Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ACLU denied hearing in city lawsuit

By Nao Braverman

Ojai resident Jeff Furchtenicht and the American Civil Liberties Union were struck down several times, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they have given up yet.
The ACLU's petition for rehearing of the lawsuit between city attorney Monte Widders and Furchtenicht in the State Court of Appeal was denied Nov. 18.
An appeal to the California Supreme Court may be filed next.
"We think there were a number of mistakes and misstatements in the court's opinion," said Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU attorney who defended Furchtenicht in the case.
The petition for rehearing was received by the court Nov. 4, shortly after the State Court of Appeal reversed the demurrer granted to Furchtenicht in 2006 and affirmed denial of his anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion against the city of Ojai.
If an appeal is filed by Furchtenicht and the ACLU, the case would go the California Supreme Court, which only takes cases considered to be of statewide significance.
Should an appeal be filed, and if the Supreme Court were to decide to take the case, a number of statewide organizations like the League of California Cities and the County Supervisors Association of California would likely get involved, said city manager Jere Kersnar.
Mayor Sue Horgan and incoming Councilwoman Betsy Clapp both said at a candidate forum in October that they would not vote to spend any more money on the case, if it were appealed to the Supreme Court. Neither answered phone calls or returned messages to state whether their statements still stand. Councilwoman Carol Smith and Councilman Joe DeVito both said they could not take any stance on the issue at this time. Councilman Steve Olsen did not return phone calls in time for press. Councilwoman Rae Hanstad, although her last meeting will be on Dec. 2, said that she feels the city should focus instead on other legal priorities such as supporting the efforts of the Stop the Trucks Coalition.
The case has cost the city $93,810, according to Kersnar. Widders, his partner, attorney Roger Myers, and associate Nancy Hartzler, of the firm Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones & Schneider, L.L.P. were each paid the standard $150 for their work on the case.
The two-year-long battle between the city attorney and Furchtenicht began when Furchtenicht proposed two citizen's initiatives to the city regarding chain stores and affordable housing in August 2006.
Widders declined to prepare the ballot title and summary for the initiatives, claiming that they were not submitted in the proper format, and asked Furchtenicht to withdraw them, rewrite them and resubmit them.
When Furchtenicht suggested that the initiatives be placed on a future City Council agenda, but did not withdraw the initiatives, Widders took him to court, stating that he needed the opinion of a judge.
In response Furchtenicht filed a demurrer and an anti-SLAPP motion, declaring that the lawsuit was intended to obstruct his right to propose initiatives.
At the end of November 2006, Furchtenicht was granted the demurrer but his anti-SLAPP complaint was denied.
Both parties left the courtroom believing that the decision had been made in their favor.
Furchtenicht was not pleased with the judge's dismissal of his anti-SLAPP motion, and appealed that portion of the decision in early 2007 defended by the ACLU. In response the city asked for the entire decision to be appealed.
A three-judge panel decided in favor of Widders on Oct. 20, reversed the demurrer and denied the anti-SLAPP motion.
The petition for rehearing filed 10 days after by the ACLU, was denied, leaving the case to be appealed to the Supreme Court if ACLU and Furchtenicht so choose.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the follow-up, OVN.

I'm hoping that common sense will finally prevail, and the ACLU and Furchtenict will stop. Just stop. And we can all go on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

"There is a Fish in the Courthouse" is more than just a famous book of Ventura County corruption long known, it is a way of life for uncounted numbers working and self-serving within this judicial branch of the state. Attorneys,judges,special interests, politicians,industry sweethearts,banking board members,high-end contractors and developers, all line up at the trough to wallow and feast in public generated revenue swill. So this SLAPP decision is one in a long lineage of corrupt
county components so blatantly vile that it stretches over generations of history. Blessed be the peace makers, the meek in spirit, and the truth seekers, like JF, for theirs is the path of the rightous and good.

Anonymous said...

What do you call the day when Furchtenicht and all the rest of the lawyers get up and leave town?
A good start!

Anonymous said...

Are you for real? That include's
Widders, Myers and Assoc. and
the $93,810 in tax monies
the city manager and council
bled the public of Ojai?

Anonymous said...

Attorneys,judges,special interests, politicians,industry sweethearts,banking board members,high-end contractors and developers, all line up at the trough to wallow and feast in public generated revenue swill. So this SLAPP decision is one in a long lineage of corrupt county components so blatantly vile that it stretches over generations of history. November 27, 2008 5:40 PM

Stop with the dramatics. There is no corruption. Unsubstantiated accusations just make Furchtenict's supporters look unbalanced, so base your opinion on facts if you wish to be taken seriously.

Here's a fact: JF has always had an easy remedy to move his cause forward, but he has chosen to 'get legal' and call in the ACLU. His decision has not cost him a dime, but cost the city $93K. He has been defeated in his chosen arena.

Based on this fact, all Furchtenict has done is create ill will and cost the city and citizens of Ojai resources that should have gone to something useful, instead of Jeff's ego trip.

Anonymous said...

Dramatics? Collusion,corruption, massive public debt,squandering public resources and trust, this is the legacy the Bushy Republicans have left and that poor management and decisions from Ojai council is sytemic from. This "dramatic" stage show will see the curtains close for good, I hope!

Anonymous said...

Collusion,corruption, massive public debt,squandering public resources and trust, this is the legacy the Bushy Republicans have left and that poor management and decisions from Ojai council is sytemic from.

Easy, there, Daytime Emmy!:-)

Anonymous said...

Whats the difference between a dead snake in the road and a dead lawyer in the road? The dead snake has skid marks before it.

HELLO PEOPLE said...

Talk about squadering money.

Some of the uptight citizens of Ojai, mostly Gridley road residents, refused to let Caltrans detour traffic from hwy 150.

This detour would have lasted a few months to allow construction of a new bridge over the creek just east of Gridley road.

Because of this, the State of California is going to spend over ONE MILLION extra dollars to build a temporary bridge.

The results of these selfish residents (not all are to blame) is a greater impact on the ENVIRONMENT, and the lost of a significant amount of money that will not be used on other more important things.

Pull your head out people

Anonymous said...

I guess he's not riding his high horse anymore. Where you been, Jeff? Haven't heard from you in awhile.

Anonymous said...

What the one's with all the power are corrupt?? no way

Any power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

History always repeats without intervention.
But go ahead and live in blissful ignorance.:) :)

Anonymous said...

And you just keep on preaching in bumper sticker slogans!:):)

Anonymous said...

wow my post was here