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Eyes on 11 Whistleblower

City Asks Appeals Court to Allow Council Members to Serve After August 15 Prohibition

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

March 11, 2019 -- The City on Friday asked a California Appeals Court to stay an order in the voting rights lawsuit that would prohibit sitting Council members from serving after August 15.

The appeal was filed one day after Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos on Thursday denied the City's request to confirm that the prohibition was mandatory, which would have resulted in an automatic stay.

On Friday, the City asked the Appeals Court to either confirm that the prohibition in paragraph 9 of Palazuelos' final ruling is mandatory or, if it rules it is prohibitory, to "exercise its discretion to stay the enforcement."

The Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal, defense attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. wrote, have found such injunctions mandatory even if they are prohibitory in form, "because they coerce a change to the status quo."

Under paragraph 9, Boutrous said, "the City of Santa Monica must oust all of its duly elected Council members from office -- leaving the City with no choice but to hold an election this summer to ensure that there is a new Council in place to run the City."

Boutrous argued that the enforcement of paragraph 9 "will have a dramatic, irreparable impact on the status quo and the electoral process in Santa Monica.

"It requires the City to strip its current Council members of their elected positions, scrap an at-large election system that has been in place for more than seven decades, and hold an election this summer under a brand-new, court-imposed district-based system."

In order to comply with Palazuelos' order for a special District election on July 2, the Council would have to approve a resolution by April 1 and notice a special election by April 8.

"Paragraph 9 thus requires the City to give notice of an election in a matter of weeks and then to hold a district-based election in July --which is exactly what is commanded by the expressly mandatory portion of the judgment that is unquestionably stayed."

The City Council last month unanimously voted to appeal Palazuelos' ruling that Santa Monica's at large election system discriminates against Latino voters ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Appeal Voting Rights Ruling," February 21, 2019).

The vote came a week after Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos ordered the City to hold a district-based election for all seven Council seats.

She also prohibited Council members not elected under districts from serving after August 15 ("Judge Orders Special District Elections for Council in Final Ruling," February 16, 2019).

Kevin Shenkman, the lead attorney for the Latino plaintiffs, said he plans to hold Council members in contempt of court unless the appeals court stays the prohibition ("City Likely Faces Uphill Battle in Voting Rights Case, Experts Say," February 19, 2019).

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