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City Asks Judge to Explain Voting Rights Lawsuit Decision


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November 19, 2018 -- Attorneys for the City of Santa Monica last week asked the judge in the Voting Rights lawsuit to explain her decision in favor of the plaintiffs, whose supporters are asking the City Council not to appeal.

The City's eight-page request for a "statement of decision" sent last Thursday asks Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos to explain "the factual and legal bas[es]" for the court's two-page decision in favor of the plaintiffs November 8 ("Plaintiffs Win Voting Rights Suit Against the City of Santa Monica," November 13, 2018).

The City wants Palazuelos to explain her decision "as to each of the principal controversial issues at trial," according to the request.

These include "the elements of a claim under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA)" and what the plaintiffs must prove "in order to show racially polarized voting."

The request comes after Palazuelos issued a tentative decision received by the two parties last Tuesday that the City had violated the plaintiffs' rights under the CVRA.

She also ruled in favor of the plaintiffs' claim that the City deliberately discriminated against minority voters by refusing to implement district elections.

The judge set a hearing to propose an appropriate remedy for December 7.

The plaintiffs -- community activist Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) -- want to replace Santa Monica's at-large voting system with districts.

The City has said it plans to appeal the court's decision ("City Plans to Appeal Decision in Voting Rights Case," November 13, 2018).

In its request, the City asked the judge to clarify a series of 16 issues raised during the six-week trail, including how the judge interpreted election results and voting patterns and identified Latino-preferred candidates.

The list of issues includes subsets of questions on many of the points.

Kevin Shenkman, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, said he understands the City's desire to have the decision explained but thinks their attorneys went about it the wrong way.

"It's unfortunate that the City and its expensive outside attorneys appear unable to reflect on the wisdom of the Court and reassess their fight against the voting rights of minorities in Santa Monica," Shenkman said.

"Instead, their most recent court filing further demonstrates their disdain for the Court and the rule of law. I understand they want a further explanation of the Court's rationale, but there is a respectful way to request that explanation and this is not that way."

Meanwhile, supporters of the lawsuit are asking the City to drop its plan to appeal.

In a letter to the City Council, Tricia Crane, the chair of Northeast Neighbors, said the group voted to urge the council "to accept this ruling by the court and desist in any appeal process."

"We are also concerned that an appeal of this ruling by the City will come at great expense to residents, preferring that our tax dollars be spent on needed City services rather than legal fees," Crane wrote.

Supporters are organizing a "major action" in front of City Hall" before the November 27 City Council meeting, said School Board member Oscar de la Torre.

The group will "protest the City's decision to appeal," said de la Torre, who heads the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC).

The City Council has not yet voted on what action it will take.

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