Deborah J. La Fetra

Senior Attorney

Sacramento

Debbie grew up in an economically-striving lower-middle class family and was the first to get a college degree. Watching and learning from her exceptionally hard-working father, and with the support of the rest of her family, Debbie pushed herself in school and started working as soon as she was able – she’s been paying taxes since the age of 14. She graduated Claremont McKenna College in 1987 with honors and a double-major of political science and history, with a minor in literature. She graduated from the Law Center at the University of Southern California and continued working through all her years of higher education.

Self-reliant and an advocate for libertarian and conservative principles, Debbie couldn’t believe her good fortune in landing a clerkship with PLF in 1989 and coming aboard as an attorney in 1990. In her more than 25 years with the Foundation, Debbie has litigated in virtually all of its subject areas, with special emphasis on First Amendment litigation and matters that affect free enterprise and economic liberty. An expert in these areas, she has published half a dozen law review articles, including Kick It Up a Notch: First Amendment Protection for Commercial Speech, 54 Case Western Res. L. Rev. 1205 (2004), and Freedom, Responsibility and Risk: Fundamental Premises of Tort Reform, 36 Ind. L. Rev. 645 (2003). She is licensed to practice in California, Arizona, various federal district and circuit courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

Debbie is PLF’s original telecommuter. She was an early adopter who started working from her Sunnyvale, California, home in 1993 – using DOS and a 48,800bps modem. Since then, she has furthered the cause of liberty and constitutional government while, alongside her husband, raising and homeschooling two children (the eldest now off to college).

Debbie grew up in an economically-striving lower-middle class family and was the first to get a college degree. Watching and learning from her exceptionally hard-working father, and with the support of the rest of her family, Debbie pushed herself in school and started working as soon as she was able – she’s been paying taxes since the age of 14. She graduated Claremont McKenna College in 1987 with honors and a double-major of political science and history, with a minor in literature. She graduated from the Law Center at the University of Southern California and continued working through all her years of higher education.

Self-reliant and an advocate for libertarian and conservative principles, Debbie couldn’t believe her good fortune in landing a clerkship with PLF in 1989 and coming aboard as an attorney in 1990. In her more than 25 years with the Foundation, Debbie has litigated in virtually all of its subject areas, with special emphasis on First Amendment litigation and matters that affect free enterprise and economic liberty. An expert in these areas, she has published half a dozen law review articles, including Kick It Up a Notch: First Amendment Protection for Commercial Speech, 54 Case Western Res. L. Rev. 1205 (2004), and Freedom, Responsibility and Risk: Fundamental Premises of Tort Reform, 36 Ind. L. Rev. 645 (2003). She is licensed to practice in California, Arizona, various federal district and circuit courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

Debbie is PLF’s original telecommuter. She was an early adopter who started working from her Sunnyvale, California, home in 1993 – using DOS and a 48,800bps modem. Since then, she has furthered the cause of liberty and constitutional government while, alongside her husband, raising and homeschooling two children (the eldest now off to college).

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Personal Liberties

Rentberry v. City of Seattle

Seattle’s unconstitutional rent-bidding law blocks innovation, free speech

Rentberry is a small San Francisco-based startup that connects landlords and renters through a rent-bidding website. The company hopes to expand its service to Seattle, however city council adopted a one-year moratorium on the service over concerns it might violate existing rental law and might inflate housing costs—despite no evidence that either is true. Pacific Legal Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Rentberry, arguing the moratorium prohibits free speech rights of Rentberry, as well as the landlords and renters who would like to use such sites to communicate.

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Property Rights

616 Croft Ave., LLC v. City of West Hollywood, California

In West Hollywood, new homes = government license to steal

Shelah and Jonathan Lehrer-Graiwer became victims of government extortion in West Hollywood, California over new condos. A city ordinance purports to address an affordable housing problem by demanding builders either sell a percentage of new homes at below-market rates or pay hefty “affordable housing” fees. Our clients were squeezed for $500,000. Two previous PLF Supreme Court wins determined such “inclusionary zoning” policies without clear public need are unconstitutional. PLF will argue this license to steal is no exception.

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Procedural Guarantees

Garrett v. City of New Orleans

New Orleans takes a wrecking ball to a couple’s constitutional rights

David and Lourdes Garrett had ambitious plans to renovate a dilapidated townhouse that they bought from the City of New Orleans. But their dream turned into a nightmare when—barely four months after they purchased the building—the city suddenly sent a wrecking crew and demolished it. The Garretts were stunned. They had been given no notice—and they didn’t receive a penny in compensation. A federal district court dismissed claims the city violated their due process, just compensation, and Fourth Amendment rights. PLF is appealing in federal circuit court.

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Victory for First Amendment Freedom

Political speech is the most protected type of speech in the country — including in the most restricted space in American civic life — a polling place. Today, in Minnesota … ›

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

A gift? You shouldn’t have!

Public employee unions and sympathetic legislatures in many states have combined to perpetuate union power. One way they do this is by getting government employers – like a school district … ›

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

A due process right to a refund

If a state illegally taxes you, and you successfully sue to recover the money, does the state have to refund the taxes? Oddly enough, the answer to this question may … ›

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

A victory for freedom of contract

In the federal statute heavyweight championship bout between the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and the New Deal’s 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Supreme Court today declared a winner: The Federal Arbitration Act by a knockout!

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Should federal courts defer to federal agencies interpreting *state* law?

“Critical access hospitals” in rural Kentucky serve indigent patients in isolated areas of the state. To help these cash-strapped facilities remain open and provide healthcare to underserved populations, Congress enacted … ›

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Inching closer to freeing workers from compulsory unionism

This morning, I attended oral argument in Janus v. AFSCME, the case that will decide whether to overrule the 41-year old case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and … ›

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