The plaintiffs and lawyers suing Santa Monica over its election system have been fined $21,612 for failing to produce emails during the trial. The judgement has no bearing on the outcome of the case but the court order containing the ruling does suggest a decision has been made.
Judge Yvette Palazuelos issued the fine on Nov. 8 and in the letter sent to both sides, she lists all actions taken in court that day. The first notation is “The Court issues its Tentative Decision/Order re: the Court Trial.”
No-one had an actual copy of that ruling last week and when asked for a copy, the Court said the document was unavailable for physical inspection because it had been taken to be scanned for upload into the digital document system. However, no document was available online by close of business Friday, the system was unavailable for the weekend and no new documents are available as of Monday morning.
A second order suggests a copy has been mailed to both sides but Monday is a Federal holiday with no mail delivery.
Both sides have been ordered to appear on Dec. 7 to possibly discuss the tentative ruling. A judge has the ability to alter a tentative ruling based on subsequent arguments and while a wholesale reversal between the tentative and final stage is rare, it is possible.
Plaintiffs Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association sued the City of Santa Monica alleging the at large voting system is racist. If they win the case, the city could move to district based elections or adopt another voting system depending on the Judge’s order.