Articles Posted in Election Law

by
The vacant Morgan Hill parcel was designated, in the general plan, as “Industrial” until the city amended the plan to change its designation to “Commercial.” Its zoning was “ML-Light Industrial” before the amendment. Later, the city council changed the parcel’s zoning to “CG-General Commercial,” which would permit a hotel. The Coalition submitted a referendum petition challenging the rezoning to prevent the development of a hotel. The city adopted a certificate of sufficiency as to the referendum, but later “discontinue[d] processing,” believing that the referendum would enact zoning inconsistent with its general plan. The city recognized that it could, alternatively, change the parcel’s zoning to “Highway Commercial” and be consistent with the plan’s designation. Months later, the city called for a special election to submit the referendum to the voters but also authorized the filing of an action to have it removed from the ballot. The court ordered the referendum removed from the ballot and the rezoning certified as effective. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a referendum petition challenging an ordinance that attempts to make the zoning for a parcel consistent with the parcel’s general plan designation is not invalid if the legislative body remains free to select another consistent zoning should the referendum result in the rejection of the legislative body’s first choice of consistent zoning. View "City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey" on Justia Law

by
In June 2012 the voters of City of San Diego (City) approved an initiative, the "Citizens Pension Reform Initiative" (hereafter, CPRI), which adopted a charter amendment mandating changes in the pension plan for certain City employees. The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) determined City was obliged to "meet and confer" pursuant to the provisions of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA) over the CPRI before placing it on the ballot and further determined that, because City violated this purported obligation, PERB could order "make whole" remedies that de facto compelled City to disregard the CPRI. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that under relevant California law the meet-and-confer obligations under the MMBA had no application when a proposed charter amendment is placed on the ballot by citizen proponents through the initiative process, but instead applied only to proposed charter amendments placed on the ballot by the governing body of a charter city. The Court also concluded that, although it was undisputed that the City's Mayor, Jerry Sanders, and others in City's government provided support to the proponents to develop and campaign for the CPRI, PERB erred when it applied agency principles to transform the CPRI from a citizen-sponsored initiative, for which no meet-and-confer obligations exist, into a governing-body-sponsored ballot proposal within the ambit of "California ex rel. Seal Beach Police Officers Assn. v City of Seal Beach," (36 Cal.3d 591 (1984)). Accordingly, the Court held PERB erred when it concluded City was required to satisfy the concomitant "meet-and-confer" obligations imposed by "Seal Beach" for governing-body-sponsored charter amendment ballot proposals, and therefore PERB erred when it found Sanders and the San Diego City Council committed an unfair labor practice by declining to meet and confer over the CPRI before placing it on the ballot View "Boling v. Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law

by
Defendant John Fenley was elected to the Trinity County Board of Supervisors in the June 7, 2016 election. Contestant Firenza Pini filed a contest in the superior court 20 days after certification of the final canvass, alleging mistakes, errors, and misconduct in counting the ballots. The superior court, treating the contest as involving a primary election, summarily dismissed the contest because it was filed more than five days after certification of the final canvass. The Court of Appeal reversed: because Fenley was elected by a majority of votes, and not merely nominated, Pini had 30 days after certification of the final canvass to file her contest. View "Pini v. Fenley" on Justia Law

by
In February 2016 proponents submitted to the Napa County Registrar of Voters their initiative petition. After initially certifying that the initiative qualified for placement on the ballot, the registrar rejected the petition based on advice from county counsel that the measure did not comply with the full-text requirement of Elections Code section 9101. The measure consists of 10 sections filling 18 pages. Its stated purpose is “to protect the water quality, biological productivity and economic and environmental value of Napa County’s streams, watersheds, wetlands and forests, and to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the county’s residents.” It would amend the goals and policies of the general plan; require additional water quality buffer zones along streams and wetlands; increase the minimum ratio for replacing lost oak woodlands in an agricultural watershed zoning district; and add to the Code an “Oak Removal Permit Program,” requiring compliance with the best management practices set forth in the “Napa County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)” without including the text of those practices. The court of appeals affirmed. The measure does not simply cross-reference another provision of law but would enact as binding conditions for permission to remove certain trees what are now only recommended measures for voluntary compliance. View "Wilson v. County of Napa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

by
Eblovi was a proponent of a citizen-sponsored initiative appearing on the City of Half Moon Bay June 7, 2016 ballot as Measure F. Eblovi sought an order directing the interim city clerk to strike "Primary Argument Against Measure F" and "Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Measure F.” Eblovi alleged that because Measure F was placed on the ballot by petition, by statute, only the city council had authority to submit an argument against the ballot measure. Elections Code 9282(a) states: For measures placed on the ballot by petition, the persons filing an initiative petition pursuant to this article may file a written argument in favor of the ordinance, and the legislative body may submit an argument against the ordinance. The Arguments had been submitted by five electors. Denying the motion, the court reasoned that section 9282(a) should be interpreted to favor permissive participation in the electoral process, not restrictive participation. The court of appeal affirmed, noting the “long-standing” interpretation of the word “may” in this context. View "Eblovi v. Blair" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff James Reed appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants James Gallagher and Gallagher For Assembly 2014 (together, Gallagher) after the trial court granted Gallagher’s special motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, the anti-SLAPP statute (strategic lawsuits against public participation). Reed and Gallagher were rival candidates for the California Assembly. During the final weeks of the campaign, Gallagher ran a 30-second television ad characterizing Reed as an “unscrupulous lawyer.” After losing the election, Reed sued Gallagher for defamation based on statements made in the ad. Gallagher responded with a demurrer and special motion to strike under section 425.16. The trial court sustained the demurrer and granted the special motion to strike finding, with respect to the latter motion, that the allegedly defamatory statements arose from protected activity and Reed failed to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on his claim. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Reed v. Gallagher" on Justia Law

by
The County filed suit against defendants seeking to enjoin the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary in an unincorporated area of Kern County. Defendants appealed the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction. The court interpreted the phrase “entirely repeal the ordinance,” pursuant to Elections Code section 9144, to mean that a board of supervisors must (1) revoke the protested ordinance in all its parts and (2) not take additional action that has the practical effect of implementing the essential feature of the protested ordinance. Applying this interpretation, the court concluded that the board of supervisors did more than entirely repeal the protested ordinance banning dispensaries when it revoked that ordinance and took the additional action of repealing the 2009 ordinance, which authorized dispensaries. The practical effect of repealing the 2009 ordinance was to prohibit dispensaries, which was essentially the same as the ban of dispensaries protested by voters. Therefore, the court concluded that the County violated section 9145 by repealing the 2009 ordinance and, as a result, the court regarded the 2009 ordinance as remaining in full force and effect. Accordingly, defendants' dispensary, which is located in a commercial zone, remains an authorized use and the County cannot establish a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its claim that defendants were operating an unauthorized dispensary. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment. View "County of Kern v. T.C.E.F., Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Ralph White sought to remove Ann Johnston as mayor of the City of Stockton and to enjoin placing her name on the municipal election ballot of June 2012 for reelection as mayor. White contended Johnston was ineligible to sit as mayor and to run for reelection under section 606 of the Stockton City Charter. Because Johnston had served two terms as a council member prior to being elected mayor, White asserted she was ineligible to serve as mayor and to run for reelection. The trial court denied White’s petition for an alternative writ. Johnston’s name was placed on the June 2012 ballot, as was White’s, who also was running for mayor. Johnston received the most votes in the election and qualified for a runoff election. White did not qualify. That November, Johnston lost the general election. The trial court denied White’s petition for writ of mandate, finding section 606 was ambiguous because it did not clearly and plainly impose a cumulative term limit. It then found the City’s construction of section 606 as not imposing a cumulative limit was reasonable and not clearly erroneous in light of the official ballot pamphlet used when the voters adopted section 606 and the City’s consistent practice of not reading section 606 as imposing a cumulative limit. The City of argued, and the trial court found, the measure did not impose a cumulative limit. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City and affirmed the judgment. View "White v. City of Stockton" on Justia Law

by
In November 2014, a run-off election was held for a seat on the Chula Vista City Council. In early December 2014, Michael Vu, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, certified the official canvas results showing that John McCann was the winner with 18,448 votes - two more than Steve Padilla, who received 18,446 votes. Contestant Aurora Clark appealed the trial court's denial of her election contest challenging 12 uncounted ballots. She alleged that each of the contested ballots (provisional or mail) was cast by a properly registered voter in Chula Vista and should have been counted. This appeal principally dealt with the handling of provisional ballots where the voter does not provide a current residence address on the ballot envelope. Because the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that the elections official did not abuse his discretion, the Court affirmed the dismissal. View "Clark v. McCann" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law

by
In November 2009, County of Alameda voters approved Measures I and J levying special parcel taxes by the Albany Unified School District. Plaintiff-appellant Golden Gate Hill Development Company, Inc. was the owner of a parcel of real property in the City of Albany subject to the tax. In February 2014, appellant filed suit against the County and District seeking a refund of taxes paid under the Measures. Golden Gage Hill alleged the tax rates in the Measures were improper because different rates are imposed on residential and nonresidential properties, as well as nonresidential properties of different sizes. The complaint referenced a recent decision in this district, “Borikas v. Alameda Unified School Dist.” (214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013)), which declared invalid a different parcel tax with similar rate classifications. Respondents moved to dismiss, contending the complaint failed to state a claim because, under Code of Civil Procedure section 860, et seq. (“the validation statutes”), appellant was required to present its claims in a “reverse validation action” within 60 days of passage of the Measures. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. Because appellant has not shown there was a basis for its refund claim independent of the alleged invalidity of the Measures, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Golden Gate Hill Development Co. v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law