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Filmmaker Defends First Amendment Rights Against California Coastal Commission

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Filmmaker Richard Oshen’s documentary film SINS OF COMMISSION www.sinsofcommission.com has been subpoenaed by the primary star of the film, the California Coastal Commission.

The film, the first behind-the-scenes look at decades of alleged government corruption and malfeasance by the highly secretive Commission, features a first time in-depth, on camera interview with Peter Douglas, the Commission’s executive director of 20 plus years, as well as with former Commission members.

The sweep of the subpoena includes “all visual and/or audio recordings…as well as Mr. Oshen’s unpublished “Sins of Commission DVD.”

-David Greene, The First Amendment Project

The filmmaker believes the Commission is determined to stop the release of this film and is doing everything in its power to stop it, and Oshen sees the subpoena as the first step.

It’s a sad commentary for America when a government commission at the heart of an investigative documentary film, can summon a work print and raw footage of the film that they believe is exposing their decisions.  If they have nothing to hide - what are they afraid of?

-Richard Oshen, SINS OF COMMISSION producer/director

Oshen believes that the reporter’s privilege, based on the First Amendment and the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution, applies to him and all documentary filmmakers, as well as print journalists.

Other courts have found that the reporter’s privilege applies to documentary filmmakers, most notably in Silkwood v. Kerr McGee and the same constitutional privilege of press applies to SINS OF COMMISSION - even though the documentary film lacks a distribution deal or a filmmaker, like Richard Oshen, has not previously produced a documentary film.

The First Amendment Project is defending Mr. Oshen and SINS OF COMMISSION and set forth objections in a letter to the CCC. David Greene, staff attorney and executive director at First Amendment Project says the Supreme Court of the United States recognizes the privilege based on the broad protections for Freedom of the Press, extends to documentary filmmakers.

The litmus test is whether the information sought was obtained during the course of gathering information for dissemination to the public - which Sins of Commission was.

Constitutional protection afforded a documentarian to shield his journalistic work product from subpoenas benefits not only that documentarian, but the public in general.

-David Greene, The First Amendment Project

He added that without these protections, news gatherers of all kinds would be discouraged from investigating, and the public would ultimately suffer by being denied access to important information.

For more information, contact David Greene at The First Amendment Project (510) 208-7744 or Richard Oshen 909 547-6262, sinsofcommission@gmail.com

SINS OF COMMISSION IGNITES AT NATPE

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

NAPTE 2009 - Exhibition Floor Opens is  Las Vegas

NATPE 2009 - Exhibition Floor Opens - Las Vegas

3 1/2 years after Peggy called me to document a California Coastal Commission inspection; SINS OF COMMISSION debuted at the 2009 NATPE CONVENTION (National Association of Television Program Executives), in LAS VEGAS.

Even though SINS OF COMMISSION is not finished, we had no choice but to present it to the global film and television distribution community. 

Time is running out for California.

NAPTE 2009

NATPE 2009 Opening coincides with Chinese New Year

One question each distributor inevitably asks is why a film dealing with a local “California” issue has global importance. It’s a darn good question. Here’s my response -

ERIN BROKAVITCH was a film about a powerful utility company called P G & E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) and took place in the sleepy southern California town of Hinkley. Who ever heard of Hinkley?

SILKWOOD was about a local small and previously unknown company, Kerr-McGee. The story took place in a Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. Does anyone know where Crescent is? 

Everyone knows where the California is.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas….but what happens in California effects the world.

-Richard Oshen, Writer, Director, Producer

NAPTE 2009 IDA Booth

NATPE 2009 IDA Booth

The events revealed in ERIN BROKAVITCH and SILKWOOD entered our national debate and shaped policy.

Although the corruption each film exposed occurred in a local context… it occurs in every state in our nation and universally.

Each film’s specific event is a template anyone living anywhere in the world can identify with.

Same with SINS OF COMMISSION.

Corruption is universally understood.

California Wild Fires from Space

California Wild Fires from Space

The dialog SINS OF COMMISSION ignites, will shape California state environmental policy and will also have a profound effect domestically and internationally for several reasons:

1) quasijudicial regulatory agencies operate in every state in our country and occur internationally 

2) land use is an incredibly hot topic,  and

3) the entire world is effected by the CO2 California emits each year from catastrophic wildfires 

WE NEED YOUR HELP.

NATPE 2009 - IDA Booth

NATPE 2009 - IDA Booth

SINS OF COMMISSION urgently needs your support to complete the film.

SINS OF COMMISSION is a fiscally sponsored film through the IDA - the International Documentary  Association a 501 c3 Non Profit organization.

All contributions made thru the IDA are tax deductible.

Times are tough for all of us,  but so are we…and they won’t get better unless we pull together.

Kathleen Kenny vs California Coastal Commission - SINS OF COMMISSION

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

A working class hero is something to be…

-John Lennon 

Kathleen Kenny

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kathleen Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

When I interviewed Kathleen Kenny, she had less than a year to live. Kathleen was a brave woman… you could see she was a fighter.

Maybe it was the Irish in her. But there was something else too - an unwavering strength in her belief she was right.

I interviewed Kathleen a total of two times. In both interviews, she was  lucid, very focused and determined. She spoke softly but clearly, thanks, in large part, to a heavy morphine drip. We spoke about 90 minutes each day.

When we finished our work together, she looked up. The toll from her battle with cancer was evident, and asked me if I believed her story. I said that I did. She smiled, sighed with relief, and closed her eyes. 

Kathleen confided in me that no one she ever spoke with about the California Coastal Commission believed her story, and was afraid she would pass on without ever seeing a great injustice righted. Kathy asked me to tell her story, knowing full well it wouldn’t do her any good, but might empower others to stand up for their rights.

Kathleen’s Story

Political hacks say fighting city hall is like gambling in Las Vegas, the house always wins. It’s not always the truth. It is just what the house wants us to believe.  Conventional wisdom says we should always choose our battles wisely; but, what do we do when an unwise battles choose us?

In Kathleen’s words

Kathy in happier days - Courtesy Kathleen Kenny Family -©2008 pchpfilm, inc.

“We went to a public auction that was in Topanga Canyon, California and we ended up buying four lots up there, four small lots, from this auction at a very reasonable price with the idea of building a small home on each one of those lots.

There appeared to be a lot of difficulty in getting permits.

We would fill out the forms that were requested of us, go back the next time, they were lost. Been sent to various departments, the road department, to the Coastal Commission, Regional Planning, and we never could seem to get ahead.

Then we began to, as time went on, notice that others were building, and we would go over to them and ask, ‘we’re having trouble getting a permit, on this very small house,” by the way, that house was only 661 Square feet, are we doing something wrong?’

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

I wrote a letter, to the supervisors, and told them this story, in detail… over three years in trying to get a permit for a 660 square foot house, saw others around us building, who seemed to get their permits in thirty days, or less.

And I gave a whole history of my background. That I had come here as a young girl, on a bus, with nine dollars, had gone to school here, my dream was to have a home, so forth and so-on. 

 

And, little by little, people began saying, ‘You have to pay money…’

‘Just give the building department money, put money in a plain envelope when you go up there, bring your plans with you, just slide it across the counter, and at the same time, ask them if they could double check your plans to see if there was anything that you had done wrong, or bring out the fact that they have a lot of expertise, maybe they could help you,’ so forth and so-on. 

We came ultimately to learn that nobody got a permit in that area. Either from the Coastal Commission or the Building Department without working through an expediter, or paying money under the table

Kathleen Kenny & Art Starz

Kathleen Kenny & Art Starz - Courtesy of Kathleen Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc

We jack hammered the foundation ourselves, poured the foundation, and, in fact, we came to the attention of the Los Angeles Times. And, they came out and wrote a front page story of the Real Estate section of the Sunday Times. The title of that article was, “Sweat Equity.” 

Sweat Equity

LA TIMES May 15, 1988

And they, in that article, they told that story, of what we had been through, and that I’d gone to school, so forth and so-on, and in the process they mentioned that it had cost us ($25,000.00) twenty-five thousand dollars to build this home.

It was absolutely a beautiful home.

That then began a flood of people who read that, had dreamed of having their own homes, who began going down to the building department, trying to get information, coming out to our property and asking us…

The next thing that we knew, is that Art [ Kathy's companion] and I were both arrested. 

  

 

They came the next day with, as I said, two sheriffs who stood guard holding rifles. You can see them opening up panty drawers, and lifting up my panties, out of the drawer, opening up the refrigerator. They also had cameras and  were taking pictures of everything.”


 

 

kath1edit.jpg

Kathleen Kenny - Courtesy of Kenny Family © 2008 pchpfilm, inc.

Epilogue

Kathleen Kenny stood against a fleet of government lawyers, a deputy attorney general, and all of the might, resources, and power of the state of California and did what no one else had done: She filed a RICO lawsuit (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against the County of Los Angeles.

She did it by herself - pro per - without a lawyer, and she won.   

But, as Kathy tells it, a deputy district attorney took it upon himself, or maybe got instructions from on high, to order the presiding judge in her case to over turn her verdict.

Kathleen Kenny continued to fight this injustice up to her death.

Kathleen Kenny passed away February 16, 2007. 

Post mortem, $2.4 million dollars in fines still stands against her surviving companion, Art Starz.

SINS OF COMMISSION - NEW DOCUMENTARY FILM - PRESS RELEASE - California Coastal Commission - Exposé

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Pacific Coast Highway Productions, Inc. announces the pending release of its first feature length documentary film, SINS OF COMMISSION .   

SINS OF COMMISSION is the first documentary film to expose the decades of abuse of power by the California Coastal Commission, and the first documentary film to investigate the possible link between this abuse and the increasing intensity of recent wildfires in California. 

A Sin of Omission is a failure to do what one must do.
A Sin of Commission is to know something is wrong… and do it anyway.

SINS OF COMMISSION - MOVIE POSTER

Log Line: 

SINS OF COMMISSION slips behind the veil of secrecy into the invisible world of the California Coastal Commission to reveal how they have corrupted environmentalism and risk people’s lives while fueling California’s wildfires… and why no one does anything about it. 

SINS OF COMMISSION was written, directed, and produced by Richard Oshen for Pacific Coast Highway Productions, Inc. For festival inquiries contact SINS OF COMMISSION directly at sinsofcommission@gmail.com

 

 



 
 
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