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Residents seek to intervene in city charter lawsuit [Corrected]

Trustee Foley, local lawyer argue that the filing deadline shouldn't have been missed. A court will determine March 27 if Costa Mesa's initiative makes it on the June ballot.

March 20, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale, Special to the Daily Pilot

Deadlines are deadlines — that's the edict two longtime Costa Mesa residents have chosen to uphold by intervening in litigation over whether their city's ballot initiative should be permitted despite being filed a day late, according to court documents.

In a last-minute hearing Tuesday morning, lawyers John B. Stephens and Katrina Foley filed a joint legal brief requesting to be involved in Costa Mesa's lawsuit against the Orange County Registrar of Voters. The lawsuit contends that an unintentional clerical filing delay last week should not keep Costa Mesa's initiative for a city charter off the June ballot.

"It's a bright-line rule," said Foley, a Newport-Mesa Unified school board trustee and former Costa Mesa councilwoman. She opposed the city charter initiative when it first came before the council last winter.

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"You either filed within 88 days, or you didn't," she added. "Five other cities were able to meet the deadline. If we start giving exceptions on these election laws, where does it end?"


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified John B. Stephens as an employment lawyer. He practices business litigation.

In court documents filed Tuesday, Stephens and Foley argue that ruling in favor of the city's lawsuit would be contrary to a previous court ruling, citing that: "The City Council, city attorney and petitioner [City Clerk Julie Folcik] well knew the election deadlines and they engineered the process to provide the least possible public participation in the debate regarding the proposed charter."

Stephens and Foley said they had difficultly retrieving a copy of the city's petition, though they requested it in writing and city officials confirmed that they would deliver it as soon as it was available. The pair was able to obtain the document from the Orange Country Superior Court website March 19, and retrieve the hearing details from the court clerk.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Franz Miller accepted the pair's brief, setting a string of mandatory, tight deadlines for both parties to meet in the coming week, in order to have the issue settled before the complicated, multilinguistic process of producing the June ballots begins April 1.

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