May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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Court Allows Long-winded City Meetings To Continue Late Into The Night

For as much as City Councils and Boards of Supervisors say they represent you and me, sometimes MITPC thinks that they really don't want to hear what we have to say.  On the other hand, they may just be saying that if you're that interested, then you better stay as long as we have to.

If you've ever been to a Council or Board meeting, then you know that they employ a common trick to either limit or prevent public comment:  the time to  comment is set at the end of the meeting, which frequently lasts past 11:00 p.m., and even then you will be limited to three minutes for your presentation, only to be gonged off with a red light or buzzer.

Two City Council members in Santa Monica, Robert Holbrook and Bernard Katz apparently got fed up with the tactic, and tried to use the Constitution and the "open meetings" requirement of the Brown Act to put an end to it.  They argued that "forcing the public to wait so long and stay so late to address the City Council, they allege, 'in essence deprives the public of their fundamental right to address their local legislative representatives.' "

The lawsuit got nowhere.

But don't jump on the bandwagon here.  We may need different Plaintiffs for this kind of lawsuit to win.  The trial court and the court of appeals saw what they thought was the real reason for the lawsuit:   "We agree that the action is certainly not brought solely in the public interest, as Holbrook and Katz complain extensively in their declarations about the burden that late-running meetings impose upon them as public officials.  Moreover,although the action is ostensibly brought on behalf of the general public, in the unlikely event it were to be successful it would not “confer a significant benefit . . . on the public as a whole,” for its entire purpose is to cut off the meetings of the City Council at 11:00 p.m."

Nothing like an early bedtime as the reason to sue.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 21:35 Comments (0)


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