Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

El Rio Community School — A Gentrification-Enabling Charter In Highland Park — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

Yes, this post is about another CPRA petition. If you don’t want to read through the reams of nonsense to get to the goods, here is a direct link to that petition!

Charter schools in Los Angeles1 serve a variety of social functions. There are white savior charter schools which operate in majority black/brown neighborhoods and seem to mostly consist of real estate and tax scams thinly overlain with implausible social justice rhetoric and toxic moral complacency. The Accelerated Schools are a paradigmatic example of this variety. There are zillionaire-serving schools, which play essentially the same role in 21st Century Los Angeles as segregation academies did in their day. Pali High and Granada Hills Charter High are good examples of this sort.

And then there are gentrification-enabling charters.2 Once the gentrification of a neighborhood has moved past the edgy urban pioneer stage and the pre-existing residents have been pacified to a sufficient extent, young families start to move in. Or the original edgies get smoothed down a little and start having kids. All these new arrivals need schools to send their kids to, and the neighborhood public schools generally won’t do for all the obvious reasons. The same reasons that the so-called legacy bars and restaurants won’t do.

The gentrification process requires new establishments with craft cocktails and $37 nitro cold brew lynx poop coffee drinks to satisfy the settlers, and the equivalent replacements for neighborhood public schools. Charters are an ideal (and recognized) way to fill this need, given that they can be relatively easily started from scratch and the kids of the soon-to-be-displaced so-called legacy residents relatively easily excluded. And they can be spiffed up with all kinds of shiny hipster-appealing educational baubles, like e.g. Waldorf or Montessori.3

And of course Highland Park has been and is one of the most gentrificationally contested neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And the gentrification bars are there in force. And the coffee. And now, therefore, it is time for the gentrification charters to move in. Which brings us to the subject of today’s post, that is El Rio Community School, a Waldorf charter establishment approved by LAUSD last year and set to open in Highland Park in the Fall of 2020.

This school is in the intersection of three of my favorite subjects to investigate via the California Public Records Act,4 so when I first learned about it I immediately sent the supreme commander, Dr. Katie Chau, a request for the usual array of records. And ten days later Dr. Chau responded with a cryptic note that read: “Thank you for your email. El Rio Community School is authorized by LAUSD to operate a charter school in 2020, but the school hasn’t even opened yet. We don’t have any public records.”
Continue reading El Rio Community School — A Gentrification-Enabling Charter In Highland Park — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

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PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

In January 2019 I started investigating Los Angeles charter schools using the California Public Records Act and immediately ran into the typical block-headed obstructionism so beloved of CPRA-subject public agencies. I got some pretty interesting material early on, when I was still focusing on how charters reacted to the UTLA strike. As I began to understand the issues better I started looking into co-locations in general and learned, e.g., a lot of important stuff about GANAS academy.

This material ultimately helped to some extent supporters of their co-location target, Catskill Elementary School, fight off their co-location attempt, which really started to show me the utility of the CPRA not just to scholars and journalists, but to anti-charter activists as well. But things really took off in June 2019 when I received a massive release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools containing explosive correspondence with the California Charter Schools Association.

These documents revealed, among many, many other things, that LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner allowed CCSA lobbyists to vet and edit an advance copy of his first major policy speech. That board member Nick Melvoin asked CCSA lobbyists to write a board resolution for him that would facilitate charters expanding control over LAUSD facilities. That Melvoin shared confidential legal information with CCSA while they were actively suing the District.

That former Board member and now convicted felon Ref Rodriguez also allowed CCSA lobbyists to edit and vet at least one Board resolution. That CCSA intended to put all California students in charter schools by 2030. Revelations from this material were widely covered in the press, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere. The ramifications of these revelations are still unfolding even now, more than six months later.
Continue reading PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

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Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!

Last summer it was revealed that LAPD officers participated in various secretive vigilante anti-homeless Facebook groups. Stories ran in the press and LAPD Chief Michel Moore banned his officers from participating. At the time I was investigating the story through Public Records Act requests to various City departments, including all San Fernando Valley Council Districts.

Most of them complied, albeit reluctantly and with the usual idiotic foot-dragging obstructionism, but Council District 7, repped by Monica Rodriguez, actually just completely stopped communicating with me after some point. This is a typical tactic in the City of Los Angeles,1 and the only recourse provided by the law is to file a lawsuit seeking to compel compliance. So on Friday, January 17, 2020, assisted by fabulous and heroic attorneys Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill, that’s just what I did! Here’s a copy of the petition, and read on for transcribed excerpts!
Continue reading Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!

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North Figueroa Association — AKA Highland Park BID — And Lincoln Heights BID — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — After I Exposed Their Mural Erasures — And Social Media Stalking — And Attacks On Street Vendors — In 2018 They Lawyered Up — And Stopped Complying With The Law — Apparently Litigation Is The Only Way To Get These Outlaws To Comply With Their Damn Obligations

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our old friends at the Highland Park BID but that’s certainly not because I lost interest in them! You’ll recall that in early 2018 they released a really rich set of emails in response to some requests made under the California Public Records Act. These records revealed, among other things, the BID’s complicity in the ongoing hurricane-force gentrification of Highland Park, using tactics like mural erasure and harassment of street vendors. The emails also showed the BID’s creepy Facebook stalking of local antigentrification activists, coordinated with weirdo CD1 staffer Bill Cody.

The Highland Park BID’s executive director, Misty Iwatsu, is also the ED of the Lincoln Heights BID.1 Lincoln Heights isn’t as under the gentrification gun as Highland Park, but it’s going to be very soon. So in May 2018 I sent some CPRA requests to the LHBID, seeking to understand their role in changing the neighborhood and also to understand their BID renewal process, which was just beginning. But by the middle of that month Iwatsu’s two BIDs had evidently had their damn fill of transparency.2 They hired ritzy Manhattan Beach lawyer Mark Abramson, who on their behalf immediately stopped complying with the CPRA.

And as usual I spent some time trying to convince the guy to straighten up and follow the law, but he simply would not do it. The previously smooth flow of records ceased. Abramson announced vague far-in-the-future deadlines for production and then blew through them, sent corrupted files and denied they were corrupted, and all the usual tactics that obstructionist agencies rely on. At some point it became clear that no one at either of these BIDs was planning to comply with the law, so on Monday, January 13, 2020, I filed a petition in L.A. County Superior Court asking the judge to compel them.

The public interest in accessing this material is huge even apart from the general public interest in having public agencies comply with the Public Records Act. The BID’s role in mural erasure was covered in L.A. Magazine and The Boulevard Sentinel and local activists Restorative Justice for the Arts have organized in opposition. The Lincoln Heights BID is actually involved somehow in the planned gentrification of that neighborhood, which has also been covered in the press. And in the 18 months since the BIDs stopped complying we’ve been kept in the dark about whatever else these publicly funded entities are getting up to. This cannot be allowed to continue! Read on for selections from the petition!
Continue reading North Figueroa Association — AKA Highland Park BID — And Lincoln Heights BID — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — After I Exposed Their Mural Erasures — And Social Media Stalking — And Attacks On Street Vendors — In 2018 They Lawyered Up — And Stopped Complying With The Law — Apparently Litigation Is The Only Way To Get These Outlaws To Comply With Their Damn Obligations

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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here

This is just a short post to update you on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation‘s pending California Public Records Act petition against the City of Los Angeles. The petition was filed in September, and you can read about it some detail here. The short version is that the City put out a request for proposals for some housing stuff. AHF’s response was rejected. Subsequently AHF submitted a CPRA request asking for fifteen distinct categories of records related to the RFP process.1

One part of the request was for the other responses to the RFP. The others had to do with communications regarding the RFP, names, resumes, and conflicts of interests of the people who scored the responses, and so on. And the City denied the request with a characteristically terse non-sequitur, stating that: “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”

The City of Los Angeles, you may recall, fights very, very few CPRA petitions filed against it. Between 2016 and early 2019 they settled nine out of at least ten cases.2 I myself have filed eight cases against the City since last year and they’ve settled three of them, agreed to settle three others, and two are just beginning. But they’re not settling this one, or at least they’re buying some time before they do settle.3

And therefore on Monday, January 6, 2020, the City filed this answer to the petition. Answers in civil litigation can be notoriously devoid of content, and this one’s pretty much in line with that trend, what with the “to the extent that anything the petitioner said makes any sense respondent the City of Los Angeles denies it” and other such circumlocutions. But Bethelwel Wilson, the Deputy City Attorney who’s staffing the case, did include a couple fragments of substantial argument. In the first place, quoth Wilson:
Continue reading The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here

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Annals Of Police Misconduct And The Public Records Request – The Painfully Detailed Story Of SB1421 And The Los Angeles World Airport Police Department – Almost A Year Of Block-Headed Pointless Resource-Wasting Obstructionism – Delay – Lies – And So On – Even More Evidence That This City Badly Needs A Working CPRA Policy – Also Included – Instructions On How You Can Receive – By Mail Even – As Many Free USB Drives As You Want From The City Of Los Angeles

Wonder what this lovely aerial photograph of LAX has to do with the fact that SB1421 required California police departments to release certain records relating to police misconduct? Without the passage of that law in 2018 I would never have received this image. What’s the story? Read on, friends!
On January 1, 2019, Senator Nancy Skinner‘s monumental police accountability law, known as SB1421, went into effect, requiring police agencies in California to release detailed records of investigations of certain kinds of officer misconduct that had previously been exempt from production via the California Public Records Act. People immediately requested all newly available records from every police agency possible, police unions sued in vain to stop the law from taking effect, and one year into the new era an incredible amount of important and previously secret information has come out.

And even as judges across the state ruled against various attempts to block the law, police departments have developed a vast range of techniques to frustrate requesters by imposing countless obstacles, time-sinks, outrageous charges, and the like. There’s been a lot of discussion of this in the press, of course, the press being immediately affected by such tactics. And open discussion of these tactics is essential for any number of reasons. Just for instance it allows requesters to be able to respond effectively and legislators to be able to identify fixes. And, maybe, just maybe it might shame some of these obstructionist police departments to stop fooling around and follow the damn law.

And that is why today I have for you a detailed account of the ludicrously extreme SB1421 compliance obstruction tactics practiced by the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, told through our email correspondence over the last year! On January 21, 2019 I sent a request to the Airport Police Department (APD, as they call it over there) for all records newly made available through SB1421.1 After about six weeks of delay and nonresponse, I finally got an email from Deputy City Attorney Karen Majovski in which she belatedly acknowledged receipt of my request and also insisted on discussing it with me over the phone under the guise of seeking clarification.
Continue reading Annals Of Police Misconduct And The Public Records Request – The Painfully Detailed Story Of SB1421 And The Los Angeles World Airport Police Department – Almost A Year Of Block-Headed Pointless Resource-Wasting Obstructionism – Delay – Lies – And So On – Even More Evidence That This City Badly Needs A Working CPRA Policy – Also Included – Instructions On How You Can Receive – By Mail Even – As Many Free USB Drives As You Want From The City Of Los Angeles

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Jordan Cunningham – Republican Member Of The California State Assembly From San Luis Obispo – Introduces Monumental Police Misconduct Transparency Bill – AB1599 Would Require Release Of Police Personnel Files Of Officers Accused Of Sexual Assault On Member Of Public When The Officer Resigns Before The Investigation Is Concluded

The legislature is back in session as of yesterday, and all the bills still kicking around from last year must be dealt with soonest. And among these is a gut and amend1 version of AB1599, introduced yesterday by San Luis Obispo Republican Jordan Cunningham. This is a supplement to last year’s blockbuster SB1421, which required the release of a whole range of records relating to police misconduct.

That law has been transformative, even in the face of massive police resistance to its implementation, but it only applies to records of completed investigations, which leaves open the possibility that officers could resign during an investigation and thereby keep records from being released.

Cunningham’s bill closes off that possibility in the specific case of officers accused of sexual assault involving members of the public by making an officer’s personnel records relating to such complaints public in the event that the accused officer resigns prior to the investigation being complete.

It’s possibly interesting that such a radical police misconduct transparency bill is being introduced by a Republican, I guess, although partisan politics in California is full of such superficial contradictions. Cunningham is both a former ADA and has a reputation for promoting law enforcement accountability, two qualities which are often but ought not to be in tension. His reasoning, perfectly sensible and yet apparently very rare among prosecutors, is summed up in this story from last year about his support for another bill in this genre:

“I can tell you as a deputy (district attorney), the last thing you want to do is carry a case forward to a jury not knowing whether you’re going to put a police officer on the stand that has impeachment material in their file that you haven’t gotten access to,” Cunningham said on the floor May 22. “I know a lot of my colleagues on our side of the aisle are nervous about this bill, but I don’t think you should be.”

This bill seems like a good idea, and stay tuned for developments! Meanwhile, here’s a link to the legislative file again, and read on for the legislative analyst’s summary.
Continue reading Jordan Cunningham – Republican Member Of The California State Assembly From San Luis Obispo – Introduces Monumental Police Misconduct Transparency Bill – AB1599 Would Require Release Of Police Personnel Files Of Officers Accused Of Sexual Assault On Member Of Public When The Officer Resigns Before The Investigation Is Concluded

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Emails Between Excelencia Charter Academy Founder Ruben Alonzo And Various Lawyers At Powerhouse Privatizing Law Firm Young Minney Corr – Discussing How To Respond To My Request For Public Records – Reveal Strategies Of Obstruction And Delay – And Hint At A Coordinated Campaign Of Intelligence-Gathering And Investigation Of Me – Including Idiotic Interpretations Of My Motives And My Place Of Employment – Pretty Creepy Stuff On Which To Be Spending Public Money Meant For The Education Of Children – But Not Especially Surprising

In October 2018 I sent a California Public Records Act request for a bunch of emails to Ruben Alonzo, self-proclaimed founder of Excelencia Charter Academy, a creepy co-locating conspiracy currently occupying the Boyle Heights campus of Sunrise Elementary School. And about six weeks later, at the end of November, Alonzo handed over a suprisingly complete set of responsive records. And what important material it turned out to be.

From it we learned about a demand letter that the United Teachers of Los Angeles sent to Excelencia in June 2018 alleging violations of the Brown Act. And about how insidious privateer brigade the California Charter School Association provides free lawyers to charters to help them co-locate on the campuses of actual public schools. And about how charter school operators use all kinds of shenanaganistic financial maneuvers to skim money from the public funds they receive and funnel it into the coffers of their zillionaire sponsors. And about how Ruben Alonzo is a whiny crybaby stalker who hates democracy and freedom.

And not only was all that stuff revealed but Alonzo was kind enough to produce a set of emails between him and a couple of lawyers, Sarah Kollman and Kimberly Rodriguez, from metaphorically mobbed-up charter school law conspiracy Young Minney & Corr advising him on how to respond to my request and giving him apparently illegal suggestions for how to delay my access to the records. I’m exceedingly familiar with the end result of the anti-CPRA machinations of public agencies, but it’s rare, and very interesting, not to mention useful in deciding how to respond and proceed against them, to get a glimpse of the little folks behind the curtain who create the responses sent out over the signatures of their feckless clients.

The emails also include a series of weirdly puerile and self-serving theories on my thoughts about charter schools and my motives for requesting records and related matters, thereby revealing that evidently I myself am an object of investigation and intelligence-sharing1 amongst the local charterites. For instance, in one email to Alonzo, Sarah Kollman says about me that “This guy is a “community organizer” and has made it his mission to harass charter schools across LA.”2 At one point, Ruben Alonzo identifies me in an email to his tech department as “the same blogger who was attacking Sakshi and Ganas.” Which of course is true, see the story here at the tag archive, and isn’t validation nice!

As I said, the story begins with my October 13, 2018 request for access to some of ECA’s emails. It’s really important to provide as specific a description of what one wants as is practicable,3 and here I asked for 2018 and 2019 emails that:
Continue reading Emails Between Excelencia Charter Academy Founder Ruben Alonzo And Various Lawyers At Powerhouse Privatizing Law Firm Young Minney Corr – Discussing How To Respond To My Request For Public Records – Reveal Strategies Of Obstruction And Delay – And Hint At A Coordinated Campaign Of Intelligence-Gathering And Investigation Of Me – Including Idiotic Interpretations Of My Motives And My Place Of Employment – Pretty Creepy Stuff On Which To Be Spending Public Money Meant For The Education Of Children – But Not Especially Surprising

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LAPD Has Over A Million Historical Photos In Its Archives – Going Back Almost A Hundred Years – These Are Public Records So I Asked For Copies – And They Were All Like No Way! – But In 2001 They Shared These With Some Gallery Owners – Who Put Together An Exhibit – Which Is Still Touring The World After All These Years – And They Are Selling Prints For Hundreds Of Dollars – And The Law is Very Clear That Once The City Lets One Person See Them They Must Let All Other People See Them – So Today I Filed Yet Another Lawsuit Seeking To Compel The City To Hand Over The Damn Goods!

LAPD Archival photo of Black Panther Headquarters
Apparent LAPD arrest of a man for masquerading.
Late last year famous local historians and operators of Esotouric Tours Kim Cooper and Richard Schave drew my attention to a collection of more than a million historic crime photos held in the LAPD archives and dating back to the 1920s. In 2001 the LAPD allowed the owners of the Fototeka Gallery to access these photos, copy them, and exhibit and sell prints for outrageously high prices.

The gallery owners also published and sold a book of selected images.1 Since then, though, the LAPD hadn’t let anyone else look at the pictures. Kim and Richard were lamenting the tragic fact that such important historical material had been cherry-picked by so few individuals, when there are many historians whose work would be enhanced by access – and by extension enhancing Angelenos’ understanding of our city.2


And that is really an understatement. Just look at the few examples scattered around this post, which I took from Fototeka’s site. There is an image from an LAPD men’s room spy camera, a picture of the Black Panther Party Headquarters after the shootout, a man apparently arrested for crossdressing, old buildings, many possibly unintentionally artistic closeups. An unimaginable variety.

These pictures could potentially give unprecedented insight into the LAPD’s past treatment of people of color, of LGBTQ people, gender noncomformists, and so on. Architecture, design, daily life. There is no limit to the public interest in seeing these images, in opening up this whole collection to the public. It is appalling that they’re not available to everyone.

Men’s restroom spy camera shot, 1950.

Now, the California Public Records Act is very, very clear that photographs are public records.3 And it’s also very clear that once a public record has been released to one member of the public it can no longer be withheld from any member of the public.4 Clearly, then, I thought, we are going to get access to these photos! So I submitted a request through the City’s NextRequest platform.

Now, the LAPD is famous for its idiotic denials, and their first response was consistent with their reputation. They told me that I couldn’t have them because they are investigative materials and therefore exempt under §6254(f).5 So I told them about the fact that a release to anyone constitutes a waiver and asked them to change their mind.


They ignored me, as they are wont to do, so I wrote to the City Attorney and asked again. And they also ignored me. So I contacted the incomparable attorney Anna von Herrmann and asked her what she thought. And what she thought was that we should file a petition to force the City to release the photos. And that’s what we did, and here is a copy for you! Read on for some selections.
Continue reading LAPD Has Over A Million Historical Photos In Its Archives – Going Back Almost A Hundred Years – These Are Public Records So I Asked For Copies – And They Were All Like No Way! – But In 2001 They Shared These With Some Gallery Owners – Who Put Together An Exhibit – Which Is Still Touring The World After All These Years – And They Are Selling Prints For Hundreds Of Dollars – And The Law is Very Clear That Once The City Lets One Person See Them They Must Let All Other People See Them – So Today I Filed Yet Another Lawsuit Seeking To Compel The City To Hand Over The Damn Goods!

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Metaphorically Mobbed-Up Charter School Lawyer Erica Klein Loses Her Mind In Response To My Request For Public Records – The Six Month – So Far! – Saga Revealed Here In All Its Mind-Numbingly Psychotic Detail! – Name Calling! – Lies! – Weirdo Obstructionism! – Legal Threats – And Ultimately Capitulation!


It’s astonishing to me even after more than five years of dedicated CPRA-ology the literal torrents of microaggressions, macroaggressions, evasions, lies, threats of retaliatory litigation, illegal demands for payment, and so on, that public agencies will unleash on unsuspecting citizens who try use the California Public Records Act to understand and influence these putatively public-serving offices, created by popular will to serve the needs of the people of California.

Their nuclear skunk-spray defense tactics are really successful against unsuspecting, unprepared, inexperienced requesters. So occasionally, in furtherance of my goal of empowering Angelenos1 to be able to use the CPRA as the exceedingly powerful tool of activism that it potentially is, I like to tell stories of my own experiences to expose, mock, and troll the bad actors, demystify and defang their tactics, and build solidarity among requesters.2 To remind you that you’re not alone and that when they’re screaming at you, threatening you, insulting you, aggressively billing you for zillions of dollars, you still have a constitutional right to get the damn records at no charge.3

And today, friends, do I have one heck of a story for you! Encompassing in a single episode an extraordinarily broad variety of popular obstruction tactics! With the added attraction of a LOL-U-mad-bro moment in which opposition lawyer Erica Klein, name partner of metaphorically mobbed-up charter law shyster conspiracy Hansberger & Klein, totally lost her already minuscule supply of what apparently passes for cool among the charter law conspiracy circles in which she moves, revealed in an extraordinarily explicit series of batshit psychotic emails!
Continue reading Metaphorically Mobbed-Up Charter School Lawyer Erica Klein Loses Her Mind In Response To My Request For Public Records – The Six Month – So Far! – Saga Revealed Here In All Its Mind-Numbingly Psychotic Detail! – Name Calling! – Lies! – Weirdo Obstructionism! – Legal Threats – And Ultimately Capitulation!

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