(August 14, 2003, updated with reaction) -- The LB City Attorney's office has won big in a big case...one it said could determine the future of LB's Campaign Reform Act concerning activities by independent committees (not controlled by a candidate).
The 2d district CA Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court and reinstated a civil suit -- an enforcement action brought by LB City Hall under Prop M, LB's Campaign Reform Act -- against CA Citizens for Neighborhood Empowerment (CCNE) stemming from the April 2002 race for LB Mayor.
The Court of Appeal ruled the enforcement action brought by the City Attorney under Prop M was not subject to dismissal under the state's anti-SLAPP suit law. We post the Court of Appeal's opinion below...which the Court ordered certified for publication so it can be cited as precedent in subsequent cases.
City Attorney Robert Shannon argued the case personally before the three judge appellate panel in July.
The Court of Appeal ruling effectively reinstates a civil action filed in April 2002 by the City of LB against CCNE, which alleged the group (registered as an independent political committee) violated LB Campaign Reform Act by accepting contributions in excess of LB's Prop M contribution limits in support of a Mayoral candidate (not alleged with wrongdoing) in the April 9, 2002 election.
Commenting on the Court of Appeal's ruling, City Attorney Shannon told LBReport.com:
"Obviously, this is a very positive result from our perspective. Generally, it validates our ability to enforce the city's campaign contribution limits -- which were enacted by an overwhelming vote of the people of the Long Beach, so this is is enforcing the will of the people of Long Beach.
It also sends the message that we are prepared to pursue enforcement remedies against any individual or entity who violates our Campaign Reform Law. That should be kept in mind by all those who may be involved in elections in the City of Long Beach.
And in this case, it will allow us to conduct discovery, including depositions...and at the end of the day, we will bring this organization [CCNE] out of the shadows."
CCNE attorney Bradley Hertz (with the L.A. firm of Reed & Davidson) was unavailable to LBReport.com for comment.
In September, 2002, a Superior Court tossed out the city's suit by granting a motion by CCNE under CA's "anti-SLAPP" suit law which lets a court toss out a civil lawsuit claim "arising from any act [of a person] in furtherance of that person's right of petition of free speech" under the U.S. or state Constitutions unless the plaintiff establishes a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the City of LB's legal position that the "anti-SLAPP" law did not apply in the City of LB's Prop M enforcement action.
The Court of Appeal remanded the case (sent it back) to the trial court with instructions to reinstate it. The Court also granted the City of LB its costs on appeal.
We post the Court of Appeal's opinion in pdf form on the following link: Court of Appeal opinion in City of LB v. CCNE et al. [9 pages]
Read Briefs By Both Sides In City of LB Appeal Of Lower Court Dismissal Of City's Prop M (LB Campaign Reform Act) Civil Enforcement Action Against CCNE
Court of Appeal Hears Oral Argument In CCNE / LB Campaign Reform Act Case