It has been a long hot dry waterless summer in Siskiyou County, California for the Hmong people because of a county ban to withhold trucked-in water deliveries to illegal Hmong cannabis farmers. The ban has been called a racially motivated one as it left the farmers without a source of water for basic needs.
On Friday, Sept 3, 2021 a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban “finding the restrictions might be intended to drive a minority Asian community out of their homes”. Siskiyou County passed two ordinances back in May which required permits “to extract and move groundwater off site and to transport water by truck” in response to concerns over violence and environmental harm related to illegal marijuana grows. The permit law applied to a limited number of streets and roads including “those in an area called Shasta Vista, which is home to a large number of Hmong immigrants from south China and Southeast Asia”.
The county argued that the permits were necessary to preserve the “groundwater, prevent illegal cannabis cultivation, prevent violent crime associated with the illegal grows, and to enforce laws against dwellings without permits”. The judge found the permit process itself created “unreasonable barriers” to non-English speakers.
“Chief U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller of the Eastern District of California found the permit process, which requires applicants to list parcel numbers and zoning categories, created unreasonable barriers for non-English speakers.”
“It is difficult to understand what purpose these requirements might serve other than to deter lay people from applying for permits,” Judge Mueller wrote in a 28-page opinion.”
“The county won’t allow water deliveries to unapproved dwellings or to people living on unimproved land — parcels it deems “campsites” — even if the people there have camping permits. As a result, Mueller wrote that the county would likely reject permit applications from people in Shasta Vista, where most people live in unapproved structures.”
This is a big first step for the Hmong people in Siskiyou County. The ACLU of Northern California had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Hmong arguing that the ban to cut off the community’s water supply was based on anti-Asian sentiment.
An amicus brief means friend of the court and is filed by a party that has strong views on the matter but is not a party to the action.
“Literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views. Such amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of a broad public interest; e.g., civil rights cases. They may be filed by private persons or the government. In appeals to the U.S. courts of appeals, an amicus brief may be filed only if accompanied by written consent of all parties, or by leave of court granted on motion or at the request of the court, except that consent or leave shall not be required when the brief is presented by the United States or an officer or agency thereof.”
“An amicus curiae educates the court on points of law that are in doubt, gathers or organizes information, or raises awareness about some aspect of the case that the court might otherwise miss. The person is usually, but not necessarily, an attorney, and is usually not paid for her or his expertise. An amicus curiae must not be a party to the case, nor an attorney in the case, but must have some knowledge or perspective that makes her or his views valuable to the court.”
The lead plaintiff, Dilevon Lo, in the case is represented by Allison Margolin and Raza Lawrence of Margolin and Lawrence. Allison Margolin is the publisher of this online magazine.
“It’s a big win because we are going to be helping save the lives of thousands of people possible,” said Allison Margolin, an attorney representing the Hmong community.”
“Raza and Margolin acknowledge this is just a first step in the ongoing legal battle over water in parched Siskiyou County. But nevertheless, it’s welcome news.”
“It also allows the Hmong Community and other people in this community to force the county to be accountable and have people to work together as opposed to against them, and we’ll get some sort of resolution,” said Margolin.
This is an ongoing story.
Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters) & Allison Margolin ESQ.