Jon Coupal- Columnist
is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with
offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website]
Into the courts
[Jon Coupal and Trevor Grimm] 8/9/03
The effort to recall Governor Davis is a war. As in most major
military conflicts, there are several fronts. There is the battle
among Republicans posturing to replace Governor Davis (a battle
that appears to be civil, for now). There is the battle among
Democratic strategists over whether to run a candidate on their
side. And, of course, there is the huge public relations battle
being waged by all.
The battles less known are those being fought
in the courtroom. A review of just one of those legal battles
gives the public
insight into just how complicated, confused and convoluted the
recall litigation can be.
In July, Governor
Davis launched an onslaught against the recall initiative before
it had been certified
by the Secretary of State.
The governor's attorneys filed what purported to be a "class
action" on behalf of all voters in the state of California.
They asked the court to prevent the county registrars in Los
Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties from continuing their
signature counting until such time as the plaintiffs had the
opportunity to further "investigate" the qualifications
of the signature gatherers.
Davis' lawyers asked
for what is known as a "temporary restraining
order" designed to take effect immediately. To spur the
court to action, Davis cited two declarations by signature gatherers
from Arizona who were not residents or registered voters in California
as evidence that signatures were illegally gathered. Under the
state's election code the signature gatherers must be registered
voters in the state. As pointed out by the San Francisco Chronicle,
the governor was basing his case on declarations of two confessed
liars -- not a good "credibility" move.
also requested an expedited discovery schedule (an opportunity
to question witnesses under oath), wiping out
the statutory 20 day waiting period. This was so they could immediately
depose signature gatherers who they claimed were fleeing the
state in droves.
After about an hour
of argument, Superior Court Judge Carl J. West said that he
did not agree with the "class
taken by the plaintiffs. The judge may have agreed with many
observers who thought the class action approach was a politically
motivated attempt to insinuate that the voters of California
support Davis' efforts to stay in office.
Judge West denied any temporary relief and set the matter for
hearing on August 8. The judge likewise rejected any expedited
discovery, stating there was no showing that the "sky was
falling" or that this matter needed any special attention.
score at this point: Davis 0, Recallers 2.
The governor's lawyers
continued with a claim that once the signatures were certified
and sent to the Secretary of State, a "cascade" of
results would occur, mainly that the Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante
would be required to set an election this fall.
The judge listened
attentively and then reaffirmed his prior order: No showing of
any imminent disaster necessary to stop
the counting by the registrars and no reason to annul the normal
discovery rules governing all civil actions.
Charles Bell, a lawyer
for the recall organizers, noted that he was encouraged about
the recall bakers' chances to defeat
the request made by Davis' attorneys when he noticed their brand
new elections codes books and compared them to the shop-warn/dog
eared versions carried by the recallers' lawyers.
the recall may take some solace from this initial victory, but
in this battle between a desperate governor and
an angry populace it is wise to remember the sage words of Yogi
Berra, "It ain't over 'till it's over." And nothing
brings Berra's words of wisdom home more than the fact that a
new lawsuit was filed this week by Davis attacking the recall
Expect to hear more from the lawyers.