A Mendocino County judge on Friday ordered the county to issue an after-the-fact permit to bury a county supervisor's wife on their rural property outside of Ukiah.
“This is an important precedent in recognizing the Constitutional right to home burial in California,” said Barry Vogel, attorney for Supervisor and former Congressman Dan Hamburg.
Dan Hamburg sued the county when it refused to issue a home burial permit and death certificate for his wife, Carrie, who died March 8. At Friday's hearing, a county attorney said it did not object to the permit and Judge Cindee Mayfield issued the order for the documents, Vogel said.
Hamburg could not be reached Friday for comment.
According to her wishes, Carrie Hamburg was quietly buried without a permit on their property following her death.
The case triggered debate over human home burials, which are rarely allowed in California.
Only California and Washington have created regulations that effectively prohibit most home burials, Vogel said.
California law gives each individual the right to direct the disposition of his or her remains, but the law also contains prohibitively expensive regulations some say are as onerous as creating a new cemetery.
Hamburg's lawsuit contended that the law “creates a fundamental road block to any private-property burial by imposing an overbroad scheme of statutes and policies for which no compelling governmental interest exists or has been asserted.”
It also said that California's prohibition of burials outside established cemeteries violates fundamental constitutional rights and questioned the harm of burying people at home when it's often done for dogs, cats and farm animals.
State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau personnel have said state regulations are concerned with the future of parcels that might be sold and subdivided, causing undisclosed bodies to be unearthed.
Vogel said Hamburg's case is the third he knows of in which a Mendocino County judge upheld home burials. One was the 2001 case of Jay Baker, who was buried behind his hardware store in Gualala. The other, in 2002, was for the burial of a 10 day old baby in the Anderson Valley.
Vogel said he's been told there are a number of other people in the county who have been buried at home but he does not have the particulars.
He said Hamburg is relieved and pleased by Mayfield's ruling and the county's withdrawal of its objection. In response, he will not ask for attorney fees, Vogel said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.