Vancouver Light Rail Petition Lawsuit Delayed

by lewwaters

Tilted ScaleAs regular readers know, the lawsuit filed by Larry Patella, Debbie Peterson and several others was heard in Cowlitz County Superior Court today before Judge Stephen Warning and after hearing arguments from both sides, delayed the trial, rescheduling it for a ruling on March 27, 2013.

“I’m going to look hard at this. But the standard of proof in this case is ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt.’ And before I can state beyond a shadow of a doubt that something is unconstitutional — even if both parties say I should — I need to make sure I have the factual predicate,” said Judge Warning as he requested attorneys for both parties to submit briefs in the meantime.

The parties are in agreement that the current law mandating Clark County Auditor, Greg Kimsey to invalidate double signatures, including the original signature on a petition calling on the Vancouver, City Council to place on the ballot whether voters want the city contributing any funds to Portland’s light rail as unconstitutional, the basis of the lawsuit.

It was hoped that the ruling would be handed today, given that Defendants and Plaintiffs are in agreement, but as Judge Warning said, “he needs to make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed.”

And email received this evening from Mr. Patella labeled the hearing as “exciting, and encouraging,” adding “After carefully listening to our Attorney and the Defendant’s Attorney the judge, exercising prudence, decided that all concerned should have additional time to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. He correctly in my opinion scheduled a second hearing for March 27th. We are eagerly looking forward to March 27th.”

Clark County Counsel Lori Volkman, representing the defendants, said the county essentially agreed the law was unconstitutional.

A subsequent email received from advisor in the matter Tim Eyman expressed a different view with, “We had been moving lightning fast on this case. We filed our lawsuit on February 11th and asked for the court’s decision 9 days later. That kind of speedy justice is extremely rare. But there was no reason to drag things out. This unfair ‘dupe’ law is either unconstitutional or it’s not.”

Also favorable to Plaintiff’s was hearing from the State Attorneys general office that they had no intention of participating in the lawsuit to defend the law being challenged, RCW 35.21.005(7).

I appreciate the prudence of Judge Warning in wanting to make sure there is no reason to retain this unfair law that is in conflict with previous Washington Supreme Court Rulings that stated one signature should be counted in such cases, assuming people forget they signed it previously due to the length of time petitions often take.

Given that no one involved is defending the law, I’m confident Judge Warning’s ruling will be favorable to citizens over light rail special interests.

Should the ruling go as all expect, County Auditor Greg Kimsey has stated that he will go back and approve the duplicate signatures, making the petition valid. Then it will be left to the City Council to ask voters to decide on a proposed ordinance that would prohibit city resources from being used to Portland’s financially troubled light rail to Vancouver.

As Mr. Eyman put it, “it will be the voters who decide. Not a handful of politicians trying to substitute their wishes for the will of the people.”

As it should have been long ago.

In the meantime your help is still needed with donations to help reach the $20,000 legal fee. Donations can be mailed to Legal Defense for Stop Light Rail Initiative (Stephen Pidgeon), c/o Debbie Peterson, PO Box 872204, Vancouver, WA 98687

You should also review why opposition to this project grows and can see up to date information the CRC hasn’t been forthcoming with at CRCFacts.info

Be sure to RSVP and attend the CRC Facts Forum, Monday, February 25th, 2013 at7:00 pm (seating to start at 6:30 pm) and to be held at Skyview High School, 1300 NW 139th St, Vancouver, WA 98685

2 Comments to “Vancouver Light Rail Petition Lawsuit Delayed”

  1. Well then. I am wishing it was ruled on already but I guess that is how it goes. At least I do feel confident that the court will rule that the law used to throw out the petition signatures of the people will be unconstitutional. I look forward to that day when the peoples right to petition their government in their own best interest is honored. God help city hall when it burns on this one!

  2. Trial courts are usually quite reluctant to find laws passed by the legislature to be unconstitutional. The more common situation is that the trail court rules in favor of the statute, then unconstitutional measures are struck down during the appeals process, usually by the highest court (state or Federal as appropriate).

    Because this statute appears to be covered by a previous Washington Supreme Court ruling (pertaining to another law and circumstances) it seems likely that the judge would not want to make a ruling without researching the matter for him/herself.

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