Supes: We’ll see you in court

As expected, a narrow majority of the Board of Supervisors voted Monday to go to court to argue that a set of supervisorial redistricting lines targeted by a successful referendum be used for the March 5 election.

The 3-2 vote authorized the board’s new lawyer, Charles Bell, to file suit against County Clerk Candace Grubbs in an effort to force her to use the districts drawn by Paradise-area Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi’s Plan 5—approved in August by the same supervisorial majority—for the election. Grubbs, along with Supervisors Mary Anne Houx and Jane Dolan and County Counsel Bruce Alpert, contends that because voters approved a referendum of Plan 5 last month, it should be suspended until after the March 5 election, when voters will decide on it as well as supervisors in districts 2 and 3.

Not so, said Yamaguchi, along with Curt Josiassen and Bob Beeler. They maintain that because there are constitutional issues involved in both arguments, a court has to decide the case. They, along with Bell, claim that the current district lines (which were drawn in 1991) are out of whack population wise with year 2000 census figures and therefore illegal. Using them for even one more election, they said, would be a violation of the law.

All the hullabaloo over the issue (most of which, at least at the many supervisors’ meetings when it’s been discussed, has been vehemently against Plan 5) broaches an interesting question: What will happen if a court indeed does decide that the 1991 boundaries are illegal, and so Plan 5’s boundaries are used to elect two new supervisors and, on that same day, voters overturn Plan 5 through referendum?

That seems a real possibility. The movement against Plan 5 is well organized and has a lot of support. And voters provided more than two times the number of petition signatures required to qualify the referendum to an election, proving that there are a lot of people out there who oppose the plan.

Neither Bell (who’s also general counsel to the California Republican Party) nor Keith Wagner, Dolan’s attorney, could answer that question Monday.

Bell simply said, “Well, we’ll have to wait and see if that happens. … It’s unclear.”

Wagner, though, acknowledged that the conflicting legalities would create a situation that’s “ripe for more litigation.

“You can see that this is why there are so many lawyers here,” Wagner added.

Either way, the board majority needs a quick court decision if it’s going to have its way. The filing deadline for supervisorial candidates is Dec. 7, and Grubbs acknowledged Monday that, as of right now (and until she’s ordered to do otherwise by a judge), she’s taking nomination forms only from candidates in the current districts.

However, getting that quick resolution may prove difficult. The lawsuit, filed only two hours after the supervisors agreed to go to court, isn’t scheduled to be heard by Judge Roger Gilbert until March 11. Until then, it appears, the current districts will stand.