Richard Quigley, The Living American Biker Folk Hero Who Obtained The Court Order That The California Helmet Law is Unconstitutional As Enforced. Please Help Him Achieve His Goal to Help Us Acheive Ours.
By Ray Henke, Motorcyclists Against Dumb Drivers
This is Part I in a Series, Continue at Part II, Richard Quigley, American Biker Folk Hero.
Marlon Brando in the Wild One, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider, they played roles that came to define us in the eyes of the American public; these are, in the eyes of many, our American biker anti-heroes.
Richard Quigley, Quig to his friends, is not playing a role. He is a living biker folk hero. He's a fighter. He's an SOB. He has a gruff, gravely voice with which he has long intimidated the highway patrol and police up in Santa Cruz County, California. So you can get your geographic bearings, Santa Cruz is just spitting distance from Hollister, which if you recall was where the Booze Fighters were depicted in the newspapers of the time, and then, in the Wild One, as having taken over the town in a drunken brawl.
For 15 years now, and some 40 helmet citations, Quigley would argue with police about the words and meaning of the California helmet law by the side of the road, tape recorder in hand, setting them up to be torn apart at trial. He would cross-examine them relentlessly in Court, and then he would argue eloquently in his own sometimes wild way to the Judge about the inherent vagueness in the CHP's helmet law enforcement policies.
He filed briefs with the Court that were written in language that was on the one hand amazingly typical of very good legal brief writing, but as if unable to restrain himself, he would throw in a side remark, sometimes in parentheses, that one can only imagine brought a roll of the eyes and belly laugh to the Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge who has been hearing his accumulation of helmet law violation prosecutions. His briefs are sprinkled with appropriate citations to relevant cases, and to the evidence which he has been able to gather, including, perhaps most significantly, the internal CHP helmet law enforcement policies.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding in most biker circles that Quig has obtained a ruling that the California helmet law is unconstitutional. The law itself was previously ruled constitutional as written. What Quig has done is argue successfully to the Santa Cruz Superior Court that the law is unconstitutionally vague as it is enforced.
The California Highway Patrol sets the standards by which traffic laws are enforced by all law enforcement officers in the State of California. Yet in the CHP policy manuals and in Quig's wonderful interrogation of the various CHP officers who have given him helmet citations, he has demonstrated that the CHP has been laboring under a number of fundamental misunderstandings which render the law unconstitutional as it is enforced. One example is that the CHP policy manuals instruct law enforcement that it is only "DOT approved helmets" which are legal; but as Quig is quick to point out, there are no DOT approved helmets; the Department of Transportation doesn't "approve" helmets. Manufacturers certify helmets as in compliance with DOT standards. The manufacturers are required to affix the DOT certification to the helmet, but there is no law that requires that the biker must maintain the certification on the helmet. So the absence of the manufacturer's certification of itself cannot form the basis for citation. The CHP policy manual also permits the officers to make judgments about whether the helmets appear to meet minimum specifications, but as Quig points out, that is way beyond the education, training or expertise of a CHP officer.
Of course Quig is right, but all too often what is right gets lost in our Court system particularly when to find a man like Quig right means rendering a law enacted by our California legislature toothless. But Quig had the wonderful good fortune to find himself before a truly courageous Judge, Michael Barton, who I think both tolerates and admires Quig's quick witted and sometimes outrageous courtroom personality. In August Judge Barton threw out 10 helmet citations and then I believe he also threw out the remaining 2 of a total of around 40 or so that Quig has received over the past 15 years; however, this time on the grounds that the California helmet law, as enforced by the CHP is unconstitutionally vague.
At the hearing, as Judge Barton was giving his tentative ruling, however, Quig made plain that he wouldn't be satisfied with just the dismissal of his tickets. He wanted a ruling that would extend statewide, to all other California bikers.
As of the last time I spoke with Quig, he had just filed a brief asking Judge Barton to issue an injunction ordering the CHP and all related law enforcement agencies to cease and desist issuing helmet citations statewide; and he was confident that the Judge would issue the injunction. Quig also described how the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the State of California had called him at home the night before our conversation, and that Quig told him that he'd be smart to distance himself from the CHP and refuse to defend them.
My impression as a California attorney is that Quig may very well be right that the Judge might actually order the statewide injunction. In part, my confidence stems from the fact that a statewide injunction would be a natural extension of the findings of fact and law that led him to rule the law unconstitutional as enforced by the CHP in the Quigley matters, particularly given that these dismissals were based upon the vagueness of the statewide CHP policies. I am also encouraged because it appears that Judge Barton, following the August hearing, had made efforts to attempt to assure that the helmet law would not be enforced in Santa Cruz County. Significantly, the Santa Cruz Superior Court Calendar Judge immediately began assigning all helmet citations arising in the County to Judge Barton's courtroom, where Judge Barton, based on his previous decisions in the Quigley matter, could dismisses them. Unfortunately, in California there is a procedure whereby any party to litigation can "ding" one judge, simply by filing an "affidavit of prejudice." The Santa Cruz prosecutor began filing "affidavits of prejudice" against Judge Barton. I personally have never seen a judge try to hold onto a case after an affidavit of prejudice has been timely filed. But here, after the Santa Cruz prosecutors started filing the affidavits of prejudice against him, Judge Barton at least initially rejected them. According to my most recent conversation with Quig, the Judge is no longer rejecting the affidavits of prejudice, possibly because of arguments presented in subsequent cases. The important point is that Judge Barton did what he could immediately to extend Quig's ruling to apply County-wide in Santa Cruz, so there is every reason to expect that he will grant the injunction restraining the CHP and related California law enforcement agencies statewide from writing any further helmet law citations.
Assuming that Judge Barton issues the injunction, at that point the CHP and California Attorney General will be presented with the question whether they will appeal it. If they do, it will go first to our California intermediate appellate court, and then possibly to our Supreme Court. There is a good possibility that the appellate courts will uphold the injunction, and the reason this is true is that Quig has laid such a good evidentiary record in the lower court with regard to the confusion in the CHP policies and confusion of the CHP officers as to what our helmet law means and how to enforce it.
Richard Quigley is a Living American Biker Folk Hero!
The question is whether Quig will live to see the injunction issued and the day when bikers statewide will be taking to the streets and highways free to chose whether to wear helmets and what kind of helmet to wear.
Quig can ride now with his head covered only by his trademark baseball cap or with his hair in the wind. Indeed he invited me to come up and ride with him, and I will be taking him up on his offer in a couple of weeks.
Quig is dying. He has stage 4 lymphoma. He was told a year ago that he had only 6 months to live. He told me that he figures that he may have time left sufficient to see the injunction issue, but he doesn't believe he will see Winter.
Quig's life is good now, in the sense that he can ride free; but it is hard too. He finds himself having to juggle his medical bills on the one hand and the costs associated with litigation on the other. Every hearing transcript costs him several hundred dollars, and he will face mounting legal costs in the next few months at the same time he may suffer mounting medical expenses.
Bruce Arnold, the founding moderator of "Bruce and Ray's Biker Forum," at LDRLongDistanceRiders, received a request from a bikers rights organization asking that we consider posting a request that donations be sent along to Quig to help him pursue this important litigation at a time when his medical costs are also a substantial burden upon his modest wealth. Since Bruce was aware that I had been communicating with Quig about the litigation, he asked me to ask Quig whether he had authorized this request for donations on his behalf. I will tell you that Quig is a proud man, as proud a man as any of us, but the fact is that he could use our help. The thing is, if it were only his life expenses and medicine he could handle things fine. It is just that he has this ambition to establish this Constitutional precedent striking down this helmet law for the benefit of the rest of us. It isn't for him. He already rides free. The CHP and local police know better than to give Quig a ticket, and if they were ever to give him one, he knows that all he would have to do is walk it into Judge Barton to get it dismissed. He's doing this for us. For all of us. Wherever we ride. Nationwide. He is our inspiration. And he will remain so long past the time when he ceases to incur further medical expense.
Each of us has the opportunity to contribute to the achievement of the ultimate Lone Biker's greatest legal journey. We have an opportunity to participate in history in the making. We have an opportunity to contribute to the making of this American Biker Folk Hero during his lifetime so that we can feel a part of the great accomplishment he will achieve, and which will be remembered long after his death.
Mr. Quigley has authorized me to print the foregoing on his behalf. We would never consider doing so without Quig's prior consent. And he consented also to our providing his address so that you may contribute to this worthy cause. We urge you to please consider contributing.
Mr. Quigley's address is as follows:
[Quig Passed Away, A Great Loss to our Biker Rights Community]
I will be taking Quig up on his offer to show me around Santa Cruz "bareheaded," probably a couple of weeks from now. I hope by then that I will have more to report about his case.