March 7, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Court says Sitting Council can Remain During Appeal

California Court of Appeals grants stay in voting rights case.

By Sam Catanzaro

Santa Monica will not have to hold a special election this summer to choose a new council while the city is appealing a decision in a voting rights case.

On Monday, March 18, the California Court of Appeals clarified that current members of Santa Monica City Council can legally serve during the duration of the city’s appeal.

The case, Pico Neighborhood Association, et al. v. City of Santa Monica, 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 ruling released February 15, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos ordered 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 this summer for all seven seats on the Santa Monica City Council using this new district map. Judge Palazuelos’ ruling prohibited anybody not elected in a district election from serving on City Council beyond August 15, 2019.

On Friday, March 8, attorneys for the City submitted a petition for writ form to the California Court of Appeals requesting a stay on the ruling that bars current council members from serving after August 15. On March 18, the Appeals court granted the city’s request and issued a temporary stay of paragraph 9 of the trial court’s order, the section of the text that barred councilmembers from serving after August 15.

“Good cause appearing, paragraph 9 of the judgment entered on
February 13, 2019 is temporarily stayed pending further order of this court,” reads the order signed by Acting Presiding Justice Elizabeth A. Grimes, Justice Maria E. Stratton, and Justice John Shepard Wiley.

The Court of Appeals further ordered the respondents (Pico Neighborhood Association and Maria Loya) to file their opposition to the City’s petition for a stay by March 21 and the City to file a reply on or before March 25.

In a February media briefing, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, one of the lawyers representing the City, said that 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, according to Boutrous.

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