STATUS OF THE CASE
CD10 Voices for Empowerment: What is the status of the Writ of Mandate case filed by SCLC-SC and the League of Voters of Council District 10 against the City of Los Angeles?
John E. Sweeney, Esq.(JES), The Sweeney Firm: The judge did not make a ruling on whether the seating of Herb Wesson was legal or illegal. The judge stated that we must first get permission from the California Attorney General before we proceed against the City Council to challenge Mr. Wesson’s appointment. We filed the necessary papers with the Attorney General’s office and we are attempting to get this issue expedited because we agree with Judge Strobel who earlier stated, in the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stage, that there would be irreparable harm unless this appointment were not stopped in its tracks.
What is quo warranto? Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies. Quo warranto is used to test a person's legal right to hold an office, not to evaluate the person's performance in the office.
CD10 Voices: Who has the authority to challenge the legality/eligibility of appointments made by the City Council?
Crystal Nix-Hines, Esq. (CNH), Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP: After the Council has appointed someone, the Attorney General's Office by itself or a private party whom the Attorney General's Office office has given permission to sue can challenge the appointment.
CD10 Voices: How quickly can the AG’s office act?
CNH: We have told the AG’s office that a speedy response is needed because the longer Mr. Wesson holds the District 10 seat, the higher the risk that he will continue to move expeditiously to undo the work of Councilmember Ridley-Thomas. However, it may take several weeks for the AG’s office to decide whether to give us permission to sue.
CD10 Voices: What is the procedural process and timeline?
CNH: The City gets 15 days from the date we served them to respond to our application to the AG’s office. We then get 10 days to reply. The AG’s office may ask both sides for additional briefing. If the AG’s office grants us permission to sue, that means we can sue in the name of the People of California. We would then immediately file a new case in court to challenge Mr. Wesson’s appointment, and the court would get to decide the question of whether Mr. Wesson can serve as an already termed-out Councilmember. This would likely take a few weeks to resolve. If the AG’s office does not grant us permission to sue, we can appeal the decision in court to get it overturned. Resolving the appeal would lengthen the timeline.
CD10 Voices: Is there still a hearing on the writ scheduled in June?
CNH: At the moment, the June trial setting conference is still on the Court’s calendar.
WHAT THE JUDGE’S RULING ON MARCH 17 MEANS
CD10 Voices: What does this mean for the legal case brought by SCLC and the League of CD10 Voters?
CNH: SCLC and the League of CD10 voters will be seeking permission from the Attorney General's Office to sue the City and challenge Mr. Wesson’s appointment in a quo warranto action.
CD10 Voices: Does this mean the Judge has opined on the legality of Mr. Wesson’s appointment?
CNH: It does not mean the judge has ruled that Mr. Wesson’s appointment was legal. It merely means she decided that there is a particular way for petitioners to challenge his appointment that requires petitioners to go through the AG’s office first before coming back to the court.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL’S ROLE
CD10 Voices: What is the Attorney General now being asked to do?
CNH: The Attorney General is not being asked to decide on the merits of whether the City Council legally appointed Mr. Wesson as a termed-out Councilmember. The Attorney General is considering whether it is in the public interest to have a court decide this issue.
CD10 Voices: At this point, is the only entity that has the authority to challenge the legality of this appointment the CA Attorney General?
CNH: That’s correct. The Attorney General's Office itself could decide to bring an action or it could grant us leave to sue in the name of the people of California.
CD10 Voices: What is the issue/procedure that needs to be addressed?
CNH: Petitioners will be asking the Attorney General's Office for permission to sue the City and Mr. Wesson on behalf of the people of California, so that a court can decide whether the City Council is allowed to appoint a termed-out politician to fill a temporary vacancy.
CD10 Voices: What are the possible scenarios for how this will play out with the Attorney General's Office? What is the likelihood that he will bless the Plaintiffs’ moving forward? How soon do you expect the Attorney General to take action? Is he required to take action?
JES: The Attorney General's Office can grant or deny us leave to sue based on a consideration of (i) whether quo warranto is the proper remedy, (ii) if we’ve raised a substantial question of law or fact, and (iii) if public interest would be served by a judicial decision on that question. It’s not a guarantee that they will grant our application as they have broad discretion, but we’re hopeful, especially since the City has argued that we have to go through the quo warranto process to get relief and even they agree that Mr. Wesson is termed out.
We’re going to ask for an expedited briefing that will hopefully move things along quicker. It could be a few weeks though before the Attorney General renders a decision.