OCAr fails to explain charges, demands IrvineRenter’s silence
The little people behind the complaint against me obviously want to silence my free speech. Their latest response letter demanded my silence, and failed to explain the charges against me. Again, they seek to suppress free speech and circumvent due process like a communist regime.
Why is OCAr so insistent on silencing free speech? Do they really believe if I stop telling uncomfortable truths that people won’t be wise to their games? Is my voice so powerful and my message so devastating to their goals that they believe my silence will suddenly lead to a turnaround in the real estate market and increased business for the members of OCAr? Do they believe they can return to their deplorable methods of buyer manipulation if I am not here to point out their behavior?
Whatever the reasoning behind OCAr’s attempt to silence free speech, such attempts have widely reviled since the Renaissance in Europe, and it isn’t casting OCAr’s actions in a favorable light today.
Free Speech is a basic human right
Free speech is a fundamental American right encapsulated in the First Amendment to the US Constitution for a reason: our founding fathers recognized free expression of ideas is critical to fight oppression and injustice.
The “marketplace of ideas” is designed in part to defeat offensive speech by giving it fair play. In other words, the Founders believed that the best way to deal with stupid and offensive ideas was not to suppress them, but instead to let them be spoken and debated in public. If they were truly stupid ideas, they would be debated and discredited.
If OCAr truly believes I am wrong and my seditious ideas should be discredited, they should welcome my contribution to the debate, and they should expect me to be quickly disgraced. They should present their side of the story too, for if they are so astute and full of virtue, people should clamor to adopt their wisdom. Doesn’t everyone know that real estate only goes up?
Apparently, that isn’t what OCAr has in mind.
John Milton, seventeenth century English poet, polemicist, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England, wrote, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” It’s an idea that has gained popularity ever since.
Concepts of freedom of speech can be found in early human rights documents and the modern concept of freedom of speech emerged gradually during the European Enlightenment (Voltaire). England’s Bill of Rights 1689 granted ‘freedom of speech in Parliament’ and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution in 1789, specifically affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable right. The Declaration provides for freedom of expression in Article 11, which states that:
“The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Today freedom of speech, or the freedom of expression, is recognized in international and regional human rights law. The right is enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Based on John Milton‘s arguments, freedom of speech is understood as a multi-faceted right that includes not only the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas, but three further distinct aspects:
- the right to seek information and ideas;
- the right to receive information and ideas;
- the right to impart information and ideas.
International, regional and national standards also recognize that freedom of speech, as the freedom of expression, includes any medium, be it orally, in written, in print, through the Internet or through art forms. This means that the protection of freedom of speech as a right includes not only the content, but also the means of expression.
It isn’t just OCAr’s attempt to silence free speech that has many observers of this case so angry. Many are offended by the procedures adopted by OCAr that circumvent due process of law.
Due process and rules of law
Our modern system of jurisprudence functions on some basic procedural grounds:
- The accused has the right to a clear statement of the charges brought against him.
- The accused has the right to review the evidence and prepare a defense.
- The accused has the right to confront his accusers.
- The accused has the right to an unbiased judge or jury.
- The accused has the right to trial in a public forum.
The early twentieth century German author, Franz Kafka, wrote a book titled, The Trial that explores the issues related to denial of due process rights. The book tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor the reader. In the story (according to Wikipedia), On the last day of Josef K.’s thirtieth year, two men arrive to execute him. He offers little resistance, suggesting that he has realized this as being inevitable for some time. They lead him to a quarry where he is expected to kill himself, but he cannot. The two men then execute him. His last words describe his own death: “Like a dog!”
Do any of you remember the trial of Captain Kirk in Star Trek VI, The Undiscovered Country? Or for real Star Trek fans, did you see the Deep Space Nine episode The Tribunal? Denial of due process is an issue we don’t think much about here in the United States because it happens so rarely. Our only experience of it is through popular drama or great literature. In countries with totalitarian regimes — or anywhere realtor associations operate like OCAr — denial of due process is a common injustice.
There is only one reason any powerful entity would seek to deny due process of law: the outcome has already been decided.
A lawyer for an Irvine blogger who has taken on the real estate industry and accused agents of being dishonest says the Orange County Association of Realtors’ formal grievance against the writer is at odds with a California law protecting freedom of speech.
Scott Sims, attorney for Larry Roberts, who writes the IrvineHousingBlog.com, says in a new letter to OCAR that Roberts’ opinions constitute “free speech protected by California’s anti-SLAPP statute.
“If OCAR does not immediately serve notices of dismissal of all charges, we will take the appropriate actions to protect Roberts’ constitutionally protected rights,” states the letter by Sims, a partner at Manderson, Schafer & McKinlay of Newport Beach.
Sims also writes, “OCAR’s efforts to harm Roberts’ business and reputation, and to haul Roberts before a secret kangaroo court pre-disposed to convict him for unknown acts, have no place in American society.”
The OCAR grievance says Roberts and two other people have violated a code of ethics rule stating that “Realtors must not knowingly lie about competitors” as well as a general set of regulations governing how MLS information is used on the Internet.
An OCAR spokeswoman, Rena Budesky, declined to discuss the matter with a reporter, saying grievances are confidential.
California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) statute provides for a special motion to strike a complaint filed against someone who is exercising free speech. The statute, enacted in 1992, is meant to prevent attempts to intimidate or censor those debating issues of public importance.
In his letter Sims also argues for transparency, stating, “As the accused, Roberts would have a right to waive any confidentiality provision … If this dispute does proceed to a public tribunal, Roberts will insist on a public hearing.” ….
OCAr is refusing to back down and says they are going to set a hearing date so they can secretly persecute me. They have not backed down from their claim that I am a liar. They still think I lied. But since I am not a member of OCAr subject to their “ethics” rules — something they only realized after my lawyer pointed it out to them — they now claim they are going to drop the lying charge and instead come after me on some bogus charge of violating their MLS rules (naturally OCAr won’t tell me how I supposedly violated MLS and has not served me with any notice that the ethics charge has actually been dropped).
Apparently OCAr wants to cut off my MLS access (and who knows what else) because they are pissed off about the content of my speech. OCAr must live by the old adage “there is more than one way to skin a cat.” Their preferred method is to claim they are going to drop one charge, not provide me with proof that actually has been done and then invent some other bogus charge to convict me of.
To top it off, now that OCAr’s frivolous complaint and communist style court have been publically exposed, they apparently want to come after me for violating their “confidentiality” rules. What nonsense.
If OCAr wants to accuse me of something they should stand behind the charges publically and should not complain that I am talking about it. George Washington once said: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” I will stand with George Washington against groups like OCAr.
My attorney responded on my behalf. (PDF of full letter)
How much longer will OCAr let this go on? Nobody believes I have done anything other than state a true but unpopular truth. I will continue to be true to myself, my readers, and to my view of the market, come what may.
The Court of Public Opinion
Since it is obvious that justice is not what’s on OCAr’s collective mind, if I appear in front of their disciplinary panel, I will be convicted. They probably will terminate my MLS access and claim victory.
To quote John Rambo in First Blood, “In town you’re the law, out here it’s me.” OCAr can control the verdict in their Kangaroo Court, but in the real world where people are interested in free speech, due process, and justice, I can expose people to the truth. I’ll take my chances in the court of public opinion because facts are on my side. Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Are you ready to rumble?
So far OCAr has not scheduled a date for the disciplinary hearing. Can you imagine what will happen if they actually go through with this? The hearing would likely be at OCAr’s offices at 25552 La Paz Road, Laguna Hills, CA, in the Mission Hills Plaza Shopping Center.
I could invite all supporters of the IHB to gather at the adjacent Villa Roma restaurant ahead of the meeting. I could supply generic picket signs and supporting lapel pins, and I could sponsor a contest paying $100 for the most creative picket sign criticizing OCAr’s actions. I could notify all local news crews to the event and we probably would be on the nightly TV news. This media circus would be the verdict of the court of public opinion.
Stayed tuned. You may have a chance to stand up for free speech, due process, and the American way. I thank you for your support.