SANTA MONICA—Plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit against the city have asked the California Appeals Court for a rehearing after it found that Santa Monica’s at-large election system does not violate state law on July 24.
Below is the briefing of the petition based on the articles by Santa Monica LOOKOUT and Santa Monica Mirror.
On July 24, the petition filed by plaintiffs Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools contends that the Court’s July 9 ruling “contains several critical and factual mistakes.” Kevin Shenkman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, filed a petition to the 2nd District appeals court. In the court’s July 9 ruling, a state appeals court ruled that Santa Monica’s at-large election system does not violate the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
In a ruling released February 15, 2019, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos ordered that all future elections for seats on the Santa Monica City Council be based on a seven-district map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs, including a 30 percent Latino district. The city then appealed this decision. On July 9, 2020, a three-judge panel from the California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the city saying that Latinos, who account for 14 percent of Santa Monica’s electorate, lack the numbers to win an election in the 30 percent Latino district ordered by Judge Palazuelos.
Kevin Shenkman claimed in the petition that “The Opinion’s holding that the inability to create a hypothetical majority minority district in Santa Monica is fatal to the CVRA claim contravenes the plain language of the statute. The Opinion also errs in ignoring the trial court’s factual finding, based on contested expert testimony and other evidence, that Latino-preferred Latino candidates who lost citywide often would have won election had the contest been limited to the remedial district proposed.”
In addition, Shenkman argued that the judges failed to follow clearly established principles governing the evaluation of factual evidence for determining the existence of intentional discrimination as protected by the Equal Protection Clause.