In a major slap to Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, who began this process while he was still a deputy DA, Justice Fred K. Morrison ruled:
The district attorney knew of “veteranos” and “shot callers” yet served only Billy Wolfington, whose rank is unknown but who was characterized as a “soldier” at oral argument in this court; further, when served Wolfington disavowed any intention to appear. Thus, whether he would tell others was a matter of chance.
On this record, service on Billy Wolfington alone was insufficient under state law absent proof that he was of sufficient rank and character within The Broderick Boys that it is reasonable to infer that service on him effectively apprised the gang of the pendency of the legal proceeding.
As we explain, neither of the next two arguments tendered by the district attorney demonstrate that service on one gang member of unknown rank was reasonably calculated to achieve notice in this case, therefore such manner of service does not meet the Mullane federal due process standard.
In the February 20, 2007 Sacramento Bee District Attorney Reisig defended his policy:
Reisig defended the method police used to notify alleged gang members of the injunction.
“When you serve one street terrorist, they’re all going to find out that the cops are coming,” he said.
Reisig, who was at the time a Deputy District Attorney, gave notice of the suit to just one of the alleged gang members. When neither that individual nor anyone else showed up in court, Warriner granted the injunction.
In August of 2005, Cosmo Garvin of the Sacramento News and Review wrote:
“But Deputy District Attorney Reisig told SN&R that the Broderick Boys have an active communication network, through which the individual who was served notice of the injunction was able to spread word to the rest of the gang.
Reisig added that serving notice on each individual who would be subject to the injunction would have expended “a tremendous amount of resources.”
“The law simply doesn’t require us to do that. The judge even said it was OK,” added Reisig.”
The State Appellate Court however has disputed that logic:
“Whether he would tell others was a matter of chance,” Justice Morrison ruled.
The big problem here is that once Reisig served only the one gang member, the others did not show up in court to contest the injunction. Once that happened, Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner simply granted the injunction. So in effect, Reisig’s method deprived the defendants even the opportunity to challenge the injunction. This is the portion of the law that this court struck down.
The law itself–the notion of a gang injunction–is also in dispute. According to the three justices on the appellate-court panel, they saw enough evidence of gang activity in West Sacramento to potentially justify a gang injunction.
Attorney’s for the ACLU such as Alan Scholesser have argued:
“A lifetime curfew for an adult is an extraordinary punishment. I think if people had their day in court, there would have been some serious legal challenges and some very different outcomes.”
That may be the next fight, but it will be Christopher Cabaldon, the Mayor of West Sacramento and candidate for the Democratic Nomination of California’s 8th Assembly District who will make this call according to Reisig.
“District Attorney Jeff Reisig said he would seek another injunction only if city leaders, including Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, wanted it.
Cabaldon was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment.”
District Attorney Jeff Reisig instituted this controversial policy a few years ago. He argues that the policy has been successful. It may be. But he also likely deprived a number of people–some of them indeed gang members, some of them unquestionably not gang members–their right to contest these charges in a court of law. They were not served notice of this hearing. They were thus deprived their constitutional right to due process.
Whatever you think of this policy and this law, that action by Reisig is in and of itself a gross miscarriage of justice. In this country people, even accused gang members, are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. In this country, the rule of law must prevail even when it involves despicable human beings who perform despicable acts. Why? Because that is the only way we protect the innocent from an overbearing government.
What disturbs me most is first the arrogance of Reisig in pushing through and defending this policy when it seems to a layman so blatantly in violation of law. What was even more galling is that a Yolo County Judge, Thomas Warriner, would support such an obvious miscarriage of justice.
This case unfortunately illustrates all that is wrong once again with Yolo County’s Criminal Justice System. It is not that we want guilty criminals to go free, it is that we want a fair process for all.
The ball is now in Mayor Christopher Cabaldon’s court, we urge him to do the right thing and let this go.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting