By Greg Diamond of the Orange Juice Blog
1. Three major victories for the Plaintiffs
It was a mixed day in Court for the ACLU-backed plaintiffs in the case of Moreno v. City of Anaheim, who were supported in the courtroom by dozens of members from the community, but on balance it was more good than bad. (I should emphasize that the points below are my owninterpretations of how things went, not those of Plaintiffs or their attorneys.) Defendants won on a lot of little issues, but Plaintiffs got favorable rulings on the three biggest ones, which I’ll present in reverse upcoming chronological order:
The date for a ten-day trial has been set for March 17, 2014, with a decision expected by the end of March.
Before that, on October 1, Judge Miller will reserve a whole morning to decide several motions in the case, including:(a) a motion for dismissal based on the inadequacy of the pleadings, which state the Plaintiff’s case, and which need to be revised in light of the city’s “reform”;(b) another motion for dismissal based on its being too soon to decide whether Anaheim’s new election system fails to remedy any past illegality);(c) a judgment to reinstate the stay on proceeding with trial matters — see just below); and
(d) a motion for for bifurcation (making the judge hear evidence only on whether the Plaintiffs can make their case, and decide whether to dismiss their hearing, before getting to questions including appropriate remedies.)
Judge Miller initially set this for the same day that he would hear over a dozen motions from other cases — but he soon decided that this one would need its own dedicated day. Good call. Defendants would probably not consider this a Plaintiff victory; I’ll explain below why I think that it is. Here’s a preview: if Judge Miller rules on motions as I expect he will on October 1, meaning that he rejects the notion that Plaintiffs don’t have a case, etc., then the path from there to the slaughterhouse for the Defendants is obvious and steep. Only an idiot, or someone with something huge to hide and no qualms about using public funds to hide it, would continue to contest the case. That’s a whole year, pre-election, of Team Pringle facing a “drip, drip, drip” of questions about whyyyyy they let this go on. And if they do go on, they have a nasty surprise awaiting them.
And before that, because Judge Miller lifted the “stay” on proceeding with trial procedure, a process called “discovery” will begin — pretty much immediately. (And by that I mean that I would not be surprised if some interrogatories — formal questions — and demands for production were served on the Defendant before when I will hit “publish” just a few hours after the hearing ended.)If you don’t know what that means, it means that a whole lot of grilling and drilling of witnesses on both sides will take place –potentially including day-long depositions of Kris Murray, Gail Eastman, Lucille Kring, Jordan Brandman, Tom Tait, previous Mayor and current puppeteer Curt Pringle, the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee, the members of the Charter Review Committee the previous and current City Managers, and maybe even the previous and current City Attorneys. (That would be regarding non-confidential communications that were made in public session. Michael Houston might not divulge much, but maybe Christina Talley might have something to say about comments she has made during meetings!)It’s not clear that the City would be able to depose Pringle, as he’s not (quite) a city employee — more like the reverse is true — but the Plaintiff’s may be able to make a case for it. Former city employees can’t be forced by the Defendant to testify — but in most cases they may choose to respond to a subpoena on their own volition.
Now here’s why those people named above (especially the trio of Councilwomen) ought to be highly concerned: when you depose someone, you can ask them pretty much anything you want about relevant matters of which they would have personal knowledge. The deponent’s attorney may object, but the Judge may order compliance. The deponent’s attorney may then try to strike a response — but this is expensive, cumbersome, risky, and may tend to alienate the Judge. If they have really been overconfident rather than faking it, they’re about to discover that their actions are going to come at a significant personal cost.
How big of a cost? Try this on for size: because of the dispute of whether Anaheim is truly doing a sufficient job of representing the poorer areas of the community, we could see questions – to be answered under oath – about the behind-the-scenes circumstances regarding the GardenWalk Giveaway and various transportation-related matters that I suspect Kris Murray is referring to when she talks about supporting the central parts of the city. (I’d expect the ACLU attorneys to ask her about that. Honestly, I would probably pay them money to be allowed to depose Kris Murray.)
It’s not the humiliation of being given the “Hulk tosses around Loki” treatment for most of a day that is the real problem; it’s that Murray’s answers (and Eastman’s, etc.) can then become part of the public record. (It would depend on how much of them the ACLU would attach to exhibits on motions. My guess is: lots.)
What’s that going to do to someone’s political career? Well, that may depend on how much and how aggressively they fib, not only in the deposition but in public statements before it. So … guess who’s in trouble?
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