RIP Richard Quigley

Richard Quigley, Biker Rights Advocate, and Our American Biker Folk Hero, Has Sadly Passed Away.


by Madd Ray Henke

“A folk hero is type of hero, real or in mythology, who is loathed by the rich and powerful but idolized by the common person, often stealing from the former to make life better for the latter. The folk hero generally starts off as a regular person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by their rebellion against oppression upon their own lives.”

Richard Quigley, “Quig” to his friends, is indeed an American Biker Folk Hero, and there is no other biker in America, dead or alive, who is more worthy of this description. For those of you who didn’t have the privilege and joy of knowing Quig in life, his encompassing personality, his uncompromising honesty, and his passion for freedom, I feel that I need to try to give you the opportunity to know him now, because Quig inspired all who knew him.

And our bikers rights movement, and each of us as individual biker rights advocates, must open our hearts now to be inspired by Quig to meet the challenges that lay ahead of us to achieve Quig’s most ardently sought objective, that American bikers across the nation will obtain the right to right free, hair in the wind, unshackled by government oppression. I want you to hear Quig’s voice, enjoy his wit, relish his frank uncompromising honesty, and sense the confidence that he brought to his constitutional fight, and so I will provide a link to an audio tape of Quig’s death bed deposition in the upcoming injunction/declaratory relief case, a California Assistant Attorney General interrogating him at his home in Santa Cruz.

I trust you will recognize his uncompromising honesty in responding to the Assistant Attorney General’s questions, his wit, and at the same time the maturity of his purpose. I will also provide a link to one of Quig’s regular radio broadcasts, in which he chats with Tony Pan, good friend and national director of Bikers of Lesser Tolerance.

But first just a little about Quig, the man, and the origins of his passion for freedom, mostly gained from my passing time with him at his local Aptos coffee shop, smoking his medicinal peace pipe with him on the beach, and “patrolling” Santa Cruz for police harassment of the homeless in his blue Suburban, emblazoned with its Freedom Fighter star on either side, protecting the homeless being another of his grand passions, and one that I came to admire just as much in him as I came to admire his passion for freedom from helmet laws.

Quig’s search for freedom began early in life.

At six years old he ran away from home for the first time, with his dog, and his gun, a 22 rifle, thumb out, on the highway, hitching off to make his own way in the world. He made it three hundred miles, from his home in Morenci Arizona to Silver City, New Mexico. He thought he had a job cleaning rooms in a small motel, but he found he’d been misled by the motel owner when his parents came to retrieve him the next day. He would run away again and again before he finally broke free to a life of self determination.

As an adult he worked every kind of straight job from bartender and car salesman to corporate marketing executive and private investigator. As with the folk heroes described in the above definition, Quig had his defining moment when he was harassed one day by a Santa Cruz policeman. He was pulled over and got out and walked to the back of his van. The policemen ordered him to get his registration and pushed him up toward the door. Quig reached over his 45 Magnum and grabbed the registration.

The harassment continued and Quig realized at that moment that we were all vulnerable to bad cops. He took a stand with the police department, Internal Affairs did an investigation, but upon the officer’s denials, took no action. Quig brought suit in the Santa Cruz Superior Court and won a judgment against the County, for one dollar. It was a victory of principle. That was the beginning, and Quig hasn’t let up since. He got the Aptos Sheriff removed from office, the conclusion of a toe to toe battle over police harassment, and a $45,000 1st Amendment judgment against the City after the Sheriff threatened a radio station for one of Quig’s “commentaries” about the local Sheriff on his weekly radio show. If you want to know what Quig looks like, imagine ZZ Top.

Quig is perhaps best known in the biker advocacy community for obtaining the Santa Cruz Superior Court ruling from the Honorable Judge Barton that the California helmet law is unconstitutional as applied.

But Quig has been involved in the court struggle for biker rights for over 15 years, brain storming with Steve Bianco in the Bianco v. CHP constitutional challenge, decided in 1994, a decision that defines the California helmet law through this date, and should have killed it then, as the decision renders the law legally unenforceable. Since that case, the law has been enforced only illegally by the California Highway Patrol, in violation of the Bianco decision, as was recognized United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the Easyriders decision, and in Judge Barton’s ruling. Quig obtained the latter decision by obtaining 41 helmet tickets in total, including a dozen from the CHP, took the tickets to Court, interrogated the officers, introduced CHP policy memoranda, and thus demonstrated a pattern, practice, and policy of CHP to illegally enforce the law.

In a cowardly move, also highly disrespectful of constitutional principle, with the motive solely to preserve the CHP’s ability to continue to illegally enforce the law, the California Attorney General elected not to appeal Judge Barton’s highly reasoned constitutional decision in Quigley v. CHP, rendering the opinion uncitable as an unpublished Superior Court opinion.

It was patent, indeed, that the Attorney General sought only to preclude Quig from presenting to the Court of Appeals his carefully prepared court record of the CHP’s policies and practices of illegal helmet law enforcement.

It was a case that should have voided the helmet law during Quig’s lifetime, but the Quig v. CHP decision stands as a constitutional beacon, lighting the way for others to appreciate the validity of the constitutional principles vindicated. By this point Quig’s health was already failing and I recall by the summer of 2006 that Quig predicted that he wouldn’t live to see winter.

Quig by then clearly wasn’t fighting to ride free himself. After removing the Sheriff from office and then Judge Barton’s ruling, the CHP and Sheriffs officers wouldn’t get within a hundred yards of him.

His response was to file an injunction/declaratory relief case against the CHP, along with other BOLT members who would be capable of carrying on the litigation after his death. The case alleges the same facts that he proved in the evidence adduced before Judge Barton, and the record that will be made in that action will be even stronger given the scores of additional tickets issued to the other BOLT member plaintiffs in violation of the Bianco and Easyriders decision.

And this case the Attorney General wouldn’t be able to run from, because if Quig won it, it would shut helmet law enforcement down, and if he lost it in the trial court, he could take it up to the Court of Appeals and California Supreme Court, where there is nothing more sacrosanct than constitutional principle. The case is set for April, 2008, and you are all empowered to contribute to the success of the litigation, which you may do in Quig’s name, by sending your check to a fund that ABATE of California has set up to pay the attorneys fees and costs of this specific litigation.

The address of the fund is: Judicial Fund c/o Abate of California, 10240 Seventh Avenue, Hesperia, CA 92345.

The case is important nationwide, in every state, as it will spell the death of the same law that the NTSB has recommended that all states adopt, specifically on the grounds that the law is unconstitutionally vauge as applied. Right up until Quig’s last breath he was consulting with me mostly on strategy, and with the others of the BOLT members also on strategy and on the practical nuts and bolts of preparing and presenting that litigation.

He called up just a couple of weeks ago to bring to my attention the California DMV Motorcycle Handbook, pointing out that the handbook, which is provided to motorcyclists in California to study to prepare to take the written motorcycle license examination, misrepresented the helmet law again, informing bikers that they must wear “DOT approved helmets.”

Quig and I decided that I should file a Freedom of Information Act Request, to determine the basis upon which the DMV arrived at that misinterpretation of the California helmet law, and whether CHP had any input into the language.

This is further evidence that the California helmet law is unconstitutionally vague, obviously, because, as Quig put it, “If the DMV can’t understand the California helmet law, then the state sure can’t expect bikers to understand it,” which is the definition of an unconstitutionally vague law. In the last couple of weeks, as death approached, Quig also called to discuss a ruling that had just come down in his “fix it ticket” case.

The main thrust of Quig’s strategy was to challenge the helmet law on constitutional principle. But a part of that also was to render the helmet law unenforceable as a practical matter.

Quig urged in 5 of his cases that the CHP had issued helmet “citations” improperly, because the California helmet law fell within the category of equipment offenses governed by California’s “correctability statute,” the “fix it ticket statute” applicable to broken tail lights and the like.

Judge Barton agreed with Quig on that interpretation too, and ordered the CHP to fix Quig’s tickets. Quig duly showed up at the CHP office with a box filled with an assortment of helmets, which he asked the CHP to verify complied with the California helmet law. The CHP balked. The CHP has no clue what helmets do and do not comply with the California helmet law. The CHP refused to fix the tickets. Judge Barton held the CHP in contempt.

The CHP then petitioned the Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus on its asserted grounds that the helmet law didn’t fall within the fix it ticket statute. The Court of Appeals issued a lengthy opinion, the first part of which was well reasoned, siding with Quig and holding that helmet violations did indeed come within the purview of the California correctability statute.

But then the Court of Appeals went off on a number of very detrimental tangents which were not briefed by the parties, including language which would have undercut some of the very important acheivements of previous constitutional decisions, including one prohibiting law enforcement to consider helmet fabrication.

The Court of Appeals also certified its opinion for publication, which would have, in the latter respects, constituted a very negative setback in the constitutional challenge.

If you would like to understand these issues better, you may review the Amicus brief which I filed on Quig’s request to attempt to get the Court to retract its opinion to reconsider the constitutional dicta: Shortly thereafter the Court of Appeals vacated its decision, prior to publication, and took the case back under submission. A couple of weeks ago, the Court of Appeals then reopened the case, ordered the Attorney General to provide additional documents, and ordered rebriefing, both by the Attorney General and Quig.

In these last days Quig and I discussed strategy, including the importance of gathering all the documents and evidence that Quig considered important for the Court to consider on the broader issues, and to his dying breath Quig concentrated, with eyesight failing, to review and gather all of the documents he felt were important. When the NTSB recommendations were issued, I called Quig in the middle of the night, perhaps Thursday or Friday of last week.

Quig spent the night considering the implications, calling me at 4:30 in the morning to urge that the NTSB recommendations made plain more clearly than ever the national importance of the court challenges here in California, given that the NTSB recommendations were that the states uniformly adopt the same law that Quig has been challenging in California for the past 15 years, to wit, requiring that bikers wear helmets compliant with FMVSS 218. Quig insisted:

“Ray, you’ve got to explain this to bikers nationwide. This is not a setback, this is an opportunity. Bikers rights groups have got to be told that these laws are susceptible to constitutional challenge. They must challenge them in their courts.”

We discussed, as the sun rose on another sleepless night for Quig, sleepless on his death bed now, how constitutional court challenge may be the only practical solution any longer to the helmet law tug of war, as the legislative balance now will be tipped with the federal government now weighing in with the helmet law proponent legislators, the insurance industry and medical lobbyists. On Quig’s last instructions to me, I explained the history of the California court challenges, and the constitutional principles upon which they were successful: and then over the next couple of days, on Bruce Arnold’s prompting, drafted “action points” to provide specific concrete recommendations for challenging state helmet legislation framed as recommended by the NTSB. Quig hasn’t fought this fight for his personal right to ride free for a long time, and didn’t fight to his last dying breath to assure his personal freedom.

He was fighting for you. And by “you” I mean American bikers nationwide. Let Quig be your inspiration. All Quig would want you to do is just consider whether, in your state, constitutional court challenge might be a viable strategy for overcoming your helmet law.

I think Quig would suggest to you that it is not only viable, it is the only one with an end game. Now, listen to Quig’s voice, and be inspired by his tough wit, and direct honesty, confident in the qualities of the legality his Ill Eagle BOLT “baseball cap” helmet, and the illegality of the CHP’s having ticketed him for wearing it, as he responds to the Assistant Attorney General’s deposition questions, as she interrogated him confined to his bed, at his home in Santa Cruz County, California.

The audio tape is here:

And listen to Quig at a lighter time, in conversation with his good friend Tony Pan, on one of his weekly radio broadcasts a couple years ago:

You’ve got to love this man. I will miss Quig, with all my heart, as surely the many who have known Quig for much longer than I will too. Quig was a friend to many, and as the definition of “folk hero” implies, a big pain in the side for many others. But I don’t think that anyone would disagree that a great man has passed away. The world is a lesser place without him. But heaven is richer.

“Madd” Ray Henke Member,
Bikers of Lesser Tolerance, BOLT California
Co-Moderator, Bruce-n-Ray’s Biker Forum

YouTube interview…