May 26, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Council Votes Unanimously to Appeal District-Election Ruling

City of Santa Monica to appeal ruling that elections are in violation of CRVA. 

By Sam Catanzaro

On February 21, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to appeal a judge’s final ruling ordering district elections in the city, in the case Pico Neighborhood Association, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, a voting rights case that contends that the at-large elections in the city dilute the Latino vote and are in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CRVA).

“What we are trying to do with this appeal is preserve the electoral power for the voters in Santa Monica to choose the seven people they would like to represent them throughout the city,” said Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis in a media briefing following the vote. “In a district-based system, each council member would only be beholden to approximately one-seventh of the city. In our current system, I as mayor, and every council member is accountable to virtually every voter, resident, and constituent in the city.”

The case, filed by plaintiffs Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools alleges that Santa Monica’s at-large election system dilutes Latino voting power in violation of the CVRA and discriminates against Latino voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.

In a final ruling released February 15, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos adopted the plaintiff’s judgment, ordering that all future elections for seats on the Santa Monica City Council be based on a seven-district map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs and that the City hold a special election on July 2, 2019, for all seven seats on the Santa Monica City Council using this new district map.

The seven-district map drawn by the plaintiffs.

Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, one of the lawyers representing the City, told the media following the council vote, that in the appeal, the defense will argue that Judge Palazuelos’ imposition of districts will hinder the voting power of Latinos and minorities in Santa Monica elections.

“What this case is all about from the City’s perspective is defending the democratic process,” Boutrous said. “We believe the order is wrong in multiple respects, that it will hurt minorities in terms of their voting rights, that it violates the United States Constitution because it is not going to achieve the objective of empowering Latino voters or other minority groups, it is going to dilute their voting power, it is going to hurt them and it is bad for our democracy.”

According to Santa Monica City Attorney Lane Dilg, under the current at-large system, Latinos, who make up 13.6 percent of Santa Monica voters, have made up 14 percent of City Council seats since 2012. Dilg in urging the City to appeal stated that it is impossible to draw a district in Santa Monica with a voting population that is more than 30 percent Latino.

“No court-adjudicating a vote dilution claim has ever ordered the creation of districts where the citizen age population of the relevant minority group in the purported remedial district would be this low,” Dilg said. “In Santa Monica, approximately two-thirds of Latino voters live outside the proposed Pico District. In a seven-district system, most of these Latino voters would reside in districts with overwhelmingly white majorities and be prevented from organizing together across neighborhoods as they can in the current at-large system.”

Since Judge Palazuelos has ordered a special election for July 2, 2019, to choose a district-elected council, the City is requesting the appellate court to grant an automatic stay on the order, putting the special election and imposition of districts on hold. In an interview with the Santa Monica Mirror last week, Rex Parris, an attorney representing the plaintiffs was unsure if the appellate court will grant an automatic stay. Boutrous, however, seemed confident the automatic stay would be mandated.

“We believe the law absolutely mandates a stay here because the court has ordered, it mandated, that is the language that triggers an automatic stay, that an election be held,” Boutrous said. “That is the classic kind of injunction and mandate from a court that is automatically stayed.”

During the public comment period before the council’s vote, there was much discussion regarding what an appeal will cost the city.

“The grounds on appeal are narrow, prevailing on appeal I believe would be harder than it was to prevail in the lawsuit,” said Santa Monica resident and attorney Maryanne LaGuardia. “I think it is your duty to really consider your chances on appeal versus your fiduciary duty to retain and use wisely the assets of the City.”

In a December interview with the Santa Monica Mirror, Parris estimated that the City would spend at least $10,000,000 in legal fees if they decide to appeal the judge’s final decision. While the City would not speak to specific dollar amounts, citing attorney-client privilege, Boutrous said that an appeal would likely cost less than the trial because there would be less work required. According to City Attorney Dilg, an appeal would involve drafting legal briefs and a thirty-minute legal argument. Mayor Davis attributes concerns about the cost of an appeal to “misinformation.”

“There was a lot of misinformation about what the cost of an appeal would be,” Davis said. “The hard work is done in trying the case, that is where the money is spent. Now we are moving on to the appeal.”

According to Boutrous, the City will be able to draft an appeal brief within four to six months and that the judge will issue a response a few months after the appeal is submitted. It will be at least one year before attorneys can make oral arguments, Boutrous said.

Related Posts

Three Juveniles in Hosptial Following Overdose in Santa Monica

May 26, 2022

May 26, 2022

Two females in critical but stable condition, third victim “alert and recovering” By Sam Catanzaro Three juveniles suffered an overdose...

John Adams Middle School Student Selected to Perform at Carnegie Hall

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

JAMS Student Grayson Fitzgerald named junior finalist for the 2022 middle school honors performance series at Carnegie Hall By Staff...

SMC Student Film “The War Within” Accepted into 2022 American Pavilion at Cannes

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

Three Santa Monica College Films Will Screen at In-Person Festival, including 2021 Best Student Film Winner “Broken Layers” and 2020’s...

Santa Monica City Council Looks to Shorten Meetings

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

Council to consider changes at Tuesday meeting By Dolores Quintana Santa Monica lawmakers are considering taking steps to shorten City...

Landmark Theater Official Closes on Pico

May 24, 2022

May 24, 2022

Pico Boulevard location closes Sunday By Sam Catanzaro The Landmark Theater on Pico Boulevard in Westwood has officially closed.  The...

Road Closures Expected During Demolition Of Parking Structure Three: Santa Monica Beat – May 23rd, 2022

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Free Donuts At Randy’s Donuts For National Doughnut Day* Road Closures Expected...

Los Angeles Metro Sees 15.9 Percent Increase in Median Rent

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Median rent of $2,258, according to recent report By Dolores Quintana The ongoing pandemic has exacerbated the issues of housing...

New Renderings for Frank Gehry Hotel Development in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Project would include hotel, apartments, retail and a museum By Dolores Quintana Slowly but surely, plans for a  Frank Gehry-designed...

Shared Mobility Plummets in Santa Monica

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Recent report also shows that nearly half of riders make over $100,000 By Sam Catanzaro Shared mobility use in Santa...

Christopher Dishlip Selected as Santa Monica’s New Assistant Director of Public Works

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

Public Works Director Rick Valte announced the selection of Christopher Dishlip as Santa Monica’s new Assistant Director of Public Works....

Letter to Editor: Response to Himmelrich’s “We Walk the Talk” Column

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Beau Marks As a Santa Monica resident, I am dismayed by Sue Himmelrich’s response (“We Walk the Talk,” Santa...

Motional And UberEats Launch Autonomous Deliveries In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

There Are Plans For Expansion Into The Rest Of Los Angeles Motional, a global driverless technology leader, and Uber Technologies...

Winston Pies Opening Third Location In Santa Monica

May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

The restaurant used to be known as ButterCrust Pies Winston Pies is staying in Santa Monica when opening their third...

Only 10 Vaquita Porpoises Survive, But The Species May Not Be Doomed

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

Hope remains for the porpoise species not only survive but thrive with human help. By Stuart Wolpert The vaquita porpoise,...

The American Cinematheque Brings “Bleak Week” To Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre And The Los Feliz Three Theatre

May 17, 2022

May 17, 2022

33 Films From 18 Countries In One Week. By Dolores Quintana Sometimes when things are tough and you’re feeling down,...