then I got a letter from LA Superior Court postponing my court date until July. I though I’d never get these tickets behind me. The City Clerk’s tow hearing decision still hadn’t come either. I would be forced to wait it out.
The Government’s catastrophic failure in dealing with the COVID19 situation paralyzed the country, instantly putting severe restrictions on our everyday lives. What struck me was that even during the pandemic LADOT was still writing tickets for expired meters and parking during time restrictions that applied to a fully functioning city. They were writing tickets for street sweeping on days the sweeper wasn’t running. They were towing cars to clear space for normal business day congestion when the city was on lockdown. I found it absurd that a negligent and underperforming government had the audacity to fault citizens for what were solely technical violations; how could they fault us for underperformance when our lives were falling apart because of their floundering?
Side story about capitalism’s faults. (Skip the next two paragraph to get back to the main story)
The Sunday before court meant last minute preparation. Being the procrastinator I am, I went to Staples to print out my picture evidence Sunday night for a Monday morning trial. This trip showed both the foolishness of procrastination and capitalism’s faults. I loaded the pictures onto a thumb drive and went to Staples. Many years back, in true extreme capitalist form, Staples decided to do away with as many employees as possible by replacing them with computer tablets. Now if you want to get prints or make copies, you must deal with a cumbersome tablet attached to a copier. I inserted my usb and swiped my credit card only for the tablet not to recognize the PNG (screenshot) files. I took a trip home and reloaded them. When I went back, the original machine I used was taken so I went to another one. This one couldn’t even mount my thumb drive. I got nervous because it was about 30 minutes before closing, the pictures were my whole case and my trial was at 8:30am. I ask the lone employee behind the counter waiting on a line of customers six-deep to help and she informed me there was an extra charge and the order wouldn’t be ready for a couple of days. After some pleading I got her to look at the files. She couldn’t even open them because they were PNG files. PNG files are the standard format from mac screenshots including Iphone screenshots. Why would Staples be unable to open such a file? Thanks to capitalism Staples wasn’t my only option. Or was it? I grabbed my thumb drive and dashed to Kinkos only to find that this 24 hour copy center was closed on Sundays “because of Covid19. This failure instantly brought to mind the recurring notion that many companies are using COVID19 as an excuse to underperform. With no time left I opted for an 11thhour option; I went to Walmart and bought a printer. I don’t print enough at home to own a working printer and the last one by Brother I bought cleaned the nozzles so much in between prints that it was out of ink every time I needed to print something. To prevent it from destroying all the ink during cleanings I unplugged it and the next time I tried to print something the nozzles were clogged. Additionally, using the scanner required you to acknowledge you were low on ink; EVERY SCAN. It was an extreme capitalism money trap built more for profit than purpose. Capitalism created no printer owning options for me other than buying endless ink.
I brought the printer home and after a long struggle, it was faulty. I felt the gods didn’t want me to get these prints. I finally called my best friend who let me use his printer. Extreme capitalism and procrastination turned what started out as a 20 minute Staples run into a costly, stressful four-hour time killer.
Appeals Court Hearing #2
I woke up Monday morning, put on my suit, grabbed my backpack and PPE supplies and was off to Downtown. I’m very serious about COVID19 so on airplanes and public transportation I wear a full respirator and latex gloves. A maskless man on the subway even snuck pictures of me. I didn’t care. I’m going to remain healthy until there’s a vaccine. I got off at the Civic Center exit, crossed the street and got in the long line. After passing security I reported to Department 44 only to be told my trial was moved to a completely different courthouse. I left the building and ran a few blocks to the Federal courthouse. There was no line but that didn’t stop security from nearly strip-searching me to get in. The security took everything out of my pockets without asking and they had me sit down take my belt and shoes off for inspection. I could tell the security guard got some satisfaction from being to violate my personal space. He didn’t even ask before reaching into my pockets. My youth experience helps me to keep my cool during these types of violations. I had bigger fish to fry. After passing security I went upstairs to the courtroom. It was a different judge than assigned. I immediately looked Judge Blancarte up and realize he was nominated by a Democrat and therefore less likely to be a racist. There were very few people in court. He saw two cases before me and finally called my name.
I noticed in the case before me that day that the judge seemed difficult but in a valid way. He seemed to be mining the prior person’s answers for details. I had a judge years ago in a small claims case against T-Mobile that taught me this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re biased towards the other side, rather in the absence of the other side’s case, they are simulating it through objectivity. This still doesn’t change the feeling of strong opposition. After much back and forth the judge said he’d mail a decision to me later that week. I left the courthouse convinced that I had no chance of winning. As I walked back to the subway I started thinking of things I should have said to make my case stronger. It seemed that he took the Hearing Examiner’s side that an unseen parking sign 200 feet ahead on the opposite side of the road was sufficient enough notice that a person shouldn’t park somewhere. It was what it was and I could say I fought a good fight. Later that week I got the decision. I was prepared for defeat only to open the letter and belt out a huge “YEAH!” I WON! It turns out the judge was simulating the other side’s case and not just rationalizing the ticket. At least the buck stops somewhere in the legal system! I had lost hope after all the layers of LADOT bureaucracy, all of which pretended the tickets were lawful.
Everybody loses; Me, the taxpayer and the City
In all, the LADOT under Seleta Reynolds’ leadership showed an aversion to legality and a preference towards generative revenue off the backs of hard-working citizens. They leveraged inconvenience against my pockets and I suspect, based on how adamant at every stage of LADOT’s process they were about legitimizing these wrongful citations, that this is standard practice against citizens who don’t have the time, skill or wherewithal to effectively combat these financial overtures. I’ve complained to Seleta Reynolds about her Hearing Examiners’ conduct but thus far, she has not responded. As General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, it is specifically her duty to respond to citizens’ concerns about her department’s employees’ performance and thus far, she has flipped me, a citizen of the United States and resident subject to her policies, the middle finger by ignoring me. I also need to find out why it appears LAPD did nothing in response to my criminal complaint against the tow yard for stealing my money. But I will save that for a different blog. Much more needs to be done to right the wrongs Seleta Reynolds’ LADOT initiated on me a year ago. Thanks for going through the LADOT money trap with me and now at least those of you who wondered what happens when you fight a citation to the end get to see what happens. I advise everyone to fight tooth and nail for the fruits of your labor because slavery ended in 1864. Bullies only bully those who don’t fight back. Even if you lose, they know you’re not an easy target so they will choose someone else. It takes energy but it keeps your precious labor fruits out of The Man’s, (the City of Los Angeles’ hands. It also exposes the ring leaders’, Seleta Reynolds’ LADOT’s in this case, methods. Fight on!