Tuesday, December 2, 2008

ACLU presses ahead with citizen lawsuit

By Nao Braverman
The American Civil Liberties Union appealed the court's decision upholding the city of Ojai's position in the lawsuit against local citizen Jeff Furchtenicht on Monday. If accepted, the appeal will be heard by the California Supreme Court. (Read petition for review)
The court will generally decide whether to take up the case, deny it or extend their decision within 60 days, or by the end of January, according to a court clerk. If a decision is not made by then, the court can take an additional 30 days to come up with a response by the beginning of March.
But Peter Eliasberg, the ACLU attorney defending Furchtenicht, is making the case that the lawsuit is significant enough to be considered by the California Supreme Court.
"The decision that was made in the State Court of Appeals would have a dramatic effect on the initiative process," said Eliasberg. "If a person proposing an initiative is afraid of being faced with a lawsuit before getting out of the starting gate, they would think three or four times before deciding to go through the process."
That, he said, is an obstruction of a citizen's right to circulate an initiative.
In October the State Court of Appeals 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.
A petition for rehearing of the lawsuit in the State Court of Appeals was denied on Nov. 18, before Eliasberg filed the appeal to the Supreme Court.
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. But neither have confirmed any promises to stick by their statements. Clapp did not answer phone calls in time for press. Horgan did say that she didn't want to spend any more money on what she considered a dead issue. However, she was not willing to speculate on how she would vote if she is wrong, and the case is taken up by the Supreme Court. Councilman Steve Olsen, Councilman Joe DeVito and Councilwoman Carol Smith all said they were not ready to comment until they had received more information and discussed the issue with city staff.
City manager Jere Kersnar said it was too early to discuss the issue. But if the case were to go to the California Supreme Court, statewide organizations such as the League of California Cities and the County Supervisors Association of California would likely get involved. If it reached that level, Ojai might not have much of a choice but to participate, he said.
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.
City attorney Monte 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 in the proper format. When he did not, Widders took Furchtenicht to court, and Furchtenicht responded with demurrer and anti-SLAPP motion. Both were denied in the State Court of Appeals.
The two-year-long battle has cost the city $93,810, according to Kersnar.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, disappointing, but not surprising. The ACLU sues, that is what they do, and Jeff Furchenict is not paying a dime. Let's wait and see if the Supreme Court will entertain this.

betsy said...

I would like to clarify my position on whether the city should continue to dedicate any more money on the Jeff
Furchtenicht case if it were
appealed. At the Ojai Valley Green Coalition I stated that we may not have a choice. I never made the statement I would not vote to spend any more money. Once the path of litigation is chosen it gets a life of it's own. That is why choosing litigation as a method for dispute resolution should always be the path of last resort. At this point, I want to make it clear that I have made no decision on this matter. I am not adequately educated on the details and will only make a decision once I feel I am prepared to do so.

Betsy Clapp

betsy said...

Oops! It was the OVN/C of C forum. My apologies.

Betsy Clapp

Anonymous said...

Note to Betsy Clapp. Do some homework on this lawsuit and J.F. You may be surprise as to who help him draft it, and now why we will be stuck with legal bills for a long time coming.

Anonymous said...

Why don't YOU just tell us who helped him draft it?

Anonymous said...

jf dumped this on the city in the selfless name of affordable housing -- but hasn't been at any housing meetings or volunteered for the housing committees / obviously just another armchair activist / get a clu ojai

Anonymous said...

Much more to this than above naysayer implies. Do a search on this blog for case history or go to Ojai Post. One thing for certain is it is not city money well spent.

Anonymous said...

I am stunned that Sue Horgan would lie to get herself elected. The question she answered in the negative at the OVN/C of C forum was:

If the ACLU takes the Widders case to the state supreme court, would you vote to spend even more of the cities money to Monty Widders firm to pursue the the lawsuit?

This is a very clear question, and Horgan's answer was an equally clear resounding NO. Her capricious equivocation quoted in the article aside, Council person Horgan made a promise to the voters of Ojai. Is she really prepared to back out on that promise?

I voted for Betsy Clapp. I certainly hope she does her homework and realizes that she must vote against any further use of city funds to pursue Mr. Widders' lawsuit. Better yet. She should bring a resolution before the council immediately to stop all further funding of Mr. Widders' lawsuit. The fact is, the city of Ojai does not have to keep giving money to Mr. Widders' law firm to pursue this unbelievably ill-conceived lawsuit. In the article Mr Kersner claims the city might have to continue funding this idiocy. That is a blatant falsehood.

SPK

Anonymous said...

At least Horgan and Clapp had the gumption to run (and win) for City Council and actually do something for the City besides pose as a know-it-all.

Sean's Mommie said...

Go take a cold shower Sean! Do you have a job? You seem to spend all your time on-line spouting off...

Anonymous said...

The haters, namecallers and champions of don't-think and can't-think love to congregate on this blog. Sean, I admire your attempts to have a virtual conversation. But this blog is the Ojai version of right wing hate radio. We've got unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. We've got someone who wonders why the guy who the city council sued in order to squash his ideas is not in the handpicked city-council housing committee. Duh. And when you interject some actual thought, you get called names, personally attacked, and impugned by off-point non sequiters. Always by anonymous posters.

There is a long and proud history of anonymous participation in public forums to expound ideas. There is an equally long and ignominous history of anonymous participation in public forums in order to spread hate, vitriol and stupidity.

Dr. Cooperman said...

My understanding is Sean was born w/o a tongue,. Therefore blogging is his only form of communication.

Anonymous said...

Connie Fogal on The Alex Jones Show"Canadian Martial Law"2/2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jcjy5rtyIXA&feature=related

Anonymous said...

The cheap shot artists are so predictable here
I wouldn't give them a yawn.
You ask if Sean has a job-
well even better to some of us is a
college education providing the ability to critique, discern and debate in complete sentences which you might try sometime if you absolutely have nothing better to do.

Anonymous said...

"You ask if Sean has a job-
well even better to some of us is a
college education providing the ability to critique, discern and debate in complete sentences..."
December 17, 2008 7:40 PM


Spoken like a true blueblood. Good to know that for some of you, a job is not a necessity.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:08 you get a clue
with your cold shower wake up.
Affordable housing was one of the
most popular crowd-drawing items
that city council has ever seen.
Blue blood Ojai is scared to loose
their foothold of Ojai realty
unearned income. Too bad what
you thought you owned will not
be over-valued again for some time.