California SB277 lawsuit – state’s demurrer to Buck v Smith sustained

SB277 lawsuit

In 2015, California enacted into law a measure, SB277, that eliminated all non-medical vaccine exemptions to required school-entry vaccines. There were a number of factions in opposition to this law.  One faction, “Revolt, Revoke, Restore”, hired an attorney, T. Matthew Phillips, who eventually filed an SB277 lawsuit to stop the implementation of law. (Previous coverage of litigation  filed by Phillips can be found here.)

This SB277 lawsuit is called Buck v. Smith, or Buck v. California. Tamara Buck is the first of the seven plaintiffs; Karen Smith is the Director of the California Department of Public Health. The suit was first filed in July, 2016, and has been amended three times. In response, the state filed a demurrer. A demurrer is a written response to a complaint filed in a lawsuit which, in effect, pleads for dismissal on the grounds that even if the facts alleged in the complaint were true, there is no legal basis for a lawsuit. In this case, Basically, the court is saying “you have to show it’s unconstitutional to mandate vaccines for school before we ask if vaccines cause harm.”

On 21 October 2016, California superior court judge Gregory Alarcon in LA County sustained – accepted – the demurrer of the state and dismissed the SB277 lawsuit filed by Tamara Buck and seven other plaintiffs without leave to amend. What this means is that even after being amended three times, the complaint at the basis of the lawsuit had been found not to make a valid legal claim, and/or not to have enough facts to support a valid legal claim, or “cause of action.” Unless the trial court’s ruling is overturned on appeal, the Buck lawsuit is now dismissed and will not go forward.

There were two main reasons the complaint failed to meet the standard. First, some of the claims simply go against established jurisprudence; this is a problem any challenge to SB277 will face. Second, in this case, the complaint was not well written or argued. Continue reading “California SB277 lawsuit – state’s demurrer to Buck v Smith sustained”

California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 2

California SB277 vaccination law

Note: there are two suits against the California SB277 vaccination law. The first one, which we’ll call “Buck” for the main complainant, and the second, “Whitlow“, for the first named plaintiff. The State of California has asked that these two cases be combined and switched to Federal Court, but no decision has been made to combine the two cases. However, both are in Federal Court. 

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, author of this article, is trying to keep the readers informed with updates and interpretations of current activities. It’s fluid, so the updates are here to keep the reader current. 

Originally, my plan was to just put the updates with each the original articles for each case, but that got unwieldy really fast. Thus, I made a decision to keep each update to the point at hand, hoping that readers will click on the original articles to get the background information. 

Again, Professor Reiss and I will update as necessary. I will repost the article whenever there’s a significant update to the lawsuit.
Continue reading “California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 2”

California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 1

California SB277 vaccination law

Note: there are two suits against the California SB277 vaccination law. The first one, which we’ll call “Buck” for the main complainant, and the second, “Whitlow“, for the first named plaintiff. The State of California has asked that these two cases be combined and switched to Federal Court, but no decision has been made to combine the two cases. However, both are in Federal Court. 

Professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, author of this article, is trying to keep the readers informed with updates and interpretations of current activities. It’s fluid, so the updates are here to keep the reader current. 

Originally, my plan was to just put the updates with each the original articles for each case, but that got unwieldy really fast. Thus, I made a decision to keep each update to the point at hand, hoping that readers will click on the original articles to get the background information. 

Again, Professor Reiss and I will update as necessary. I will repost the article whenever there’s a significant update to the lawsuit.
Continue reading “California SB277 vaccination law – litigation update 1”

California SB277 lawsuit – updated, but still baseless

California SB277 lawsuit

Note: this article is an update to the baseless California SB277 lawsuit that was written about previously published on 1 May 2016. This article adds substantial new information on some of the activities surrounding the lawsuit. Stay tuned, as this situation is fluid and new information will be posted as it becomes clear. Professor Reiss and I will update as necessary. I will repost the article whenever there’s a significant update to the lawsuit.

A California SB277 lawsuit was filed by Attorney T. Matthew Phillips in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tamara Buck et al v State of California (pdf), or “Buck.” To remind everyone, SB277 is the California law that removed the personal belief exemption to school immunization requirements.

Although the lawsuit commenced for the plaintiffs is in theory, challenging the new statute, the complaint posted online is poorly drafted. Much of the complaint, especially the first section, does not meet the basic pleading standard in California, which requires “a statement of the facts constituting the cause of action, in ordinary and concise language. “ (CCP § 425.10)

As phrased, the complaint does not make valid legal arguments against the new statute. The complaint demands trial by jury when it is elementary law that the relief requested in the complaint would not entitle the plaintiffs to anything but a trial before a judge. The complaint fails to meet the requirement that the attorney’s signature constitutes a certification that “[t]he claims … are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.” (CCP § 128.7(b)(2).)

The complaint also contains gross factual errors, which may violate CCP § 128.7(b)(3), though those errors alone, at this stage in the proceedings, probably would not permanently damn the suit in state law at this initial stage. In assessing initial challenges to a complaint, state courts must assume that the factual claims in the complaint are true (not legal conclusions or polemical oratory), even when they are as far-fetched as the ones in this suit.

If the attorneys for the State of California were to demurrer to this complaint (file a motion requesting the court to dismiss the complaint as lacking sufficient grounds), the plaintiffs would probably be given an opportunity to correct the errors. For that reason, and since this post is already too long, I didn’t provide a detailed critique of the complaint’s shortcomings as a legal document.

Frankly, the people who donated money to this suit deserved better. The opposition to SB 277 consists of a minute fraction of California’s citizens. The opposition is misguided, but most of them are sincere in their beliefs and very, very passionate and dedicated to their cause.  Many of them clearly fear vaccines and the new law. I hope the courts will protect the community and children’s health by upholding SB 277 (and to remind everyone, the vaccine-denied children of SB 277 opponents need SB277 as well – they depend on herd immunity to protect them from their parents’ error). But when opponents put their trust in a lawyer, they deserve to have their interests competently and professionally represented. This complaint does not do that.

Of course, the complainants chose the lawyer, and they may have had input into the content of the complaint. They are responsible for that choice. But it is also the lawyer’s responsibility to advise them against making serious mistakes.

It is hard to see much indication that Mr. Phillips gave his clients such advice (unless, of course, advice was offered and rejected). Frankly, the tone of the complaint and the discussion on the complainants’ Facebook page suggests that the content of the complaint was driven by Mr. Phillips or at least supported by him. Continue reading “California SB277 lawsuit – updated, but still baseless”

SB 277 lawsuit – baseless anti-vaccine complaints

There have been several updates to the lawsuit, and subsequently to this article. This article has been republished with the updates. Comments for this article have been closed, but you can comment at the updated version.

An anti-SB 277 lawsuit, Tamara Buck v State of California (hereinafter known as “Buck”) was filed by Attorney T. Matthew Phillips in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. To remind everyone, SB277 is the California law that removed the personal belief exemption to school immunization requirements.

Although the lawsuit commenced for the plaintiffs is in theory, challenging the new statute, the complaint posted online is poorly drafted. Much of the complaint, especially the first section, does not meet the basic pleading standard in California, which requires “a statement of the facts constituting the cause of action, in ordinary and concise language. “ (CCP § 425.10)

As phrased, the complaint does not make valid legal arguments against the new statute. The complaint demands trial by jury when it is elementary law that the relief requested in the complaint would not entitle the plaintiffs to anything but a trial before a judge. The complaint fails to meet the requirement that the attorney’s signature constitutes a certification that “[t]he claims … are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law.” (CCP § 128.7(b)(2).)

The complaint also contains gross factual errors, which may violate CCP § 128.7(b)(3), though those errors alone, at this stage in the proceedings, probably would not permanently damn the suit in state law at this initial stage. In assessing initial challenges to a complaint, state courts must assume that the factual claims in the complaint are true (not legal conclusions or polemical oratory), even when they are as far-fetched as the ones in this suit.

If the attorneys for the State of California were to demurrer to this complaint (file a motion requesting the court to dismiss the complaint as lacking sufficient grounds), the plaintiffs would probably be given an opportunity to correct the errors. For that reason, and since this post is already too long, I didn’t provide a detailed critique of the complaint’s shortcomings as a legal document.

Frankly, the people who donated money to this suit deserved better. The opposition to SB 277 consists of a minute fraction of California’s citizens. The opposition is misguided, but most of them are sincere in their beliefs and very, very passionate and dedicated to their cause.  Many of them clearly fear vaccines and the new law. I hope the courts will protect the community and children’s health by upholding SB 277 (and to remind everyone, the vaccine-denied children of SB 277 opponents need SB277 as well – they depend on herd immunity to protect them from their parents’ error). But when opponents put their trust in a lawyer, they deserve to have their interests competently and professionally represented. This complaint does not do that.

Of course, the complainants chose the lawyer, and they may have had input into the content of the complaint. They are responsible for that choice. But it is also the lawyer’s responsibility to advise them against making serious mistakes.

It is hard to see much indication that Mr. Phillips gave his clients such advice (unless, of course, advice was offered and rejected). Frankly, the tone of the complaint and the discussion on the complainants’ Facebook page suggests that the content of the complaint was driven by Mr. Phillips or at least supported by him. Continue reading “SB 277 lawsuit – baseless anti-vaccine complaints”