Councilmember Suing Metropolis of Santa Monica More than Conflict of Fascination Decision

Lawsuit filed in LA County Court by Santa Monica Town Councilmember Oscar de la Torre

By Sam Catanzaro

A Councilmember is suing Santa Monica about a conflict of curiosity choice relating to a voting legal rights scenario brought from the Metropolis by his spouse. 

On March 3, Santa Monica City Councilmember Oscar de la Torre filed a lawsuit towards the City of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County Outstanding Court docket. The lawsuit seeks an injunction versus the Town of barring him from using element in dialogue and voting on motion relating to a voting rights case brought towards the Town by his spouse. The lawsuit also seeks to cease the Town Council from meeting in closed session without the need of de la Torre. 

The case, filed by plaintiffs Pico Community Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Community Educational institutions, alleges that Santa Monica’s at-significant election system dilutes Latino voting electrical power in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and discriminates in opposition to Latino voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.  De la Torre’s wife is plaintiff Maria Loya and right until November 2020 he served on the Pico Community Association’s board. 

In a 2019 ruling the Los Angeles Exceptional Courtroom Choose purchased that all foreseeable future elections for seats on the Santa Monica City Council be dependent on a seven-district map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs, which include a 30 p.c Latino district. The Metropolis then appealed this selection.

In July 2020, the California 2nd District Court of Enchantment ruled in favor of the town declaring that Latinos, who account for 14 per cent of Santa Monica’s voters, absence the numbers to acquire an election in the 30 percent Latino district purchased by the county. 

Immediately after the Appeals Court docket turned down a petition for a listening to, the plaintiffs submitted their circumstance with the California Supreme Court. On Oct 21 the Supreme Court took up the case, depublishing the Appellate Court ruling. The courtroom has granted the Town an extension right up until March 22 to file its answer temporary on the appeal’s merits.

On January 26, 2021, Santa Monica Town Council voted 4-2 with one particular abstention to exclude de la Torre from participation in any closed session or private conversation regarding the CRVA lawsuit and voting on any selections relating to the circumstance. 

De la Torre’s March 3 lawsuit details out that the California Honest Political Techniques Fee (FPPC) has dominated that he has no financial conflict of fascination in the circumstance. City Legal professional George Cardona even so, cited de la Torre’s Popular Regulation conflict of fascination when recommending Council vote to exclude him. As documented by the Santa Monica Lookout, de la Torre’s lawsuit does not handle the Prevalent Regulation conflict of fascination. 

De la Torre did not straight away respond to a request for a copy of the lawsuit. The Lookout, nevertheless, involves quotes in their protection. In the circumstance, de la Torre’s lawyer Wilfredo Trivino-Perez argues that the plaintiff’s stake in the consequence of the case is no different than that of any other Santa Monica resident. This is a level de la Torre introduced up at the January 26 meeting, arguing that his stake in the scenario is just an issue he cares about.  

“I treatment deeply about voting legal rights of minorities in Santa Monica and California much more frequently. Just like Sue [Himmelrich], every person appreciates that you care deeply about very affordable housing. Just like Kevin [McKeown], everybody is familiar with that you care about environmental challenges. My wife Maria [Loya] and the total Pico Neighborhood Affiliation board also treatment deeply about minority voting rights in Santa Monica,” de la Torre reported.  

Councilmember Gleam Davis, who voted to exclude de la Torre at the Jan. 26 meeting, resolved this all through the debate. 

“This is not about Oscar’s opinions. This is not about Coucilmember de la Torre’s bias,” Davis claimed. “It has to do with the extremely distinct actuality that Mr. de la Torre was in simple fact portion of the group, head of the team, that made a decision to sue the Town. That he is married to the individually named plaintiff in the lawsuit, and that all those points in and of them selves make a authorized, a Typical Law, of legal conflict of desire.”   

In accordance to de la Torre’s March 3 lawsuit, the Town lacks the jurisdiction to bar him from these selections with out his consent or a judicial perseverance of a conflict of interest. Thus, the scenario argues the Santa Monica residents de la Torre was elected to represent are impacted. 

“The citizens of Santa Monica he was elected to signify, have experienced and will proceed to go through irreparable injury,” Trivino-Perez wrote in the situation for each the Lookout. 

The City unveiled the adhering to statement when arrived at for comment:

On January 26, 2021, in a 4-2 vote (Councilmember Phil Brock abstained), the Santa Monica City Council built the resolve that Councilmember Oscar de la Torre has a common regulation conflict of curiosity that calls for his disqualification from discussions and selections relating to the situation of Pico Community Association and Maria Loya v. Town of Santa Monica. The conflict is the consequence of Councilmember de la Torre’s particular interactions with the two plaintiffs who brought the litigation against the Metropolis.  Councilmember de la Torre is married to plaintiff  Maria Loya and is a former co-chair, and was deposed in the litigation as the man or woman most well-informed of, plaintiff Pico Neighborhood Association.  The Council made apparent that Councilmember de la Torre is not precluded from collaborating in any Council discussions regarding the City’s election system, and that the conflict precludes him only from taking part in discussions and conclusions relating to the pending lawsuit.  

The City has gained the lawsuit submitted by Councilmember de la Torre challenging the Council’s willpower.  The Metropolis believes its perseverance was correct and will be responding to the lawsuit in court docket.