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Sins of Commission » Blog Archive » California Documentary Filmmaker Faces Censorship Challange from California Coastal Commission
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California Documentary Filmmaker Faces Censorship Challange from California Coastal Commission



SINS OF COMMISSION, an award winning documentary film by Southern California filmmaker Richard Oshen, is facing legal action by the California Coastal Commission, which has in fact just served Mr. Oshen with a subpoena in order to obtain a copy of the film.

The revealing expose follows ordinary citizens who have come up against the unelected Commission’s autocratic actions wielded, surprisingly, without accountability or oversight.

The California Coastal Commission may try to silence the film because it reveals strong links between California’s increasingly catastrophic wildfires and the Coastal Commission’s prohibition of critical brush clearance.

-Richard Oshen,writer, director, SINS OF COMMISSION

SINS OF COMMISSION examines decades of the Commission’s land use policies and questions how a government body could and, indeed did, unilaterally extend its jurisdiction from 1000 yards landward of the coastline to 5 miles inland.

No matter what your politics, this isn’t America if a quasi-governmental body is going to dictate whether you have the right to see a film. This is a very chilling development, and does not bode well for documentary filmmakers or freedom of speech.

SINS OF COMMISSION is ” a work in progress”. For a governmental body to demand a work print is like asking a journalist for their notes, or an author for a copy of their book before publication.

To think, if the government doesn’t like what the see or read - they could issue an injunction and prevent a story from getting out is scary… very scary.

-Richard Oshen,writer, director SINS OF COMMISSION

Scores of California families and individual landowners have been required to forfeit their constitutional and property rights as a condition for residential development, and in many cases, to avoid arrest and fines reaching the millions.

Help support freedom of speech for all films.

I will vigorously defend SINS OF COMMISSION. This is an out-and-out assault on FREEDOM OF SPEECH and the future of all expose documentary films hangs in the balance.

I urgently need your help. SINS OF COMMISSION is a fiscally sponsored by the International Documentary Association, a 501 c3 non profit organization. Support SINS OF COMMISSION, freedom of speech, documentary film making, and the International Documentary Association all in one fell swoop.

For more information please contact me at:

Thank you,

Richard Oshen

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34 Responses to “California Documentary Filmmaker Faces Censorship Challange from California Coastal Commission”

  1. Paul O Says:

    I was very moved by your trailer and want to see the film. Does Al Gore or other environmentalist/activists know about it?

  2. admin Says:


    Thank you for your note. Wish I knew how to get it to him.

    Real scientists would be very upset knowing how CCC uses environmentalism as its calling card to ransack people’s rights. Neither environmental protection nor constitutional rights need be at odds. They both need each other. The Liberty Tree was a famous elm tree that stood in Boston near Boston Common. In the days before the American Revolution, the tree was a rallying point for the growing resistance to the English monarchy’s rule over the American colonies.

    In the years that followed, almost every American town had its own Liberty Tree—a living symbol of popular support for individual liberty and resistance to tyranny.

    Individual liberty is at stake in America…. and property rights is at the very core of the issue.

    Take away people’s land and we’re back to a feudal system of lords and serfs…or is that the plan?

  3. Francis Drouillard Says:

    I see Mr. Oshen remains delusional. Seeking a copy of the film is hardly censorship.

    Perhaps Mr. Oshen is more concerned that the Commission will expose his lies. That shouldn’t be too hard for anyone armed with the facts.

  4. Brian Ginna Says:

    Mr. Drouillard,

    Have you seen the film? Wait, I will answer that for you - no, you have not. So any “lies” are yours and yours alone. Poor guy.

  5. Terry Gossett Says:

    You may raise a ruckus on a blog in Half Moon Bay until the editor of the newspaper shuts down the topic. That appears to be your style. Go to and read all about your past attempts. I know your type. How is that working for you so far?
    Let me pose this question– If you got a knock on the door from the Attorney General of CA and they requested all audio and/or video of yourself on your property what would you do? I would follow the law, but Question Authority.

  6. Jim Larimer Says:

    The suppression of free speech through intimidating legal efforts such as serving a filmmaker with a subpoena and demanding a copy of a film… and additionally requesting all of the production records and film clips used to make it is a chilling example of the overreaching abuse of power by an agency of government.

    This story needs to be told to the largest possible audience. It appears that another chapter in the Sins story is being written.

  7. Benjamin Wood Says:

    As I see it, the film is clearly identified as “a work in progress”. That means it is a “work print”. That disclaimer means the film is not final, the filmmaker acknowledges this, but went with the best available information at that time.

    To my knowledge subpoenaing a work print has never been done before. This is what makes the commission’s demand a very important freedom of speech issue with chilling repercussions for all filmmakers.

    What if the government requested a work print of CITIZEN KANE for whatever reason it drummed up or The DEER HUNTER, and then suppressed the film. We would be a lot poorer for it.

  8. David Feingold, Ph.D. Says:

    I may — or very well may not — agree with the POV of Oshen’s film, but I see no possible legal basis for the Commission’s action to obtain a copy of a “work in progress.” What is their claim? Unless there is some contractual relationship between the Commission and the producer that allows pre-viewing, they should have no rights whatsoever. The Supreme Court would seem to be quite clear on the issue of “prior restraint”.

    If the situation is as described, it is a threat to all of us who do political or investigative documentaries.

    David Feingold, Ph.D.
    Ophidianfilms Ltd.
    International Coordinator, HIV/AIDS & Trafficking Projects at UNESCO

  9. Rex Reason Says:

    Let me get this right. The documentary film is an expose about the California Coastal Commission, and the commission, the same group the film is investigating are the ones subpoenaing the film? Does anyone else think that is inherently wrong..or is that just me?

  10. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Brian Ginna — Just as disingenuous as ever, eh? The answer to your question is the same as it has always been. I have not seen the film, but I’ve seen the trailers. I’ve refuted the claims in those clips on my blog. Care to address those refutations, or do you just want to keep playing with yourself?

    By the way, how many times does someone have to expose Mr. Oshen’s lies before you’re willing to consider him less than truthful? I’m beginning to believe you’re a willing participant in the lie.

    Terry Gosset — I know your type, too. You’re one that changes the subject when it becomes clear the facts don’t support your position. Nice try on the HMB thread, though. You realize of course that Clay had to remove many of the posts that occurred later in the thread, and not just mine.

  11. Lennie Appelquist Says:

    Mr. Drouillard - You crack me up. You haven’t seen the film, yet you base your opinion on a couple of clips. Then you go on to call the Director a liar? Huh? What precisely is it that you have at stake? Or are you a hater just for the sake of hating?

  12. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Lennie Appelquist — I’ve commented on clips and trailers that Mr. Oshen uses to promote his film. As I’ve noted before to you and others, there are several factual errors or omissions (or both) that paint a picture that is far from the truth. Either those clips accurately represent the flim or they do not. In either case, Mr. Oshen is being less than truthful.

    Now we get more BS from Mr. Oshen regarding a subpoena. He wants us to believe that the Coastal Commission and the Attorney General want to censor his work. I doubt that very much. Methinks there is another explanation. Perhaps they need it as evidence in litigation that may or may not involve Mr. Oshen. But I could be wrong. Mr. Oshen could easily clear the air by posting the subpoena so we can judge for ourselves.

  13. Lennie Appelquist Says:

    hmmm… still didn’t answer the question. The clips show opinions, not lies, I think… Explain why the CCC has already had a court order forbidding a landowner from photographing and recording on his own land. I just don’t get it and still don’t understand what your stake is in all this. Are you on payroll? Your comments just seem so full of anger and one-sidedness - that I am just working on understanding.

    Why do you care? This film depicts a certain side of the story, sure. It is about a few home owner/property owner experiences. Experiences that are very true and real to them… Not lies…

    It is good that we protect our coast - I have lives on the SoCal coast my whole life. Maybe the coastal commission should be an elected body with some checks and balances - what do ya think?

  14. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Lennie Appelquist — As the late Senator Moynihan said, folks are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Mr. Oshen’s clips are full of mischaracterizations, errors and omissions. Whether by accident or design, that makes him a liar.

    As for the Wildcrews folks, the facts are these:

    Peg and Dan performed grading and tree removal on their property without the requisite Coastal Development Permit. They initiated the activity over a holiday weekend to avoid detection, but were reported to the Coastal Commission by their neighbors who also provided photographic evidence. The CCC eventually found that there were Coastal Act violations at the Wildcrew’s Playground.

    The owners initially cooperated with the commission to begin correcting their violations. Peg and Dan insisted on having the necessary site inspection videotaped by Richard and crew. The CCC agreed to videotaping provided that they too be allowed to videotape the inspection. Peg and Dan refused.

    The CCC obtained a court order to allow the site inspection without videotaping, reciprocal or otherwise. There’s more to the story, but it doesn’t reflect well on Peg and Dan. And, for what it’s worth, the CCC did not inspect the property that day, even though the law and the sheriffs were on their side. Follow the link to the staff report from my blog if you want all the details.

    My stake in this? Same as yours, I suppose — equal enforcement of the law and a healthy coastal environment. No, I’m not on the payroll. Not sure why you’d consider a passion for truth and fairness as “full of anger and one-sidedness.”

    Folks like Kathleen and Peg and Dan and Trish and Milos are like many other violators of the Coastal Act — they don’t believe the law applies to them. Sorry, but if they try to develop within the Coastal Zone then the Coastal Act applies to them.

    What’s sad is that these folks don’t realize (or refuse to acknowledge) is that the State (California citizens) have a right to protect their property (the California coast) and the resources on that property (certain uses and marine plants and animals) from development actities on adjacent privately-owned property. Sadder still is that they don’t realize (or refuse to acknowledge) that it isn’t that difficult to conform to the Coastal Act, especially for small developers like them.

    Throw in a few Zumbruns and other PLF attorneys seeking to break the Coastal Act that are willing to mislead small developers to enrich themselves and you get a lot of misconceptions such as those perpetuated by Mr. Oshen.

    As for the makeup of the Coastal Commission, six of its voting members must be elected officials (city or county government) that are appointed. The remaining six voting members are appointed from the public at large. The issue of checks and balances was addressed by the state supreme court several years ago, which resulted in some changes to appointment terms and conditions.

    Full-time staff consist of a variety of specialists to review applications for CDPs and provide advice on how a project can be made to conform to the Coastal Act. If you review the summaries of past public meetings, you’ll see that the vast majority of applications are either approved, approved with modifications or approved with conditions. Those modifications are usually suggestions made by staff on how to modify a project so that it conforms to law.

    Hope that helps further your understanding of the Coastal Commission and its goals.

  15. Brian Ginna Says:

    Basic facts elude Mr. Drouillard

    “And, for what it’s worth, the CCC did not inspect the property that day, even though the law and the sheriffs were on their side.”

    Ahhh, but they did and *law* is *not* on their “side.” You do not even have a full grasp of the facts, of course.

    Here is a number for you: BS111009

    Meaningless when you put it into Google (your only move at this point). However, it is a pretty important number, at least as far as Peg and Dan are concerned. And you know nothing about it. Enjoy spinning your wheels.

  16. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Brian Ginna — Once again it appears that it is you that fails to have a grasp of the facts. Had you bothered to look instead of accepting Oshen’s absurd claims as fact, the record clearly shows the site inspection did not take place even though commission staff and a representative of the AG’s office had a warrant to do so. If you don’t know where the record is, I can provide the link for you once again.

    Rather than guess what your childish secret decoder number represents, I’ll wait for Mr. Oshen to post the subpoena that he claims is intended to silence him. That is the best way to either refute or substantiate Mr. Oshen’s claims.

  17. imnews1 Says:

    A subpoena for a film of any kind by a public agency is fascism by any outside definition.

  18. Rex Reason Says:

    Mr. Oshen never said the subpoena would silence him. He used the “m” word. Just scroll up the page, its right there, first set of quotation marks. The filmmaker said, quote, ” The California Coastal Commission may try to silence the film…” You forgot to use that pesky “m” word. Your assertion is patently false.

  19. TruthTeller Says:

    For those interested, Mr. Francis Drouillard — who is posting so furiously here — is a fervent defender of the Coastal Act. His arguments and his slander of the filmmaker in question are based solely upon his religious devotion to the Coastal Act or, rather, what he and other radicals of his ilk believe to be the “spirit” of the Coastal Act. Californians are increasingly recognizing that the Coastal Act itself, as well as the Commission, are un-American and quite likely unconstitutional given what they have turned into. Property rights are the absolute, incontrovertible law of this land. The Coastal Act was a Trojan Horse from the very beginning, a tool of anti-property socialists to rectify a perceived imbalance in wealth distribution. Rather than reign in “overdevelopment” as people expected, it has become a tool with which to attack homeowners and property owners perceived as enemies of the CCC or as standing in its way. The CCC uses tactics no different — NO DIFFERENT — from those used by Communist secret police. Their enforcement powers are no different. Their tactics and intimidation are no different. Their lack of accountability is no different. Mr. Drouillard wants us to simply accept Peter Douglas’ interpretation of the Coastal Act as “the law” because he and his ilk see property rights as an enemy to what they want to do — which is enforce the environmental rights of plants, animals and resources as superior to those of property owners, and to entitle non-property owners to the property of others. It is socialism and fascism in an unholy ecological alliance. I would urge everyone here to ignore Mr. Drouillard. He is a disingenuous and ignorant stooge of an illicit, un-American and patently illegal entity which, in time, the people of California will reform in a fashion answerable to voters and NOT to the environmental special interests like the Sierra Club who routinely have their way with the Commission.

    And for the record, Peter Douglas, the Executive Director of the Commission, is, by his own admission, a socialist. And he is on the record declaring that socialism is a preferable model for the American people, that property rights are problematic and that the 5th amendment to the Constitution, which protects property from unlawful seizure, should be reformed so as to give “environmental rights” priority over private property rights.

    Yes, Francis Drouillard, you’re on the side of a certifiable crackpot. You should be ashamed. Crawl back into your hole and leave this forum. You are not welcome here.

  20. Kevin DiBacco Says:

    Amazing, for a state that really should understand the filmmaking and the artist behind the project. That’s a cowardly move. This is why politicians should NEVER be involved in the artistic process!

  21. Jeremy Says:

    Good marketing idea! I wonder how much it would cost to set up something like that in other cities, with other politicians.

  22. rojin Says:

    i agree. very very cowardly… but as is most things associated with the state. thank you for speaking up and defending the rights that others are too lazy to… make the best of it.

  23. Catlipz Says:

    The Coastal Commission should stick to its name - coastal - but no, it has stuck its Pinocchio nose three miles inland. That my friends is not the coast, and they should have no jurisdiction. Maybe if they had stuck to the coast, Malibu would not be one house tightly packed on another at the beach - one after another blocking all views of the ocean - all 26 miles of ugly coastline. Now the homes are even getting taller. It is disgusting. Nice work Douglas and your band of socialist nincompoops.

  24. Francis Drouillard Says:

    TruthTeller — Funny, as critical as I’ve been of Mr. Oshen’s clips and trailers he has never suggested that I stop participating in discussions of his work or ask that I leave this forum. Tell me, do you go to his house and kick out his guests that don’t agree with your point of view? (That must include a very, very large number of people.)

    Since you have so many suggestions for me, allow me to reciprocate — do what you can to learn more about the Coastal Act. It’s not that difficult and a little education will leave you a far less frustrated person.

    Rex Reason — I guess you missed the title of this post as well as the few paragraphs below the first set of quotation marks. With a little practice you can build up your endurance for reading.

  25. admin Says:

    Hello folks Richard here…

    Thank you all very much for your thoughts.

    It is vitally important everyone feels safe to express themselves and respects everyone else.

    My intention with this space is for people to dialog freely, openly and from the heart. One thing is very clear, we all love California.

    Let that be the guiding spirit of every post. I often count to one hundred before hitting “send”. Sometimes I count to three hundred or more - I know you know what I mean.

    If it gets to vitriolic here I would have to consider disabling the blog post feature. I really don’t want to because I know no other space to bring together different minds on this subject on an informal basis. .. but let it be free of rancor.

    I believe all Americans can reason together. We may not agree but understanding is key to healing and growing beyond.

    Good night.


  26. TruthTeller Says:

    Mr. Drouillard - let’s help everyone here know just who you are. You’re a shill for the Coastal Commission, quite likely on some affiliated group’s payroll, who seems to have endless time to spend surfing the internet for any discussion or forum where the Coastal Commission could be attacked and, like a good Aparatchik, you jump in there to make sure the party line is represented. This is how Eastern European propaganda machines work. Congrats. As for the Coastal Act being “not that difficult,” you can stop with the obfuscation. The question isn’t whether it’s difficult or not. It’s whether it’s moral or not. Whether it’s right or not. Whether it’s legal or not, Constitutional or not. You could just as easily tell women in Saudi Arabia, “Obeying the modesty law isn’t that difficult,” but that overlooks the fact that it’s wrong. What’s not difficult is the word “PROPERTY.” You either own it or you don’t. ESHA is ridiculous. There should be no such thing. And you know it. It’s just an excuse to tell people that what they own they really don’t own because it’s just too “environmentally sensitive.” It’s a back door to eradicate property rights. Peter Douglas’ staff is on public record questioning how they can backdoor the 5th Amendment’s takings clause. This is public record. It’s a disgrace. Imagine someone going on record about how to circumvent “free speech” or “freedom of religion.” That you defend this is indicative of a fanatical mindset. To suggest in such a condescending way that it’s just about learning how to obey the Coastal Act essentially suggests that it’s all the fault of these stupid, disobedient people who choose to live in the Coastal Zone without appreciating that they have highest values to answer to. This is from a San Diego CityBeat article of some years ago:

    “Socialist is not a nasty word in my dictionary,” he said. “We have governed in this country from fear for so long that words like ‘liberal,’ ‘socialist’ or ‘community interest’ have been made into derogatory terms, when in fact the community interest is what really started this country.”

    This is the man you defend. You must love using other people’s property.

  27. Justice defender Says:


  28. Francis Drouillard Says:

    TruthTeller — You sound like “anonymous” who posts at my blog. You’re just as shrill a coward here as you are there. And so incapable of staying on topic or making a cogent argument. It just goes to show that ignorance breeds frustration. Geez.

    It also seems that you and the defenders of Mr. Oshen’s spin machine are the ones obfuscating. The facts are simple. The subpoena was issued to obtain evidence Mr. Oshen provided to plaintiffs in a suit brought against the California Coastal Commission. If you want the truth to come out in the trial, then the Commission needs an opportunity to see the evidence against them. Do you fear the truth?

    Justice defender — Is it a habit of yours to make unsubstantiated claims?

  29. Benjamin Wood Says:

    Obtaining evidence? Isn’t that depositions are for? It is the CCC clouding the issue. Its so simple from where I sit - the commission wants the film and they are using “evidence” as a buzz-word for the judge. That is what the commission does it “takes” things . I am astounded they convinced a judge in the film trailer to issue a search warrant to prohibit video taping on private property a clear violation of civil rights and - in clear violation of the US constitution. Did you notice the ass’t AG had a slip of tongue and told the truth it right before she covered it up- How the commission got away with that is just as scary. The judge should be disbarred. Where is the attorney general when the people need him?

  30. Francis Drouillard Says:

    Benjamin Wood — Yes, depositions are used to obtain testimony and evidence. Subpoenas are used to compel individuals to appear at depositions to provide testimony or evidence or both. Hope that clears things up. The point is, they aren’t used to “silence” someone. Quite the opposite, really.

  31. TruthTeller Says:

    Mr. Douillard. You’re being intellectually dishonest on two accounts. 1. You refuse to address the issue of whether the CCC engages in immoral behavior. You insist on sticking only with the legalities. The “mob” can make legal or illegal anything it wants. That doesn’t make it right. Under the United States Constitution human beings have rights. Nature does not. Nature has whatever rights we grant it, all of which are strictly SECONDARY to the rights of human beings. The earth belongs to humanity. Humanity does not belong to the earth. We are not a pagan society. We are a society of liberty and laws. Read your United States Constitution. Your love of using other people’s property does not justify anything. 2. The subpoena is patently illegal. Educate yourself on the rights of artists, journalists and other filmmakers. It takes unfathomable hubris for a state agency to demand to see a movie made specifically about them. Even a lawsuit doesn’t justify this. Would you have approved the Bush Administration issuing Michael Moore a subpoena to show them a rough cut of “Fahrenheit 9/11″? I think not. The fact that thousands of average Californians live in fear of the Coastal Commission should trouble you. But it doesn’t. And that troubles me. No citizen of this country should live in fear of a government agency. If land use planning were turned back over to the people who live on the coast, to their communities… what harm would that do? Do you think people who live on the coast really want to destroy the environment that lured them there? Then what do you fear? And answer this… are you on someone’s payroll?

  32. TruthTeller Says:

    Ah. Now it makes sense. Looking back I see. Mr. Drouillard works at the Commission. Enough said. Since Peter Douglas hangs himself every time he opens his mouth, he’s assigned people like Mr. Drouillard to evangelize the message and defend their paganistic doctrine of “community rights” over “individual rights.”

    It figures. Just as I said… all roads lead back to Douglas. I’d love to hear ANYONE defend the idea of an unelected position being held by the same individual for more than a generation. Douglas is mad with power. And bad science.

  33. Francis Drouillard Says:

    TruthTeller — You’re delusional, but it’s what I’d expect from coward that posts anonymously so he or she can make outrageous assertions about those with whom they disagree. Very small of you.

  34. Brian Ginna Says:

    Mr. Drouillard,

    Get ahold of yourself. The self-important, “I know what the people of California want” act is very tiresome.

    Then face it - you have no grasp of the facts (speaking of delusional - you are even arguing with Dan over facts in Dan’s case) and, as a result, your opinion has no discernable foundation. You keep pointing back to a Coastal Act that everyone here believes in. Just that most of us believe that the people who are carrying it out are doing it by resorting to illegal methods (which you deny, even though you have no proof) and attacking families, not the big, bad “evil developers” that the CCC, Sierra Club, et al would have us believe are the problem.

    You are left with empty, baseless rhetoric - not a good place to be. Maybe you can rise above that and be the “big” person you think you are. Can you?

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