As they were losing their housing in 2014, Marcelino Martinez went to his boss Michael Ballard to ask if he and his family could stay at Michael’s vineyard. Marcelino was a valued employee and family friend of Michael’s, so Michael was happy to allow Marcelino to stay at Savannah-Chanelle Vineyards. As a result, Marcelino purchased a trailer and settled it into a secluded part of Michael’s 60-acre vineyard. 

For three years Marcelino, his wife, and their three children (the third of which was born while the family lived at the vineyard) were able to avoid living on the streets because of Michael’s generosity. However, in 2017, Santa Clara County officials deemed the Martinez family to be in violation of county law, which prohibits living in an RV, and fined Michael $250 a day. As fines mounted, county staff declined to help Michael acquire the proper permits. County officials refused to negotiate with Michael over his non-compliance and pushed him to evict the Martinez family, which he refused to do.  

Now, because of his act of kindness, Michael faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. That’s why the Institute for Justice (IJ) condemned Santa Clara County for the unconstitutional fines it issued to Michael.

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