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IJ continues to fight the practice of Enforcement for Profit.

Ron Mugar successfully stopped the Corona’s plan to take his home—and they’re still making him pay.

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Sixty thousand dollars. That is the amount of money the City of
Norco, California, is forcing resident Ron Mugar to pay for having the
gall to successfully defend himself in court.

That might sound unbelievable, but such brazenness is to be expected
when a city outsources its justice to a law firm like Dapeer, Rosenblit
& Litvak LLP (Dapeer) that promises cost-neutral code enforcement
and financially benefits from fining its victims.

Ron is a victim of an increasingly common practice in California
called “health and safety receiverships.” Traditionally, receiverships
allow a city to take temporary ownership of a property to fix an
imminent danger to a community, like a structurally unsound building.
The owner then would receive a bill for the work done. The bill is
attached to the property in the form of a property lien. If the
homeowner cannot pay the bill, the receiver can sell the property.

Unfortunately, in California receiverships are now being used to
address even minor code violations. That is because there is money to be
made. A few code violations can justify the government’s taking of a
property, “flipping” it and reaping the financial proceeds. Ron received
a notice that the city was going to put his home into a receivership
for having a yard with too much machinery, tools and other project
materials. Because of this clutter, the city decided to take his home.

After digging into his life savings for a lawyer and cleaning up his
property, Ron successfully stopped the receivership from going into
effect. He thought he had won. Then, this past November, the city filed a
motion asking for attorneys’ fees for all the time spent on Ron’s case.
State statutes and local ordinances allow municipalities to seek fees
for the cost of prosecuting nuisance violations. The city explained its
request for over $60,000 by alleging that Ron had engaged in
“obstructive tactics”: that is, he tried to defend himself in court. Ron
asked the court to reconsider the receivership because it wasn’t
necessary. And he disputed some of the city’s allegations. For defending
his property rights, Ron now owes tens of thousands of dollars.

Thankfully, while Norco’s predatory practices are immoral and wrong,
they are also something else: unconstitutional, under both the U.S. and
California Constitutions. That’s why Ron has teamed up with the
Institute for Justice to fight for his property rights and his First
Amendment rights, and to fight against financially motivated
prosecutors. Prosecutors should not profit from going after property
owners in court—especially property owners who successfully defend
themselves.Explore Case In Depth »

Norco, CA Enforcement Fees

Date Filed

April 2, 2019

Original Court

Riverside County Superior Court

Current Court

Riverside County Superior Court

Case Status

Open

Attorneys

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