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Asked & Answered

A&A is a searchable database of questions posed by users like you about their rights under open government laws and First Amendment safeguards that have been answered by FAC’s attorneys—all First Amendment and government access specialists at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, an international law firm with offices in San Francisco.

A&A: What recourse do individuals with disabilities have to access land use proposals during COVID-19?

SUBMITTED | APRIL 15, 2020 Q: Across California and in my backyard developers are putting in plans, and cities have been starting public comment time clocks without the public’s ability to assemble and easily read the documents. This is especially true for those whoa re disabled, without internet access or who don’t have the skill to load and read hundreds of pages of small print documents and drawings on the internet. Per the 2015 census, homeownership over age of 55 is more than the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s in total. The same for homeowners over 65. However many cities in

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A&A: The public is severely limited in county meeting participation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is this a Brown Act violation?

SUBMITTED | APRIL 20, 2020 Q: I am writing on behalf of many people in my community who believe that county government is violating the COVID-19 shelter-in-place directives of California Gov. Newsom and the local county Health officer, and the intent of the Brown Act. We seek any help, resources, or pressure you can provide to remedy the problem, as quickly as possible. Many of us have requested in writing and in phone-in comments that the county stop all nonessential planning review until the COVID-19 SIPs are lifted. The county has ignored these complaints stating they are “in compliance” with

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A&A: Has the public comment requirement changed due to Gov. Newsom’s executive order amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

SUBMITTED | MAY 5, 2020 Q: Has the public comment requirement (Gov. Code, § 54954.3 subd. (a).) changed after Governor Newsom’s executive order? A: In March, Governor Newsom issued executive orders N-25-20 and N-29-20, which temporarily suspended any Brown Act requirements “expressly or impliedly requiring the physical presence of members, the clerk or other personnel of the body, or of the public as a condition of participation in or quorum for a public meeting” during the COVID-19 crisis. Order N-29-20 also states:  “A local . . . body . . . that holds a meeting via teleconferencing and allows members of the public to observe and address the meeting

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A&A: Can I sue New York City for restricting my religious freedom during the coronavirus pandemic?

SUBMITTED | JULY 9, 2020 Q: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, churches and church members have been banned far too long from practicing their religious beliefs. I had to cancel my wedding. I had to cancel my daughter’s baptism. It was of great importance to my family since we were naming her after my 95-year-old grandmother. A day to honor my grandmother and bless my child. We no longer have the right to do this in New York City. The mayor has given the privilege to violent protestors and criminals over the lawful citizen and has openly told us we don’t

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A&A: Is it a Brown Act violation to hold a virtual meeting without telephone access for those without the internet?

Q: Our County held an online public meeting as required by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), but failed to provide a phone number for anyone who might not have online access. Is this a Brown Act violation? A: In March, California Governor Newsom issued executive orders N-25-20 and N-29-20, which temporarily suspend any Brown Act requirements “expressly or impliedly requiring the physical presence of members, the clerk or other personnel of the body, or of the public as a condition of participation in or quorum for a public meeting” during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, Order N-29-20 states:  “A local . . . body . . . that

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A&A: What can be done about the California Legislature keeping the public out of the Capitol during COVID-19 pandemic?

SUBMITTED | MAY 5, 2020 Q: The Legislature reopened May 4 and bills are being discussed, amended, and voted on with zero public allowed in the Capitol or to meet with their representatives. I want to put them on notice that they cannot do this. I also want to discuss whether using 18USC S242; 18USC S245; and 42USC S1983 is possible to tell them they are acting outside the scope of law and will be personally liable for damages. California’s governor has abused his power for seven weeks and now the Legislature is helping it continue. The people were never

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