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

Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

U.S. Supreme Court will review Minnesota’s fashion (non)sense

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review our case challenging a Minnesota election law that literally strips free speech rights from the backs of voters. The law bans voters from wearing any “political” apparel at a polling place. This includes any t-shirt, button, or other items that could be construed as political, or even organizations that take political positions such as the AFL-CIO or NRA. Voters who don’t cover or remove the apparel could face prosecution and fines of up to $5,000. The high court will likely hear the case in the spring.

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Personal Liberties

Shock v. City of Seattle, Washington

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 as a “wealth tax,” the City’s income tax punishes achievement and success, while threatening poor and middle class families who could later fall subject to new city, county, and state taxes if Seattle’s gambit succeeds. PLF represents Seattle residents in a lawsuit challenging the city’s knowing violation of the state constitution.

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Personal Liberties

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. Plaintiffs are providers alleging that the law violates their First Amendment rights to refrain from speaking or associating with the union. Lower courts upheld the law and the providers are petitioning for a writ of certiorari. PLF supports the petition because Americans cannot be compelled to speak or associate, or petition the government, against their wishes.

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

One step closer to protecting workers’ rights

After 40 years of garnishing worker paychecks under the authority of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the coercion must end. It’s about time the unions started thinking about how to offer value to workers.

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

A tax by any other name….

In Biggs v Betlatch, the Arizona Supreme Court will decide whether a Medicaid expansion tax is, in fact, a tax – or whether it is some other kind of non-tax revenue raising device, such as a fee or assessment While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a tax is misidentified as a fee or assessment for only one reason: to avoid the state constitution’s supermajority vote requirement for tax increases In this case, a bare majority of the Arizona Legislature passed a law requiring the state Health Care Cost Containment System to levy an “assessment” on hospitals to pay for Medicaid expansion PLF, joined

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Janus op-ed in the Daily Journal

Today’s Daily Journal celebrates the first day of the new Supreme Court Term by publishing an array of op-eds on pending cases, including my own take on Janus v AFCSME That case will decide whether to overrule Abood v Detroit Board of Education, a 40-year old decision that grants to public employee unions an extraordinary benefit available to no other association in the country: the right to steal money from non-members to lobby for their political goals Janus has the potential to restore First Amendment rights to all workers who choose not to support public employee unions A taste:

Abood went wrong when it failed to recognize the inherently political

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Compulsory union subsidies on the chopping block

The First Amendment protects the right to speak and associate as well as the right to refrain from speaking and associating Today the Supreme Court decided to hear the First Amendment case – Janus v AFSCME – that will determine whether non-union public employees must continue to subsidize the very unions they do not want to join or support The only reason these non-union workers have to pay “agency shop fees” to support the union’s collective bargaining and activities is because of an ill-considered 1977 Supreme Court opinion, Abood v Detroit Board of Education That case rejected a First Amendment challenge to forced association with the

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Minnesota Supreme Court abandons limits on tort liability

Last week, in Montemayor v Sebright Products, Inc, a 4-3 majority of the Minnesota Supreme Court held that any “close” tort case must go to a jury

This case involves a tragic accident that led to the serious bodily injury of Nereus Montemeyer as a result of his employer’s misuse of an industrial extruder and its failure to adequately train employees on the equipment’s proper use Montemeyer received workers’ compensation for his injuries and his employer, VZ Hogs, LLP, paid substantial fines for its neglect Montemayor then sued Sebright Products, the manufacturer of the equipment, arguing a variety

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By Deborah J. La Fetra

Liberating workers from compulsory unionism

The very powerful public employee unions in Illinois have long relied on their favored status to garnish wages of workers and “represent” them in politically-fraught negotiations over collective bargaining agreements with the state The unions’ power is so great that state laws allow them to steal wages and purport to speak for workers who are not union members How is this possible? The primary culprit is a 1977 Supreme Court decision called Abood v Detroit Board of Education, which rejected a First Amendment challenge to this forced association with the unions and permits public-employee unions to garnish wages

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