A Fig Tree and the Suppression of Evidence of Harassment

Should the city actively seek to suppress any evidence of harassment by city staff from the court record when prosecuting code violations? That’s exactly what’s happening in the strange case of an allegedly overgrown fig tree in south Fullerton.

A few weeks ago this woman, henceforth known as “The Fig Tree Lady,” came before council to tell her side of the story in a code enforcement case against her fig tree, which was allegedly hanging over a public sidewalk last year. The Fig Lady accused city staff of singling her out for criminal prosecution as retribution for her embarrassing victory over the city attorney (Jones & Mayer) several years prior.

That same day, the city attorney had filed a motion in court to suppress any evidence of harassment by City employees.

The fig lady’s guilt or innocence will be decided in court, and is not really the point here. But why is the city using it’s legal muscle to suppress any evidence that it’s code enforcement officers might be harassing citizens?

What if this woman did have evidence that the city attorney and staff were giving her case “special treatment”? Shouldn’t she be able to make her case to the judge? Is someone using the city’s expensive legal resources to bully and silence this outspoken critic in some sort of personal vendetta as the Fig Lady claims?

Exhibit A: The overgrown fig tree

If the motion is granted, the woman would not even be allowed to submit this current photo of her tree (courtesy of Greg Sebourn) as evidence that the situation has been corrected.

Obviously the tree is not a threat anymore. Why is the city attorney still spending our money to silence and prosecute this woman? And are they really worried that she could prove her claims of harassment?

22 Replies to “A Fig Tree and the Suppression of Evidence of Harassment”

  1. The “Fig Lady”! That’s rich.

    How about some of the other neighbors? Are they getting harassed by “community preservation”?

    I wonder just how many similar cases are pending…

  2. It’s too bad that potholes and busted sidewalks can’t be considered a public nuisance. The city is the single most frequent violator of its own laws. I’d like to see those bastards harass and prosecute themselves.

  3. Unfortunately it will be difficult for this woman to prove that she was singled out, but it’s her constitutional right to try.

    What is Jones & Mayer’s billing rate for criminal prosecutions? The rest of us are paying for this BS.

  4. Fullerton’s code enforcement goons specialize in harassment, so this doesn’t surprise me one bit.

    One of my relatives owns property that backs up onto a major street in Fullerton. About thirty years ago the neighbors asked City Hall if they could plant shrubs on the street side of the rear fence because no sidewalk exists. This was a win-win for both sides, the residents got some extra privacy and the City got something that looked much nicer than bare, mismatched fences.

    The City trimmed the shrubs back with a tractor and blade attachment, as needed, until about ten years ago when everybody received letters from code enforcement. They wanted us to trim the shrubs back ourselves. Uhh, no.

    First of all, nobody has direct access to the shrubs; they are on City property behind the rear fence. It’s a very busy street with posted speeds of 50 MPH and “No Stopping” signs everywhere. Second, we would need traffic control to safely trim the shrubs (remember, no sidewalk) or otherwise risk getting hit by a car. Third, nobody ever promised to trim the shrubs for the City.

    We went back and forth with City Hall on this issue. Bear in mind code enforcement people are power hungry wanna-be cops. They don’t care about past precedents or gestures of goodwill. You are guilty from the start.

    In the end, it required a shouting match with some idiot at City Hall before they backed down. I threatened to sue them for even the slightest injury if I cut the shrubs myself. Once they figured out they’d be liable for even a splinter or a bruise, they closed the case. The City has gone back to trimming the shrubs like before.

    There’s a lesson to be learned here. Never, never volunteer to donate something for the City’s benefit. Instead of a thank you, you’ll be threatened with criminal prosecution for your generosity.

  5. James, the Fig Lady is a defendant and the city is the prosecutor in a multi-count criminal case against her for an overgrown tree.

  6. Shouldn’t the rest of the document explain the reasoning behind the motion? Why don’t you just post the entire document?

  7. Through some detective work I found two very interesting entries by City Hall.

    It seems City Hall has destroyed case files from earlier complaints in 2001 and 2005. The files were destroyed in December 2010 and February 2011. Now why would they do that if they have nothing to hide?

    I suggest somebody gets screen captures before the City attempts to cover up their dirty work…

    http://www.cityoffullerton.com/tm_bin/tmw_cmd.pl?tmw_cmd=StatusViewCase&shl_caseno=0110-2291N&projectcasetag=Y

    http://www.cityoffullerton.com/tm_bin/tmw_cmd.pl?tmw_cmd=StatusViewCase&shl_caseno=COD05-02398&projectcasetag=Y

    1. That seems very odd.

      The purge of the 2001 case seems normal. Pushing the case numbers up and down shows that other cases from that time period were purged in December.

      But similar cases from 2005? Still active. Why was that one case singled out for purging two weeks ago?

      1. COD05-02390 – Closed
        COD05-02391 – Closed
        COD05-02392 – Closed
        COD05-02393 – Closed
        COD05-02394 – Closed
        COD05-02395 – Closed
        COD05-02396 – Closed
        COD05-02397 – Closed
        COD05-02398 – 2400 Olive – CASE DOCUMENTATION DESTROYED 2/2/2011 9:02:45 AM
        COD05-02399 – Closed
        COD05-02400 – Closed
        COD05-02401 – Closed

        I believe this is the case in which the defendant claimed to have beat the city attorney back in 2006. Why did it just go missing?

  8. I would like to know how much Jones & Mayer is charging us for this one. Please do one of those freedom of information things when this is all over.

    1. Did I hear HeeHaw say he was going to look into it right before his face became contorted in a grimmace/smile?

      He won’t, but maybe Whitaker will.

  9. I’m always grateful when I can get away each year to the leafy environs of Savannah, and enjoy the canopy of trees.
    Fullerton has the absolute worst tree trimmers, and in fact the worse “conceptualization” of what a tree looks like, what it does, how the natural shape and beauty may be trimmed to enhance it, not whack it as though it were the victim of a crude amputation.

    The Fig tree? Who gives a hoot if the canopy extends over the public sidewalk? And sidewalk? Isn’t that an alley? As long as the homeowner is willing to pick up fallen fruit and leaves, who really gives a hoot?
    Has the city become so lacking in work, that they have to pursue things like this so that Fullerton residents are forced to pick monickers for themselves like “The Fig Lady?”

    What is it that Jones & Mayer are trying to cover up?

  10. This lady did a great job of articulating exactly what code enformencent and the city attorney are all about. My former apt complex in fullerton continues to crumble to the ground despite numerour complaints to the city from tenants ……they always said they dont have the resources to go after the property owner…but they sure have the resources to harrass homeowners….

  11. I need the tree ladys e-mail address, or phone number.

    Moreover, please e-mail me with all code violations.

    [email protected]

    I’m looking for trouble “City Attorney.”
    I’m a FBI informant; I am really pissed off about this. ( E-mail me.)

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