July 23, 2021 2:45 PM
At a hearing this morning, the Los Angeles County Superior Court dismissed the cause of action brought by Councilmember Oscar de la Torre that challenged the City Council’s decision to disqualify him from participating in discussions or decisions regarding the pending California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”) litigation due to a common-law conflict of interest.
In dismissing this cause of action, the court rejected Councilmember de la Torre’s argument that he has no personal stake in the CVRA litigation that would give rise to a common-law conflict of interest. The court noted important facts demonstrating Councilmember de la Torre’s long-standing personal relationships with both plaintiffs in the CVRA litigation: “Plaintiff’s parents founded the Pico Neighborhood Association [PNA], which is one of the plaintiffs in the CVRA case, and he served as its chair until shortly after his election as a Councilmember; Plaintiff’s wife is the other named plaintiff in the CVRA Action; Plaintiff was involved with developing the claims and litigation strategy for the plaintiffs in the CVRA case; Plaintiff testified on the plaintiffs’ behalf in deposition and in the CVRA trial; and Plaintiff continued to be involved in the case until at least 6/11/21, when he filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs.” The court agreed with the City that these facts raise questions as to whether, with respect to the CVRA litigation, Councilmember de la Torre can “exercise the powers conferred on him with disinterested skill, zeal, and diligence and primarily for the benefit of the public.” Accordingly, the court held that “the decision made by the Council—that Plaintiff had a disqualifying conflict of interest—was correct, and Plaintiff was properly excluded from participating in meetings in which the CVRA litigation was discussed.”
The court also rejected Councilmember de la Torre’s argument that the City Council did not have the power to disqualify him. The court explained that “the decision whether to disqualify Plaintiff ‘was a determination properly made by the City Council in the first instance, subject to potential court review.’”
The court granted Councilmember de la Torre 20 days to amend his complaint. A copy of the court’s tentative decision, which the court adopted at the hearing without modification, can be found here.
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