Attorney Roger Jon Diamond of Santa Monica was recently honored by the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC), an advocate for free speech and open government.
He was given an CFAC Beacon Award in recognition of his successful legal battle to be heard by the Los Angeles City Council.
Diamond’s charge that the near total inattention of Los Angeles City Council members during public hearings was a threat to open government sparked a landmark court ruling that a lack of basic courtesy on the part of Council members is not only bad form, but also illegal.
The award was presented to Diamond at CFAC’s 10th Annual Open Government Assembly at CSU Fullerton in mid-October.
In his capacity as attorney for such clients as the Blue Zebra strip club in Lincoln Heights, Diamond became increasingly disturbed by Council members routinely strolling around the room, talking on their cell phones or to each other, eating pizza, and working on their computers while he presented his cases.
At a July 13 hearing before the Council to determine whether Zebra’s strippers could perform until 4 a.m., Diamond videotaped the Council members, and used the tape as grounds for an order compelling the Council members to be polite and pay attention to the business at hand.
The Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the Council has to listen when arguments or evidence are presented – especially when the Council, functioning in a quasi-judicial capacity, is being asked to take action directly affecting a single business or person.
“A fundamental principle of due process is ‘He who decides must hear,”’ the Court said. “The inattentiveness of council members during the hearing prevented the Council from satisfying that principle.”
CFAC also honored Mark Felt (aka ‘Deep Throat’), who was identified earlier this yeas as a source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate stories.Based in San Rafael, CFAC, a non-profit public interest organization, was the original sponsor of Prop 59, the “Sunshine” ballot initiative that was passed by voters in November of 2004. Its members include news organizations, citizen activists, journalists, academics and government officials committed to open government.