A section of the collaborative community mural on my home in Portland, Oregon including the “No Justice No Peace / Know Justice Know Peace” section of it that I painted last year in response to an earlier ruling on the case. #KnowJusticeKnowPeace #NoJusticeNoPeace
Friday – November 25, 2022
Preface: This is an unavoidably l-o-n-g piece! I wrote it primarily for the many readers and friends who have been following this saga from the beginning (c. March of 2016), and who might like to know the latest update! I also wanted to make sure the folks who have supported this fight with loans (for attorneys and other costs related to the ordeal) had an update. I have specifically removed advertisements from this “letter” to help make it easier to read (given how long it is!)
Reminder, if you want to support the work of Lead Safe Mama, LLC, please consider starting any shopping you do with a click on one of our affiliate links. You don’t need to buy what we link to for Lead Safe Mama, LLC to receive a percentage of what you spend (at no extra cost to you), just click the link before you start your shopping: Amazon Link (we receive about 3 to 4%), Solidteknics Link (we receive 10%), Naturepedic Link (we receive 15%).
Section 1) Some Background
As many of my long-time readers know, I am suing the State of Oregon in Federal Court for multiple counts of Civil Right Violations — violations (perpetrated against me in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019…and ongoing) that led to the destruction of my Federal-award-winning non-profit; created incalculable hardship and trauma for my family (including impacts on my children that generated significant PTSD); and attempted to destroy my reputation as an activist and to destroy my ability to effectively do what I do – helping families every day. If you are new here and not familiar with the history of the case, you can read a filing of the case on this link, which has most of the details spelled out.
Section 2) The Latest – The Case Was”Dismissed”
In July of this year (2022) I learned that the judge assigned to the case [a Republican Trump-appointee] dismissed our case…with the dismissal based in part on “Qualified Immunity” [and other technical b.s. reasons — such as the lawyers for the defense arguing that some of the claims should not be considered at this point, due to the expiration of applicable statutes of limitations (resulting from their comprehensive campaign of endless rescheduling requests, new motions filed, and other delay tactics — for years — precisely designed to “run out the clock” on the case!)], despite the legal merits (i.e. the indisputable facts) of our case.
Section 3) What is Qualified Immunity exactly?
Qualified Immunity is when the State, the Police or some other bad actor who works for a public agency does something (or more than one somethings) obviously wrong and illegal – that clearly violates the Federally-protected civil rights of an American citizen) but that bad actor (or agency) is not held accountable for their actions — because they are determined to be “immune” from punishment, as a result of the position they hold…for example, a police officer; a district attorney; etc. (or in my case, employees of the Department of Justice of the State of Oregon, and the Oregon State Department of Health and Human Services).
[Note: Qualified Immunity is something the ACLU has been working to overturn — because it is so fundamentally incompatible with the notion of a just society.You can read more about Qualified Immunity here on this link. Here’s a second link with more info, as well.]
Section 4) I was in such shock in response to this ruling, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my family at first.
This incident (that judge’s dismissal ruling) happened this summer and was, frankly, quite traumatizing for me personally. I had been waiting to hear / expecting to hear that the judge had granted permission for us to move forward to a jury trial. I had understood that to be the next step in the process (getting an assignment of a date for a jury trial.) Given the strengths of the case in our favor, I (perhaps naively?) truly did not even consider that the case might be dismissed.
I have not mentioned this ruling publicly until now – as a result of the trauma and upset associated with it – but this week (more than four months after it happened) I decided I am finally ready to share publicly about the ruling.
…I got word (via an email from my attorney, Zack) the day of my children’s birthday celebration (three of my sons’ birthdays are all in July!) and could not even bear to tell my family — as I felt they would be equally shocked/crushed by the injustice of the ruling — not to mention what the ruling signified for the state of justice (in general) in our country – how clearly it demonstrated the fact that the United States legal system is simply broken. My kids are older now (14, 17, 20 and 26) and very aware of the politics of our country. I didn’t want to ruin their birthdays with the level of despair the knowledge of the ruling might bring.
Section 5) How could I tell the kids, after all we had been through?
For my children to experience this injustice in such a personal way (by learning of the unwarranted dismissal of our Civil Rights case after six years of trauma brought on by government persecution of their mother, persecution without apparent reason — for alleged crimes that she did not commit… and of which she had been proven to be innocent – over, and over, and over!) presented a new level of trauma…that is hard to explain or share in words.
Children are normally introduced to injustice through simple incidents — like being wrongly blamed for breaking a toy that their sibling actually broke, or a teacher giving them an undeserved bad grade — despite their having done their best on a project. But for a child (especially my two younger boys) to experience first-hand a harsh demonstration of the current systemic injustice and inequity within our society is heart-breaking. I didn’t want this incident to lead to my boys becoming cynical, disaffected adults with a total loss of faith in humanity, I needed to process the news and figure out how best to break the news to the kids.
I waited several days to tell my children (so at least they could experience a happy birthday week!) The night I found out about the dismissal I decided to take the children to the circus, to celebrate their lives – instead of sharing the awful/traumatic news with them.
Several days later, when I finally found the courage to share the news of the shocking dismissal with my family (after first sharing it with my best girlfriends – to help me process the news, and to help me come up with language to share about it with my kids and husband) – my husband responded by saying he was not at all surprised by the ruling. He’s never surprised by things that to him are “logical outcomes of the systemic corruption within the United States government and our flawed two-party system”.
My husband – 100% unfazed and unemotional about the news – told me that he had “fully–expected the Trump appointed Republican judge to rule in favor of the State” — in spite of the fact that the transgressions against me were so blatantly wrong, and so blatantly illegal – and even though the allegations of supposed crimes, for which I was illegally attacked by bad actors within State of Oregon public agencies, had already been completely dismissed by the IRS*.
[*In September of 2017 – two months before I was illegally arrested for crimes I did not commit – the IRS had found me wholly innocent of the false allegations, through a comprehensive, multi-year investigative audit. This was prior to the employees of the Oregon DOJ “digging-in” and – in November of 2017 – testifying falsely in order to have me illegally arrested (on the basis of these same already-debunked false allegations!) Again, it’s all detailed in the first link above, if you aren’t familiar with the story].
Section 6) The big decision: Should we appeal? Or let it go?
In July of this year (2022), in response to receiving the gut-wrenching news of the dismissal of our case, I was faced with a HUGE decision: whether to file a Federal Appeal (in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – San Francisco) or to abandon the pursuit of justice.
Deciding not to appeal the outcome, would mean the State (and specifically the bad actors in the State who really should have been removed from their positions, appropriately fined and sent to jail for their actions) gets away with perpetrating Federal Civil Rights violations against a citizen. Forgoing an appeal would mean that Qualified Immunity (a relatively new concept in American Civil Rights Law – as of 1967) would again go unchallenged — even when, in this case, the illegal actions of the bad actors were clearly documented IN WRITING, and witnessed by multiple citizens – including lawyers, and IRS agents.
On the other hand, moving forward with a Federal Appeal would mean at least a possibility (however slim in the current political climate) for justice being served. Moving forward with a Federal Appeal would represent an opportunity to put a chink in the armor of “Qualified Immunity”. Moving forward with a Federal Appeal (if the case resolves in our favor) would be a win for citizens everywhere fighting oppression by bad actors in government agencies. Overturning a Qualified Immunity ruling (any Qualified Immunity ruling) would especially benefit minorities, people of color and poor and disenfranchised people — who are disproportionately “served” injustice via the United States Justice System, injustice all-too-often served under the cloak of Qualified Immunity.
Section 7) The costs of filing an appeal in response to the ruling
Moving forward with a Federal Appeal could also be costly — there would be the filing fees; and the cost of transcriptions of the hearings to date; as well as other potential fees related to the case. There would also be the mental and emotional burden of continuing the fight instead of making the (tempting) choice of “closing the door” on a chapter of trauma in our lives that has lasted for more than six years.
Luckily – in July – my civil rights attorney offered to invest his time on a Federal Appeal pro-bono — so at least there would be no up-front legal expenses incurred for the many hours of his time required to submit the appeal(!)
For an effective Federal Civil Rights Appeal, one also needs to look for an Amicus Curiae — a “friend of the court” — who can write an independent brief (an Amicus Brief) in support of the appeal. Finding such a person (or organization, agency, or politician) can be quite difficult — unless your case closely matches other cases or broader initiatives that a potential Amicus Curiae is involved with at the time.
An appeal could also involve the need to hire a second attorney (or additional legal team members) to support the pro-bono attorney, given the details and nature of the appeal.
So even though one might have one pro-bono attorney to handle the filing (which is, of course, important and helpful – and is something I am very grateful for, as submitting the paperwork properly in a timely fashion / meeting appropriate deadlines can make or break a case – that does not mean that all of the legal fees for the appeal would be pro-bono. Another (indirect) cost of the appeal process would be getting current on additional outstanding debts [specifically outstanding balances to some of the other attorneys – attorneys who worked on the previous phases of the case, as their continued input and insights on the history of the matter may be required for the Federal appeal].
Finally there’s the (horrible!) cost that could result from one potential outcome of a Federal Appeal…if the appeal results in a ruling in favor of the bad actors with the State of Oregon (possible — if, we get another Trump-appointed Republican judge in San Francisco in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals)…the ruling could include a demand that I (a public citizen whose civil rights were clearly violated by these government agencies and their representatives) will have to pay the legal fees for the other side — their legal costs to defend their bad actions against my attempt to bring them to justice (and to set legal precedent that could help countless others)!
And that would likely not be an insignificant cost.
Section 8) My available resources to continue fighting this fight…
While the operating revenue of Lead Safe Mama, LLC is finally (as we head in to 2023) beginning to fully-cover the costs of the work we do here (they say it typically takes five years for most businesses to become profitable, and we formed as an LLC in 2018, and so are just – officially – in our fifth year), despite working hard every day to cover all of our operating costs, including covering as much as we can of the high legal costs of running this business out of earned income (and starting to pay back debt from the legal case out of earned income too), we still have over $250,000 in debt accrued over the past 6-1/2 years related (directly and indirectly) to this legal battle…so making the choice to file an appeal (or not) was not easy!
My husband (and others) urged me to seriously consider abandoning this fight.
Yet several close friends (and also my husband!) understood why I might choose to not give up this fight at this point — after everything that we endured (survived!) and all that has been invested (time, energy, good will, etc.).
I was faced with a really difficult decision…but was also still in search of “Truth, Justice and the American Way” – a slogan that was not only the promise of an iconic American hero from my childhood (yours too probably!), but is also the promise of my country – and my citizenship as an American – and a stand I have personally adopted for my advocacy work!
In the end, I chose to go ahead with filing the appeal.
Section 9) This fight for justice is not over, and this means I continue to need the help and support of this community
I chose to continue the fight for justice — not just for myself, and my family, but for all American citizens.
This summer we filed the paperwork to go ahead with the federal appeal.
I am still looking for an Amicus Curiae to help with this appeal — and would appreciate any ideas or referrals in this area. The ACLU declined to help as (they said) the case was too specific for their agenda. I have thought – more than once – that a conversation with Bernie Sanders would be helpful in identifying an Amicus Curiae (especially given the health insurance / health care element of my case: if you take the false allegations out of context – I was illegally arrested for allegedly stealing health insurance for my disabled children!), but I have not been able to reach him through the channels I have.
I also have about $20,000 in recent legal costs related to this that I need to cover, and loans from three Lead Safe Mama readers (readers who helped with earlier phases of the legal battle) that total about $37,000 — which really need to be paid back sooner than later.
Any help with any of that would really take some of the added stress off my shoulders for having made this very heavy and significant choice. [A low-interest loan of about $75,000 to consolidate these and a few other smaller related debts would be the simplest thing that I can think of, and could be paid back over time out of Lead Safe Mama, LLC website advertising earnings.]
To be clear, I did not write about this today as part of an appeal for support and funding — but given “the system is rigged” unless you have money (the system always tends to lean in favor of those with financial resources), a discussion of finances as it relates to the case always seems to be an important part of the conversation.
Section 10) In the absence of extreme wealth, teamwork is required to see justice served
As I mentioned yesterday (link), I am truly beyond thankful for our work together (my work with Lead Safe Mama readership) that has led to THREE product recalls so far this year – each for products that had the distinct potential to harm children.
I want to continue this work, and also want to (simultaneously) continue to fight this legal battle to see justice done (it is part of the work, after all, to fight for the rights of citizens to not be falsely and illegally persecuted – whether at the hands of well-monied corporate influence on government, or attacks on activists, or other forms). Alone I don’t have the resources to both continue this work and fight this fight.
Civil Rights are fundamental rights — and I believe that the struggle for justice over injustice needs to be persistently waged — regardless of the outcome of any individual battle.
Given the growth of Lead Safe Mama, LLC over the past several years, I do clearly see a path forward, where — regardless of the outcome of the civil rights lawsuit, and the uncertain state of justice in general in our country at the moment — the work of Lead Safe Mama, LLC is fully self-sustaining (earning the money to cover the cost of the work, and pay back all of the debt incurred from this legal battle). I must be clear however, that carrying this burden of debts owed to all of the people (about 20 in all, now) who have helped is not easy (especially while also trying to feed my family and continue with this advocacy work!) – and so to reiterate, making the choice to move forward with the Federal Appeal in my case was also not at all easy!
Section 11) Next Steps – November 2022
I heard from my attorney this week. He let me know that our opening brief in the federal appeal is currently due on December 19, 2022 (but that the submission deadline for that will likely be extended until January 19, 2023). Once that has been drafted and submitted, I will share it here.
I continue to need (and to ask for) the support of my community (your support) through all of this – even though it may seem tiring – and may seem like it has been going on forever! While I imagine some of you may have fatigue and burnout from reading about this (and especially including the financial considerations) over and over again over the years… I also ask that you try to imagine the fatigue and burnout I am experiencing through all of this (while also running the business of Lead Safe Mama, LLC and parenting two disabled kiddos with significant issues related to their early childhood Lead-exposure!)
Yet – in spite of the pull towards burnout – I continue to do what’s important: the advocacy work (the consumer goods testing, and childhood Lead-poisoning prevention work helping families directly) that I do every single day – nearly every moment of my waking existence. I continue this because I must. I do this work because it is needed; because this work is filling a persistent gap — meeting a need still not being met by others (public agencies, private businesses, nonprofits, or individuals.)
Please know that I am (as I have been for nearly 17 years since my children were poisoned) committed to this cause in the long-run, working for long-term systemic change to protect children from exposure to toxicants – including Lead). Most of you reading this already know this, because my advocacy work has persisted — throughout and despite all of the uninvited drama and trauma! You may also know this because you have seen that the Lead Safe Mama readership (here on this website) has consistently grown year over year — with only a slight dip from the impact of the pandemic (check out the chart — those numbers represent page views by year)!
This year is the best ever, as we approach 5,000,000 page views for the year, from over 1.6 million people, in over 200 countries / locations all over the world (per Google Analytics! 🙂
Continue reading below the two images – for a BIG idea that could make a huge difference in protecting children while also potentially covering the costs (past and future) of this civil rights legal battle.
Section 12) The BIG idea: a New York City Subway PSA campaign for consumer goods safety
In light of all the above – I am (again) sharing with you an idea that could make a difference – both in terms of the mission of this work and in terms of supporting the costs of the Federal Appeal. (I shared about this idea on another recent update)
Given the recent Lead Safe Mama, LLC track record, including the accomplishments this year — of getting THREE CPSC recalls for Lead contaminated products to happen (including recalls for two of the Leaded baby bottles – the Leaded NUK baby bottle recalled this summer, and the Leaded Green Sprouts baby bottle recalled this week), I came up with a plan that could very likely generate the funds required to get current on much of the costs of this legal battle (but, more important — is a bold plan that might circumvent the media’s consistent lack of coverage about the issue of Lead in baby bottles (in 2022!) – while also raising the awareness necessary to generate recalls for the 10+ other Leaded baby-feeding products I have discovered recently!).
Of course, this plan would require funding that I don’t have – and the window to have this happen is closing this month — but there are still a few days left in that window [If you haven’t already read about the idea, here’s the “elevator pitch” on the concept (see the three images at the bottom of the page) – if you know anyone who might be interested in helping with this idea, please get in touch!]:
- I would like to do a public awareness campaign for the Leaded baby bottle (and Leaded consumer goods) issue by running between 1,000 and 2,000 print ad panels in the New York City Subway before the end of the year.
- Funding required for this campaign is about $50,000 for 1,000 advertising panels in the NYC subways for four weeks ($47,000 to the advertising agency and $3,000 for admin costs) and about $85,000 for 2,000 panels for four weeks ($76,000 to the advertising agency and $9,000 for admin costs).
- The intention behind the campaign would be to generate awareness of the issue (of Leaded baby feeding products especially) over the peak holiday season (through Christmas) – so that news coverage and public awareness of the leaded baby bottle issue would happen. The bigger goal would be that this would – in turn – generate the political will so that legislation is passed (ASAP) so that no more Leaded baby bottles are made or sold, ever!
- The “bonus” opportunity is that if this campaign runs between now and the end of the year, the increase in advertising income on this website would possibly (likely) generate enough funding to not only cover the cost of the PSA campaign (repaying any loans made to fund the campaign) but also would likely generate enough in advertising income to also cover the current need for costs to support this ongoing civil rights legal battle!
- If someone is interested in helping to fund this PSA campaign (via a low-interest business loan to Lead Safe Mama, LLC), I can get them all the numbers that support the potential income figures – but this conversation would have to happen this week, as the window of opportunity (for this campaign to pay for itself due to the increased advertising rates that apply over the holiday season) closes with the start of the new year.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of this.
Sorry to ramble – I am always trying to make a difference and move forward in the work – in spite of the ongoing fight for justice.
Owner – Lead Safe Mama, LLC