(949) 385-6431

Jerry Cox and JDC Land Company, LLC’s Litigation Tactics Cost County Funds; Filed 11 Failed Appeals in the Bison Creek Ranch Case

Dec 28, 2022

After 13 years of Jerry Cox and his land-holding company, JDC Land Company, LLC violating the law with over 100 violations, and filing 11 failed appeals in the Bison Creek Ranch case, Cox and JDC have forced the County to incur extensive legal fees – over $400,000 in the 5-year old case – just to gain compliance with the law. The County continues to incur costs having to defend itself against a retaliatory lawsuit by Cox, most of which has already been dismissed by a federal judge.

The dilapidated and hazardous Bison Creek Ranch was being illegally rented out for short term rentals and events, while Cox benefited from a massive tax deduction. 

This was prohibited under the Williamson Act, and an agreement that gave Cox a 75-percent reduction in property taxes, in exchange for limiting the use of the property to agricultural-type uses.

Throughout this legal process, Mr. Cox and his lawyers filed 11 appeals and every single one of them was rejected by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Had JDC Land Company, LLC complied nine years prior to the County finally being forced to seek compliance in the courts – or at any point during the case – the County would not have had to spend a dime on litigation and we all could have avoided this situation.

Cox and JDC Land Company, LLC had over a decade to simply comply with the law, but failed to take action when the county issued numerous warnings, citations, and mediation meetings – which ultimately led the court to appoint a receiver in July of 2017. All the while, they continued to illegally run short term rentals, weddings and other events at the ranch.

While Silver & Wright LLP has been working at the request of Mariposa County over the past five years, the firm has endured false allegations regarding the case, which is being fueled by misleading and factually false information being spread. Additionally, there have been various publications and online sources across the state furthering the misconceptions about the receivership legal remedy.

It’s important to note that a health and safety receivership is only ever requested by a local government and granted by a court when other code enforcement actions and remedies have failed. 

A receivership is not the “stealing” of a property, as some property owners have claimed and news publications have reported, but an action to remedy a hazardous and dangerous property due to documented non-compliance from the property owner.  Nobody wants to sell a property in receivership, and the goal of a health and safety receiver is simply compliance – never a sale of property. Moreover, neither our firm nor the cities we serve ever own the property, or even seek to own it.  The ideal receivership ends with compliance and the defendant continuing as the owner.

However, the sheer number of problems on properties ending up in receivership, and sometimes, the refusal of the owner to cooperate in any way, or to pay the fix-up costs forces a judge to order a sale. The owner gets full due process, including appeals, and is entitled to sale proceeds. Every chance is given and every effort made for the property not to be sold.

Our firm has experienced many of these neglected properties over the years. Many are filled with everything from exposed electrical wiring, dilapidated structures (like in the Bison Creek Ranch case), broken concrete, extremely overgrown vegetation, trash and debris, rodents, squatters, and illegal activity, which are threats to the property’s neighbors and community. 

These conditions are extreme and go through an entirely documented code enforcement process. Property owners are given months, sometimes years to bring a property into compliance before a receiver is petitioned to the court. 

The code enforcement remedial process, and a possible receivership or other enforcement action, typically follows a long windy road full of due process:

  1. Neighbor or other citizen complaint to the city/county
  2. Inspections
  3. Warnings and notices listing the violations and how to comply
  4. Right to appeal these
  5. Meetings
  6. More notices
  7. More rights to appeal
  8. Administrative citations (like traffic tickets)
  9. Rights to appeal to several entities, including a court
  10. Possibly more notices
  11. More rights to appeal
  12. Notice that an enforcement lawsuit will be filed mailed to the violator and posted on the problem property
  13. City/county files the lawsuit
  14. Notice of the lawsuit personally served on the violator
  15. Notice recorded on the property and mailed to the violator
  16. Violator has chance to challenge the lawsuit or file an answer
  17. City/county files a motion with the court asking for an injunction, receiver or other relief
  18. Copies served on violator and attorneys
  19. Court hearing – all parties attend and make arguments
  20. Right to appeal
  21. Receiver files motion with plan to rehab the property
  22. Copies served on violator and attorneys
  23. Court hearing – all parties attend and make arguments
  24. Right to appeal
  25. If receiver appointed, owner can fund the work or force receiver to borrow the money
  26. Receiver files motion for discharge/release from case
  27. Copies served on violator and attorneys
  28. Court hearing – all parties attend and make arguments
  29. Right to appeal
  30. The prevailing party may file a court motion for its fees and costs
  31. Copies served on violator and attorneys
  32. Court hearing – all parties attend and make arguments
  33. Right to appeal
  34. Judgment entered, case over
  35. Right to appeal.

Many of these court proceedings occur over several hearings, and all the while, the city or county is trying to find ways to get agreement.  There is an abundance of due process in the code enforcement process.  Everyone has the chance to be heard, and all along, to comply with the law.  Then the process stops.

Warnings and notices, and administration citations give several days or more before re-inspection. More efforts are made to gain voluntary compliance.

A municipality’s goal is to provide the highest quality of life to its residents, and bypass a receivership when working to restore a hazardous property. When a receivership is petitioned to the court, other code enforcement procedural processes have failed. Since Cox wasn’t complying, the County was forced to ask the Court for a health and safety receivership to shift responsibility where it belongs – to the violator – to address the code violations.

Once the receiver is appointed, the receiver (a neutral third party) will develop a plan to execute the remediation process, and the court will have control, but never ownership, of the property. The judge must approve the receiver’s steps and expenditures along the way. While the County, its attorneys, and Cox and his attorneys receive all the receiver’s filings and have their day in court, ultimately, it is the receiver and the judge who control the process.

And when the remediation process is complete, the property owner can continue living in the property or sell it – usually at a much higher price since it is in compliance with the law.. The property owner is then responsible for paying the remediation costs and fees, not taxpayers.

Unlike traditional law enforcement, code enforcement’s goal is compliance, not punitive measures.  While fines and lawsuits may be remedies to gain compliance, they are only intended to compel or encourage compliance.

The alternative to law and order is continued violation. As was once said, “an unenforced law is just words on paper”. This sends a strong message to the community that community standards and laws don’t matter, inviting other, perhaps more dangerous, violations. Too many communities have suffered the consequences of tolerating ongoing violations of the law.

Visit silverwrightlaw.com/mariposa-case-updates to learn more about Jerry Cox and JDC Land Company, LLC’s claims against Mariposa County and its 11 costly – and failed – appeals. 

ABOUT SILVER & WRIGHT, LLP.

Located in Irvine, California, Silver & Wright is a leading law firm specializing in municipal law, code enforcement matters, nuisance abatement, police services, and receivership. Visit SilverWrightLaw.com for further information.