Jeffrey Aaron: Mendo’s New Public Defender

When a colleague decided to change careers and started law school years ago she asked me a question raised in one of her classes: If you decide you want to be a litigator, are you drawn more to the prosecution or the defense? The question was a kind of personality litmus test designed to help […]

The Making of an Activist

What makes an activist? You can take any group of like-minded liberals and some at the inactive end of the spectrum will become couch potatoes screaming at their TVs and baying at the moon. But a very few will toil away at the action end of the spectrum, rising early every day, seven days a […]

Breaks for Fire Victims

Eighteenth century judge and philosopher Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu is credited with first developing the concept of the letter and the spirit of the law. He would doubtless be intrigued by today’s 21st century conundrum of whether to ‘pay or not to pay’ county building permit fees for fire victims rebuilding their homes. […]

Mendocino County Gouges Fire Victims

It’s been more than a year since the 2017 Redwood Valley Fire raced through the sleeping midnight community the terrible night of October 8. It was one of more than a dozen fires, dubbed the October 2017 Fire Siege, that began that night. The Redwood Valley Fire burned a third of the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire […]

Jerry Philbrick

My curiosity finally got the best of me. After reading Comptche resident Jerry Philbrick’s almost weekly letters to the AVA I just had to meet him. How many people around here sign their letters with the tag line “God Bless Donald Trump”? So on a picture-perfect fall morning last week I hit the road to […]


Born and raised in Mendocino County, Mendocino County Detective Sergeant Luis Espinoza has spent the last eight years in local law enforcement, most recently in a small group specializing in gangs: investigating, arresting, heading off adolescent boys (90 percent of county gang members are male) on the brink of going down the often one-way gang-life […]

Pot Laws 2018

A lot has changed pot-wise since my high school days when we sneaked off down trails deep into the woods, clutching our tiny matchboxes filled with low-octane marijuana. Alert to the tiniest forest sounds, it seemed back then that a narc was lurking behind every tree, ready to snap on the cuffs. It was 1971 […]

(Barely) Makin’ It In Mendo

The airwaves these days are thick with concerned talk about the world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. Occasionally statistics are even thrown in – usually compiled by old folks like we are, the beneficiaries of our country’s most affluent generation. But statistics aside, how are our hard-working young people getting by these […]

Judicial Review

Public anger over judge and jury decisions is as old as the creation of the three branches of American government. Fortunately we haven’t yet reached the state of some countries where judges are gunned down in the streets. But we moved a step closer to it with the recent recall of Santa Clara County Judge […]


Beginning in the 1980s but gathering steam in the mid-to-late 1990s, American doctors turned millions of their chronic pain-suffering patients into opiate dependents. There was nothing ill-intended or illegal about it; pain relief had become the patient’s right to relief from both acute and chronic pain. Doctors were simply riding the political winds─and obeying the […]

Legalization: A View From The Ground Floor

There are thousands of smart people in this country poring over the financial facts, straining to accurately predict business trends. Nowhere is that future murkier than in California’s nascent marijuana business, fully legal now in California since passage of Prop 64 and in chaos as cities and counties struggle to set up structures to license […]