Code Enforcement Gone Wild

I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands. Along with another Deputy, I advised what was then the Code Enforcement Department in San Bernardino.  The City of Redlands had different code enforcement issues than the City of San Bernardino, but code enforcement was an important part of my job in Redlands.

We were not on the leading edge in San Bernardino (everything we did was pioneered at larger cities), but we tried to employ as many code enforcement tools as possible. We were never successfully sued in a code enforcement case while I was there.

However, now that I represent citizens, I see all kind of ticky-tack things that other entities do.  Here is an article from the Salt Lake Tribune

“Ogden tells dad to take down his kids’ cardboard castle because it’s ‘junk'”

Now, this is in Utah, but most cities and counties in California have a similar ordinance that prohibits junk, trash, and debris in your front yard.  However, just because it’s technically illegal doesn’t mean that the City should cite for it.

Looking at the link from the story, this is the City of Ogden ordinance:



A. Prohibition: It is unlawful for any owner, occupant, agent or lessee of real property within the city, to allow, cause or permit the following material or objects to be in or upon any yard, garden, lawn, or outdoor premises of such property:

1. Junk or salvage material;

2. Litter;

3. Any abandoned vehicle or inoperable vehicle.

In California, our ordinances tend not to be as vague as this code section.

Does a cardboard castle even qualify as “junk” or “litter?” If it were in California and I were reviewing a notice (which I believe I did sometimes in Redlands) or a citation (in San Bernardino), I would probably turn it down.

As I teach code enforcement officers in training, just because something can be cited doesn’t mean it should be.

I think the reaction by the resident was the right course of action.

“Had he not received the letter, he was planning on taking the castle down soon anyway. But after receiving it, he now plans to keep it up until just before the penalty.”

A: 300 E. State St. #517, Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Byron Waters, Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney and the First President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

As a Director-At-Large of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, President Jack Osborn asked me to serve on the San Bernardino County Bar Association Bulletin Committee.  As such, I will be writing a monthly column which will mostly be focusing on bench and bar history of San Bernardino County.  Below is a heavily edited version of my first article, which I have submitted for publication in the March or April bulletin.

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

Byron Waters 1849-1923 Pioneering San Bernardino County Attorney

[Illustration of Byron Waters, San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 108, March 28, 1895, Pg. 5]

Byron Waters was an organizer and the first President of the San Bernardino County Bar Association, organized in 1875.

In The Bench and Bar of the County of San Bernardino, State of California (1955), Page 15, former California Associate Supreme Court Justice and native of San Bernardino, Jesse William Curtis gave this synopsis of Mr. Waters’ life.

Hon. Byron Waters also came to San Bernardino before reaching his majority. He came from his native state of Georgia. He first worked for his uncle James Waters, who ran dairy in Yucaipa. But a dairy was no place for young man with Mr. Waters’ ambition and talents. He read law in the offices of Judge Rolfe and Judge Willis and was admitted to practice in 1871. He almost immediately gained place in the front ranks among the members of the bar of the county. His practice in an incredibly short time became both large and lucrative. In 1877[,] he was elected to the assembly and although one of the youngest members he was acknowledged as one of the leaders of the legislative body. By reason of the reputation gained at that one session of the legislature in the following year he was elected a delegate at large to the State Constitutional Convention which framed our present Constitution. In 1881[,] Mr. Waters temporarily retired from the practice of law and helped organize the Farmers Exchange Bank of San Bernardino and became its first president. But his love for the law drew him back to its practice and he soon retired from the banking business to enter again the ranks of the attorneys of this county. He at once took his place as one of the leaders of the Bar. He attracted the attention of Judge S.H. Mesick of San Francisco, a leading mining lawyer of the state, who offered him partnership if he would move to San Francisco. Mr. Waters accepted the offer and the firm of Mesick and Waters was formed and during the few years of its existence was retained in many of the most important mining cases before the courts of the state. Due to the failing health of Judge Mesick the partnership was dissolved and Mr. Waters practiced alone in San Francisco. After successful though rather brief practice in the then metropolis of the state, he returned to San Bernardino and again opened his office and continued his practice for a few years when he was offered membership in the legal staff of the Southern Pacific Company, which he accepted and again became resident of the bay district in the north. Evidently the character of the work for the railroad did not suit the taste of Mr. Waters for after few years with the company he resigned his position and again resumed his practice in his old home town. On each occasion of his return to this county his old, and many new, clients sought him out and his law practice soon assumed its old time proportion as one of the most profitable in the county. In his declining years he was so unfortunate as to lose his eyesight completely. Notwithstanding this affliction he continued with the assistance of two younger members of the bar to carry on an extensive and profitable law practice until the infirmities of age compelled him to retire from all activities. He passed away on November 29 1934 in the city in which he had made his home, with brief exceptions above referred to for so many years.

(Mr. Waters is sometimes referred to as “Honorable,” which refers to his one term in the California Assembly.)

Associate Justice Curtis’ summary of Waters’ life is a good synopsis of Byron Waters life, but additional details expose the true breadth of his career.

A: 300 E. State St. #517, Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

The Joint Meeting of the Inland Empire Chapters of the American Inns of Court, DoubleTree Hotel, Ontario, California February 18, 2015

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Every year, the Inland Empire Chapters of the American Inns of Court hold a joint meeting.  For the recent past (until last year), there were three local Inns: my Inn, San Bernardino’s The Honorable Joseph B. Campbell Inn, Riverside’s The Honorable Leo A. Deegan Inn, and Palm Spring’s The Honorable Warren Slaughter-Richard Roemer Inn.  Last year, we were joined by The Southwest Inn in Temecula, California.

The joint meeting is rotated amongst the Inns: last year was the Deegan Inn’s turn, and this year the honor went to the Campbell Inn. Next year will be The Southwest Inn’s first opportunity.

Our dinner was at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, a sprawling, well-appointed facility.

Our speaker and honored guest was the Honorable André Birotte Jr., who was recently appointed, unanimously, by the United States Senate to be a United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California.  On that accomplishment, Judge Birotte remarked that he was surprised to hear a litany of yes votes (he mentioned Senator Hatch and Senator Cruz).  He thought it may have been non-controversial because he was appointed unanimously to be the United States Attorney for the Central District of California four years prior.

I asked him about why in the age of CM/ECF and mandatory electronic filing by litigants, why the Court required blue backing on courtesy copies.  He smiled and said he couldn’t speak for other judges, but that he only read the pleadings electronically, but that the clerks used the courtesy copies to make notes. It is good to note that Judge Birotte does not require blue backing for mandatory chambers copies. Judge Birotte’s Proedure and Schedule page says: “ALL EXHIBITS TO CHAMBERS’ COPIES MUST BE TABBED. BLUEBACKS ARE NOT REQUIRED,”


Judge Birotte spoke about the necessity of knowing and following the local rules, particularly Local Rule 7-3 requiring meet and confer.  He urged civility among the bar.  He said when he was a Los Angeles County Public Defender and an Assistant United States Attorney, the criminal bar was civil because it was a smaller community.

When asked about whether he spoke to the President upon confirmation, he stated that in both appointments, while he was vetted by Sentor Feinstein, he never spoke to President Obama. He said the older District Court judges told him that they spoke to their appointing-Presidents, but that was no longer the case.

The Mission of the American Inns of Court is to foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills.  If you are interested in joining The Joseph B. Campbell American Inn of Court, which normally meets at the Castaway Restaurant in San Bernardino, please contact me.

A: 300 E. State St. #517, Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

The Galleon On The Back of Redlands City Hall

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Frank E. Moore, in Redlands, Our Town, mocks this galleon on the back of (old) City Hall because it has oars.   I decided to check it out in person today on my way to the library.


Here’s the photo that I took. However, with a very small amount of Internet research, some galleons had oars.  See this book, for example.
A: 300 E. State St. #517, Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

The Process in 2006 for the Redlands Council Vacancy That Resulted in The Appointment of Pete Aguilar

The City of Redlands is appointing a new Council Member on January 20, 2015.  I am one of the candidates.

In 2006, when Susan Peppler resigned, the Council had a similar appointment process.  I remember being in the audience as Assistant City Attorney, and that there were multiple ballots that resulted in Pete Aguilar being chosen to serve the remainder of Susan Peppler’s term.   Here are the minutes of the Redlands City Council meeting of April 18, 2006:


A vacancy exists on the City Council due to the resignation of Councilmember Susan Peppler. At the meeting of April 4, 2006, the City Council voted to fill the vacancy through an appointment process on or before May 4, 2006. On April 5, 2006, the City issued a Notice of Intention to fill the vacancy on the City Council by appointment. Interested applicants were invited to submit applications to the Office of the City Clerk by 5:00 P.M. on April 14, 2006. Eleven (11) applications were received from: Peter R. Aguilar, George D. Bartch, Roy S. Cencirulo, Eric Robert Fraser, James G. (Jim) Macdonald, Dennis John Mullenix II, Reyes L. Quezada, Brian Roche, Mark Stanson, Eddie Tejeda and William E. (Bill) Turnpaugh. Voter registration has been confirmed for each applicant. Mayor Harrison explained the process to the applicants and audience.

At this time, he opened the meeting to public comments from the audience regarding the presentation and appointment process. Wayne Stair urged the City Council to consider appointing Pete Aguilar. Speaking in support of appointing Bill Turnpaugh were Brad Easter and Larry James.

A random drawing was conducted by City Clerk Poyzer, assisted by Assistant City Clerk Teresa Ballinger, to determine the order the applicants would speak. Five minutes presentations were made by: Peter R. Aguilar, Eddie Tejeda, Mark Stanson, Dennis John Mullenix II, Eric Robert Fraser, James G. (Jim) Macdonald, Roy S. Cencirulo, George D. Bartch, Brian Roche, William E. (Bill) Turnpaugh and Reyes L. Quezada.

Appointment – Nominations were opened by City Clerk Poyzer for an appointment to the City Council to complete a term ending on December 4, 2007. Councilmember Gilbreath nominated Pete Aguilar, Councilmember Gil nominated Reyes L. Quezada and Councilmember Gallagher nominated Bill Turnpaugh. The random roll call vote was as follows:

Aguilar: Councilmember Gilbreath

Quezada: Councilmember Gil
Turnpaugh: Councilmembers Gallagher and Harrison

There not being a majority vote for any one nominee, nominations were re- opened by City Clerk Poyzer for the appointment to the City Council to complete a term ending on December 4, 2007. Councilmember Gilbreath nominated Eric Fraser, Councilmember Gil nominated Reyes L. Quezada and Councilmember Harrison nominated Bill Turnpaugh. The random roll call vote was as follows:

Turnpaugh: Councilmembers Harrison and Gallagher

Fraser: Councilmember Gilbreath
Quezada: Councilmember Gil

There not being a majority vote for any one nominee, nominations were re- opened by City Clerk Poyzer for the appointment to the City Council to complete a term ending on December 4, 2007. Councilmember Gallagher nominated Pete Aguilar. Councilmember Gil nominated Reyes L. Quezada. The random roll call vote was as follows:

Aguilar: Councilmembers Gallagher, Gilbreath, Harrison and Gil Quezada: None

By unanimous vote, Pete Aguilar was appointed to the City Council to complete a term ending on December 4, 2007, and the Oath of Allegiance was administered to Mr. Aguilar by City Clerk Poyzer. Councilmember Aguilar expressed his appreciation for having been appointed to this position and pledged to do a good job of representing the citizens of Redlands.

The City Council meeting recessed at 7:17 P.M. and reconvened at 7:30 P.M.

PRESENT Jon Harrison, Mayor
Pat Gilbreath, Mayor Pro Tem

Gilberto Gil, Councilmember Mick Gallagher, Councilmember Pete Aguilar, Councilmember

I remember sitting behind Pete Aguilar.  I remember being surprised that there were two votes that were deadlocked, leading to a third vote.

We will see what happens this time.

Downtown Redlands and Walkability

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I moved from West Redlands to Downtown Redlands, I found that it was much easier to walk to lunch.  The Walk Score is listed as

84 Very Walkable

Most errands can be accomplished on foot.

Today, on a particularly clear 68 degree day, I was able to walk from 300 E. State Street to the Citrus Village Shopping Center.  By contrast, my old address had a Walk Score of 48 (Car Dependent). Even though I would walk when the weather was nice, it had a lot of bad or non-existent sidewalk, a lack of marked pedestrian crossings, and since the start of the Alabama widening, a complete nightmare.

Putting aside debates about sustainability, I have a personal preference to walk around a downtown like Redlands’ downtown because I can patronize local businesses with ease. You cannot truly know a City until you have been able to walk it a ground level.

Also, when a business neighborhood, like downtown Redlands is walkable, it allows you to park once and visit a variety of stores, restaurants, or businesses without having to move your car.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
     Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Former Assistant City Attorney Michael Reiter Eyes Council Seat – Redlands Daily Facts

Today, the Redlands Daily Facts published an article on my application to be the next Redlands City Council Member.  The story is here.



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