proposed HOA constitutionality bill

“Now is the time for all good homeowner advocate leaders to come to the aid of member-owners”

 living in HOAs and suffering abuse, financial and emotional distress as a result of BODs being  protected by Arizona laws. These abuses are easy to understand and support! (See HOA Common Sense: rejecting private government and The HOA-Land Nation Within America).

A quick and simple — but highly effective — bill that was proposed in March 2011 and will bring relief to homeowners being treated a second-class citizens by state laws in support of the HOA legal scheme. It was ignored by Arizona advocates and dismissed by the Legislature.

“No provision of any contract or any declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions . . . is enforceable in this state unless the party seeking to enforce the provision proves by clear and convincing evidence that 1) the provision being enforced was knowingly and voluntarily agreed to by all parties . . . . Any representation or statement offered as clear and convincing evidence . . . shall include a signed statement containing the following, beginning with “I understand that I can ask that the following be read and explained to my satisfaction.”

So reads an excerpt from my proposed “Truth in HOAs” statute that should be made law in each and every state. That is, if indeed the legislature stands by the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, which we are hearing so much about in the media nowadays.”

The “The Truth in HOAs Act,” as I called  it,  allows each state to modify the proposal in accordance with its state HOA/condo acts — shown in square brackets [].  Also, subsection (3) contains a list of acknowledgements  that can be tailored to each state’s advocate lobbying efforts.  See Arizona Truth in HOAs statute (pvtgov.org).  The essential bill section is contained in subparagraph (4).

Therefore, in reference to subsection 3(d) above, the CC&Rs or Declaration for any planned community, condominium association or homeowners association shall state that, “The association hereby waivers and surrenders any rights or claims it may have, and herewith unconditionally and irrevocably agrees to be bound by the US and State Constitutions and laws of the State as if it were a local public government entity.

 The real estate subdivision or condominium will not be affected by requiring HOAs to join with other forms of local government and be subject to the Constitution as a home rule entity.  See HOAs violate local home rule doctrine and are outlaw governments.

This 2022 legislative session offers a unique, one-time opportunity to get the message across and to educate the legislators. Remaining silent on the issues only plays into the pro-HOA hands of CAI and offers excuses by the media not to cover HOA abuse.  Not only will you find “ammunition” in support of your arguments as contained in the 2 above publications, but also in my Arizona Supreme Court  amicus brief filed and accepted in Tarter v. Bendt (see note (vi) in Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?).

My arguments are summarized in the Commentary.  As is my approach, my arguments are supported by legal authority and hard evidence documents, which CAI ignores and YOU lose!  They must be exposed if the legislators are to be fully informed on the reality of HOA-Land.  As leaders who are internet publishers,  actions speak louder than words!

 

Media’s inexcusable silence on  reporting HOA legal issues

This writing  addresses the failure of the Arizona media, and in general all news media across this country,  to report in-depth on HOA legal developments. In particular, as an example, its failure to cover the Arizona Supreme Court Petition for Review, Tarter v. Bendt (denied).

It was a defamation case brought  by an HOA president dealing with matters of HOA governance. It resulted in a shocking $1,500,000 in damages against a homeowner who criticized the President.  The homeowner raised the issue of the HOA president as a “limited-purpose public figure.” An amicus brief informed the Justices on the larger picture of protected speech in the recognized HOA public forum on matters of HOA governance.

If it were not an HOA case, it surely would have made widespread news.

Most of you probably ever heard of Edward R. Murrow (1940s-60s) newscaster that, the Radio Television Digital News Association has annually awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award to individuals who make outstanding achievements in electronic journalism. Award recipients have included Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel,  Bryant Gumbel, Brian Williams, Katie Couric, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw.

Here are memorable quotes quite meaningful for today’s media who have been silent on reporting HOA reality news.

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

In 2017 I posted a Commentary that focused on the failure of today’s media to uphold its obligation under the 1st Amendment to inform the people. This protected freedom of speech was granted for the above important purpose, a purpose that the media seemed to have forgotten.

“The media of today, especially the local news media . . . seem to be oblivious to important HOA bills before state legislatures. Bills that would affect some 20% [now estimated to be 24% or more] of the people  across the country.

“There have been no in-depth analyses or debates of the HOA legal concept even at the national level, as the spread of HOA-Land is nationwide. The Sunday news talk shows, or by 20-20 and Dateline, are silent. There have been no discussions on whether HOAs, as de facto governments, should by made a government entity. Or whether state legislatures should continue to allow equitable servitude law to supersede contract and constitutional law. Or the lack of debate on the absence of “truth in HOAs” disclosures, similar to truth in lending and truth in advertising.

“Or what is the legitimate government interest to allow private governments to deny the equal application of the laws. Or to allow constructive notice – just take your deed — to bind unsuspecting home buyers to the CC&Rs sight unseen. Apparently there is no need to inform buyers at closing

But the media, with respect to HOA-Land, was silent and did not acknowledge its justification for its silence.  For more information, see my 2017 Commentary at Good night and very good luck – the unspoken media HOA alliance and Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?

 . . . .

 Relevant to this Commentary, Maria Ressa (Filipino-American) just won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021. The Nobel Committee announcement spoke to the role of journalism and its affect on democracy.

 “Ms. Ressa and Rappler [her internet news site] have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. . . . The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public,”

She is also author of How to Stand Up to a Dictator, a story of “how democracy dies by a thousand cuts” (to be released in July 2022).

Can HOA members expect justice in Arizona courts?

“HOA members in Arizona should not expect justice from the courts”

If you are a member of an Arizona HOA/condo, or soon plan to be one, you should pay heed to the above quote made in response to the Arizona Supreme Court’s denial to hear the Bendt appeal petition for review.[i]  In my Commentary, trying to understand the rationale for the denial,

“The homeowner, Bendt, is punished for speaking out, in admittedly harsh terms, [relating to issues of HOA governance]. Yet the judicial system stands by looking at a distance and allowing Trump and his followers to function as vexatious litigants; allowing them to  raise allegations, which are not only laughable but blatantly false under Rule 11, is shameful conduct.[ii]

What message is being sent by this disturbing decision? To the public? To the homeowners in HOAs seeking the equal protection of the laws under the Constitution? To the national lobbying trade group, CAI, who can breathe easy with respect to any challenges to the constitutionality of the HOA legal scheme that  contains denials of fundamental rights and privileges?

Professor Randy Barnett wrote, speaking of justice and judicial legitimacy,

A constitution that lacks adequate procedures to ensure the justice of valid laws is illegitimate even if it was consented to by a majority …. A law may be ‘valid’ because it was produced in accordance with all the procedures required by a particular lawmaking system, [the HOA amendment procedure, for example] but be ‘illegitimate’ because these procedures were inadequate to provide assurances that a law is just.[iii]  

And we must not ignore the effect of precedent on court opinions. Hansford and Spriggs found [that] the doctrine of stare decisis, itself, falls victim to the preferences of the judges. The closer the precedent was to the judges views, the more the precedent would be followed, and vice versa. Additionally, the research found that “the justices are more likely to negatively treat [modify or reject] a precedent they dislike on ideological grounds if that precedent is quite vital [how often cited in support]” by the judges (p. 75).[iv]  Bad HOA laws abound leading to favorable anti-homeowner decisions.

And still we see “Equal justice under the law” emblazoned on the façade of the US Supreme Court building. It contains a major defect, a misleading fallacy,  and a presumption of supreme court infallibility [without error].  Bad laws — unjust laws — will not produce justice for all!  And that is just what we face in the HOA-Land Nation.

I have argued (2009) for a judicial system that adhere to the following:

Before we can decide, we must examine some of the myths and realities of the American judicial system.  First, we have the concept of justice, the very foundation of any judicial system, although some have argued it is to uphold the law.  Philosophically, a judicial system cannot exist in a democracy if it does not uphold justice and correct the wrongs of the past.  In fact the people are told “Equal Justice Under Law”, the motto on the Supreme Court building; “to secure justice”, the commonplace stated purpose of court rules of procedure;   “to establish justice”, the opening purpose in the Preamble to the US Constitution; and we designate the members of the Supreme Court as “justices”. Notice that “to uphold the law” is not included in the above.  This is the argument, along with the insistence on precedent, used by those special interests who favor unjust laws.[v]

. . . .

So, in particular, went is wrong with the AZ  supreme court denial in Bendt?  A lot!

An amicus brief is submitted, and subject to approval by the Court and the parties, to advise the Justices in better understanding the conditions and factors relevant its opinion that it may not be aware of. The following is a summary of arguments presented in my amicus brief[vi] seeking the Court to review the petition in the name of justice for the homeowner, Bendt, and for all other citizens living n Arizona HOAs.

“The Hannaman 2002 study (NJ) was quite frank and revealing describing problems and complaint still in existence some 19 years later in spite of efforts by the self-proclaimed HOA experts and educators, national CAI. “

“[Referring to Nevada Supreme Court in Kosor v. Olympia Companies, 478 P.3d 390 (2020)]. Because we conclude that each of Kosor’s statements was “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public or in a public forum,” we reverse the district court’s decision to the contrary and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

“As our [California] Supreme Court has recognized, owners of planned development units ” ‘comprise a little democratic subsociety . . . .’ ” (citations omitted).” (Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club, 102 Cal. Rptr. 2d 205 (Ct. App. 2000) at “A. Public Forum”).

“Among its findings [South Carolina HOA study committee] were . . . While the Community Association Institute (CAI) and other private entities offer educational resources to homeowners and managers, state government cannot place the sole responsibility of educating homeowners and board members on a private entity.

“Although not presented by the Appellant where three plaintiffs who] are lawyers, and based on claims of false and inexcusable character assassination against Tarter . . . this Court has reasonable suspicion to remand the case for a determination the validity of an anti-slapp motion.

“This Court, or any court, cannot allow a group of individuals or organizations to create a devise in order to escape constitutional protections and enter into a contract, constitutionally valid in all other aspects, to form private local governments whose members remain citizens of this country as well as of their respective states. It, as it stands in regard to HOAs, makes a mockery of the Constitution and our principles of a democratic society.

“The free speech issues of limited-purpose public figure and of HOAs and social media as public forums with respect to political HOA governance issues have been raised and need to be addressed.

“As with Brown [v. Bd of Educ.], America’s culture and environment has changed dramatically from 1964’s Homes Association Handbook and the formation in 1973 of Community Associations Institute (CAI) to deal with rising HOA problems and constitutional concerns after only 9 years. In 1992 CAI dropped its 501(c)3 educational status for 501(c)6 trade organization so it could lobby state legislators.”

I cannot understand the Supreme Court’s denial of Bendt’s petition and the opportunity to rule or to further investigate these issues, by orders or by request to the Legislature — as it has so ordered in the past —  and thereby fulfilling its obligation to defend the Arizona and US Constitutions.  Instead, it seems that the Justices have allowed their opinions to be guided by the prevailing public policy favoring private government HOAs that are independent of the two Constitutions.[vii]

References


[i] See AZ supreme court denies hearing HOA case raising limited-purpose public figure doctrine.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Randy Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution, Princeton Univ. Press, (2004).

[iv] Hansford and Spriggs, The Politics of Precedent on the U.S. Supreme Court, Princeton Univ. Press (2006).

[v] See in general,  HOAs, justice, and judicial myth and precedent.

[vi] Staropoli Amicus brief Tarter  v. Bendt

[vii] See in general, The HOA-Land Nation Within America and Establishing the New America of Independent HOA Principalities.

Explaining HOA member irrationality – the BOD can do no wrong

My concern, since I was a teenager, was how do people make decisions and important choices, and why. It should be generally accepted today that we are facing a lot of harmful irrationality in many aspects of our society. It would seem, addressing the conduct, behavior and choices made by members of HOAs with respect to their HOA, and to the institution of HOAs in general, that the adage “My rationality is your irrationality and vice versa” is at play.  (What you consider rational I consider irrational, and what you consider irrational I consider rational).

My many years of activism in HOA reform legislation and research into this issue led me to the strong belief that the forces and dynamics of cult behavior[1] and authoritarianism[2] were the chief factors in the behavior of HOA members; the majority of whom seem to act in a highly irrational manner that was harmful to their own self-interests – the HOA can do no wrong.

Well, thank goodness Steven Pinker[3] makes some sense of rationality by delving into the functioning of the mind from a cognitive psychologists point of view.[4]  (It’s like trying to explain why the chicken crossed the road). Having a minor in psychology, I describe Pinker’s presentation as rather deep being directed more to  Rationality 201 or even higher, Rationality 301, using college level course structure. The “meat” of his book, for my purposes, comes in Chapter 10, What’s Wrong With People, when he comes down to the level of the average person.

From the very start Pinker makes it clear that the average person does not understand scientific investigation, the mathematics of probability, formal logic analysis, syllogisms, forecasting, etc..  He simply uses his gut feelings, his intuition,  which has always been mankind’s way of thinking.

Summarizing the author’s views, using annotations to simplify his learned arguments,

To be sure, many superstitions originate in overinterpreting coincidences, failing to calibrate evidence against priors, overgeneralizing from anecdotes, and leaping from correlation to causation. [In more common terms, failing to vet the claims or to conduct  due diligence].

Social media may indeed be accelerating their spread, but the [appeal] lies deep in human nature: people . . .  compose these stories, and it’s people they appeal to.

The mustering of [reasons] to drive an argument toward a favorable conclusion is called motivated reasoning. The motive may be to [support] a favorable conclusion, but [also to] flaunt the [other sides] wisdom, knowledge, or virtue.

People seek out arguments that ratify their beliefs and shield themselves from those that might disconfirm them. [Emphasis added].

“A large majority of Americans consider themselves less susceptible to . . .  biases than the average American, and virtually none consider themselves more biased.”

Study the above statements by the author carefully. It should become apparent that they describe the why and how the bulk of HOA members blindly obey their HOA board of directors.  They also explain the cult mentality of and the authoritarian appeal by the members (see Notes below).  It demonstrates that the mindset of the majority of members is believing that their HOA is heaven on earth and the next best thing to Mom’s apple pie; they do not want that belief disturbed and— unconsciously — naturally adopt motivated reasoning to preserve their image of a better community, a better world.

Please understand the difference between a real estate condominium and planned subdivision with its desirable amenities, landscaping, and oversight on contractual violations from the association that is the authoritarian, governing body also commonly referred as the HOA.  The former can be retained under the protection of Constitution now denied to the HOA members.

Applying Pinker’s findings, did the Arizona Supreme Court act irrationally in its denial to review the Tarter v. Bendt Petition[5] filed by the homeowner?

Notes


[1] See Cult behavior within HOA-LandEscaping the HOA cult environmentA Plan Toward Restructuring the HOA Model of Governance.

[2] See HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy and  Authoritarianism in the HOA-Land Nation.

[3] Steven Pinker, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, Viking (2021).

[4] Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of the mind as an information processor. Information processing in humans resembles that in computers, and is based on based on transforming information, storing information and retrieving information from memory. Cognitive Psychology.

[5] See AZ supreme court denies hearing HOA case raising limited-purpose public figure doctrine.

AZ supreme court denies hearing HOA case raising limited-purpose public figure doctrine

The Arizona Supreme Court has denied hearing the Tarter v. Bendt (CV21-0049-PR), a defamation lawsuit brought by an HOA president and attorney.  In general, the Court does not provide any reasons or justifications for its decision and did not provide one. The attorney for Bendt, Lori Voepel, while addressing the legalities of the decisions, raised the  question that Tarter, the HOA president, was a limited-purpose public figure entitling Bendt to additional free speech protections. It is my understanding that Sonia Bendt will be pursing a US Supreme Court appeal.

In my amicus brief I informed the Justices about the real-world functioning and operations of HOAs, and about the biased public policy resulting from the dominance of the national lobbying organization, CAI, and its agenda. I included aspects of public policy  set forth  by the Arizona pro-HOA legislature, judges in their decisions and opinions, and the silence of the media to inform the public as to this reality.  I had hoped that the case would be remanded for consideration of the role of the HOA president, since the complaint concerned acts and conduct by Tarter in his capacity as HOA president.

In my amicus brief (an advisory filing as a “friend of the court”) I painted a broad picture of HOAs as public forums with protected free speech concerning questions of HOA governance. A favorable decision would have prohibited HOA boards of directors from restricting member criticisms and allowing “opposition parties” equal access to the same means and vehicles that the BOD uses; namely, the HOA magazine, email distribution, use of facilities for meetings and “townhalls,” to name a few.

I am very disappointed in the Arizona Justices.  Permitting an outlandish financial damages and adding  punitive damages of $1,000,000 and $500,000 in compensatory damages is outrageous and not warranted by the evidence or by the HOA legal scheme. An opportunity to protect citizens living in HOAs from second class citizenship was ignored! Have they forgotten the 8th Amendment prohibitions: “nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”? OH, HOAS are not public bodies!

The homeowner, Bendt, is punished for speaking out in admittedly harsh terms. Yet the judicial system stands by looking at a distance and allowing Trump and his followers to function as vexatious litigants. Allowing them to  raise allegations, which are not only laughable but blatantly false under Rule 11, is shameful conduct.  “No negatives about HOAs shall be allowed” seems to be the Court’s policy.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” No, something is rotten in the state of Arizona!