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By Jorge Casuso
March 6, 2019 -- Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos on Thursday denied the City's request to allow Council members not elected by districts to serve after August 15 while the voting rights case is appealed.
Palazuelos included the prohibition in paragraph 9 of her final ruling last month that ordered the City to hold a special district-based election on July 2 for all seven council seats.
In a half page ruling on Wednesday, Palazuelos denied the City's request.to confirm that the prohibition was mandatory, which would automatically stay the appeal, or to issue a stay if it was "deemed prohibitory in nature."
The City's lead defense attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher said Wednesday that the denfense is "considering all options to eliminate any uncertainty -- including seeking relief from the Court of Appeal.”
Boutrous cited "the importance of these issues, and the serious disruption of the electoral process that would follow if the City were somehow forced to hold an election this summer or eliminate its duly elected Council during the appeal."
In the City's application, the defense argued that by refusing to stay her decision, Palazuelos was coercing the City into holding a district election under a ruling the City believes will be overturned on appeal.
"If the enforcement of paragraph 9 were not stayed during appeal, the judgment would coerce the City into upsetting the status quo by holding a district-based election in advance of August 15, 2019," Boutrous wrote.
Without a stay, he said, "the City would effectively be ruderless and unequipped to govern itself as of that date.”
In addition, he said, "the duly elected Council members who ran in 2016 and in 2018 would lose portions of the terms that the voters elected them to serve.
In her ruling Wednesday, Palazuekos also struck a declaration by Dr. Jeffrey B. Lewis supporting the City's application.
In the declaration, Lewis, who was an expert witness for the defense, said he estimates that the three candidates elected to the Council November 6 -- Sue Himmelrich, Greg Morena and Kevin McKeown -- "received the three highest shares of Latino votes."
Lewis estimated that 70 percent of Latino voters cast ballots for McKeown, 63 percent for Morena and 62 percent for Himmelrich.
At trial, the City refuted the plaintiffs' claims that Santa Monica';s electorate engaged in racially polarized voting.
The City presented evidence that between 2002 and 2016, candidates preferred by Latino voters won at least 70 percent of the time in Santa Monica City Council races.
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