Judge Hears Arguments for Dismissal of Case, Validity of Initiative
Santa Monica — Superior Court Judge Debra Yang heard arguments this morning in City of Santa Monica v. Maria Stewart, the suit brought by Santa Monica against its own City Clerk for her refusal to implement the popular citizen’s initiative, Prop LL. The Oaks Project, proponents of the measure, argued for dismissal of the suit alleging that the City sued itself solely to defeat the conflict of interest initiative approved by 59% of Santa Monica voters more than a year ago.
Fredric Woocher, counsel for the Oaks Project who intervened in the case, replied to Judge Yang’s questions about the lack of justiciable controversy in the case. Woocher asserted that the City Clerk has no responsibility to enforce the initiative, and can claim no harm by its implementation. The City therefore does not have standing, or the right, to bring a case against the Clerk to court because it presents no real controversy.
Woocher asserted that “there is nothing more offensive to the court” than to allow a contrived case like the suit at hand to be adjudicated.
Attorneys for the City and Clerk countered that they could have brought this suit at any time against the proponents. They argued that the suit was only filed in this manner in order to allow the proponents to choose whether to participate, and expressed their desire that the court address arguments around the merits of the initiative alone.
Woocher later stated that he believes counsel for the City and Clerk “unwittingly tipped their hand” with their admission that their attempts to get a judicial ruling on the initiative have been lengthy. The City is currently in the position of defending the law’s constitutionality. However, were they to have sued the proponents, they would have been on the opposite side of the table. Proponents allege it is impossible to have a true controversy in a case where both parties have taken the same position, and no one has truly been harmed.