PALMDALE – Palmdale received another legal setback when the California Supreme Court refused to review its appeal over the California Voting Rights Act court decision against the city from Nov. 27. City officials responded with a statement Wednesday announcing that their attorneys are preparing final appeal briefs on the original trial decision for the currently pending decision in the Court of Appeals.
“While we are disappointed that the Supreme Court is not taking up this case, we are moving forward in the Court of Appeals to work toward protecting our citizens’ constitutional right to determine the manner and method of electing their city leaders,” said Assistant City Attorney Noel Doran in a released statement.
In what may be one of the city’s last legal options to fight the original court ruling, Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy explained what is at stake in the city’s appeal of this decision pending in the Court of Appeals.
“That appeal is primarily over the evidence submitted and the trial court’s remedies which include districts, changed election dates, shortened terms of council members and other items,” Ditzhazy said. “We are currently preparing our briefs for submission later this month.”
Palmdale has appealed the original trial court’s ruling in its entirety, including the requirement that the city accept geographic district elections per the court order.
Palmdale announced in early December 2013 that it would fight the Nov. 27 court decision forcing the city to replace its at-large elections with an electoral process that would divide the city into four districts – each choosing its own council member.
The city filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 8 to the court decision from its Voting Rights Lawsuit, which effectively blocked the court’s decision to force Palmdale to hold district elections in June.
According to an earlier press statement by Ditzhazy, the appeal of Judge Mooney’s final order, which would “permanently enjoin at-large elections” and required a district-based election on June 3, was supposed to put everything on hold until the Court of Appeals rules on it.
However, Palmdale’s appeal to the Supreme Court was over the certification issue for the November 2013 election and the Charter City issue, where the California Constitution grants cities “plenary authority” to conduct its own elections, the news release stated.
Fred Thompson became the first African-American to be elected to the Palmdale City Council in the city’s Nov. 8, 2013 election, and Palmdale takes issue with the lawsuit filed by plaintiff’s attorneys Kevin Shenkman and Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, which prevented certification of the election.
“We are stunned that the actions of the plaintiffs allegedly in the name of minority rights have actually resulted in preventing an African-American from holding office,” Doran said.
Thompson was subsequently appointed to a council seat after the resignation of former Councilmember Laura Bettencourt, who did not seek re-election for her seat in November 2013.
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