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).

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 eithe ...

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

Victory for Free Speech! U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects political self-expression

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a polling-place dress code in Minnesota, upholding free speech rights across the nation and protecting the right of Americans to peacefully express their political views at the polls. PLF represented Minnesota voters, including Andy Cilek, who showed up at his polling place wearing a t-shirt that read “Don& ...

Kunath v. City of Seattle

Seattle imposes arbitrary and unconstitutional tax on achievement

The Washington State Constitution prohibits the government from levying an income tax on targeted segments of the population; any income tax must be uniformly applied to all citizens. Nonetheless, Seattle enacted an income tax targeting those making in excess of $250,000 per year with a 2.25% tax rate, setting a 0% rate for everyone else. Promoted ...

Hill v. Service Employees International Union

Liberating workers from compulsory unionism

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act deems home healthcare and childcare providers who receive state subsidies to be “public employees” and requires a union to be the providers’ exclusive representative for bargaining with (e.g., lobbying) the state over regulations and policies related to the state care-services programs. Plai ...

Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31

Forced subsidization of unions violates First Amendment

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act authorized public employee unions to collect “fair share” or “agency shop” fees from nonmember employees. Allowed under the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Illinois law allowed the AFSCME union to steal $535 per year from Mark Janus and every non ...

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 fo ...

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