City of Palos Verdes Estates Agrees to Settlement of Parkland Lawsuit

A video of the City of Palos Verdes Estates Council Meeting to approve the settlement is available here.

            Today the lawsuit over the Panorama Parkland was resolved.  The Parties* found common ground on their mutual priority for preserving parkland. The lawsuit was originally filed by John Harbison and CEPC to unwind a sale of parkland property from the Homes Association to the Luglianis.  The property was conveyed by the City to the Homes Association as part of an agreement between the City, the Palos Verdes Unified School District and the Luglianis. The Court of Appeal held “the public did benefit from this litigation—namely through the protection of a public park.” Under the settlement, the Luglianis and the Homes Association will comply with the provisions of the CC&Rs that allow for re-designation of land use with the consent of the neighboring property owners. Harbison and CEPC support this re-designation in light of two facts: (1) the City is going to deed restrict the Bluff Cove properties (approx. 4 acres) along Palos Verdes Drive West (that are currently R1 Residential zoned) by imposing the same restrictions that are on all other City-owned open space.  As a result, the City of Palos Verdes Estates will enjoy a net increase in deed-restricted open space property.  (2) Unlike the original sale from the Homes Association to the Luglianis, under the agreement, the Homes Association will employ the proper mechanism under the CC&Rs including the explicit consent of the public within 300 feet of each property.  The Agreement will create a view easement and restore natural parkland for the public to enjoy.  All Parties affirm the continuing legal validity of the deed restrictions maintaining parkland.  In addition, the Parties are resolving the ROBE Quorum litigation creating a more democratic election process for the Homes Association.

            All Parties are pleased to have found a solution that increases parkland for the benefit of our residents.  The Luglianis agreed to restore the flat portion of the Panorama parkland properties (approx. 0.4 acres) and return that to city ownership for the residents to enjoy.  The Homes Association and Harbison were instrumental in identifying the portion of the property of most value to the community. The Homes Association is helping to fund the restoration.

            This settlement completely resolves the lawsuit over Panorama Parkland.

*Parties to the Agreement are Citizens for Enforcement Parkland Covenants (CEPC), John Harbison, Palos Verdes Homes Association (Homes Association), City of Palos Verdes Estates, Ried Schott, Residents for Open Board Elections (ROBE) and Robert and Dolores Lugliani (the Luglianis, property owners of 900 Via Panorama).

Jeff Lewis argues for Ted Rall In First Amendment battle Against LA Times

Ted Rall’s legal fight against the LA Times was argued before the Second District Court of Appeal earlier this month. Audio of the oral argument is posted here. Ted wrote an article about the appellate argument here. From that article:

It ought to be illegal for a police department to own a newspaper. But it’s not. In 2015 the LAPD pension fund was a major shareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Times. Annoyed at my cartoons about him, then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the Times then-publisher Austin Beutner, now LA schools superintendent, to fire me as a political favor. He did. Beck also wanted my reputation destroyed so I could never work again, in order to send a message to journalists: don’t mess with the LAPD. Beutner, Beck’s political ally and a man with ambitions to become mayor or governor, complied by ordering that the paper publish two libelous articles about me portraying me as a liar.

The second one was published after I proved I had told the truth.

I sued for defamation and wrongful termination in 2016.

Since thenTimes attorney Kelli Sager, who also represents theNational Enquirer in its smear of gay icon Richard Simmons, has waged a scorched-earth litigation campaign designed to intimidate, harass and delay my quest to clear my name. Sager filed the anti-SLAPP, a law designed to be used by individuals to defend themselves against powerful corporate entities, against me. She convinced the court to force me to pay $75,000 just to be able to continue my case for something called a “Section 1030”—a law whose intent is to discriminate against out-of-state plaintiffs (I live in New York.) Last week, during oral arguments in open court, she compared me to a “pedophile.”

You can read Ted Rall’s entire account of oral argument here.

Jeff Lewis calls for Recusal of RPV City Attorney in Investigation of Closed Session Leaks

For sometime, the City Attorney for Rancho Palos Verdes has been investigating leaks of closed session meetings. The City has taken the extraordinary act of issuing legislative subpoenas — an authorized but rarely used tool of city government — to compel residents to produce documents to the City. Jeff Lewis represents former Mayor Brian Campbell and has called on the City Attorney to recuse itself from the investigation of this issue.  From the letter requesting recusal:

I am writing this letter on behalf of former Mayor Campbell and other residents of the City who have concerns about the City’s transparency and handling of the current investigation into leaks of closed-door meetings. I would urge you to carefully review the entirety of the enclosed email exchange closely and make your own judgments about the implication of the statements made therein.

The email is disturbing for the following reasons: First, your subcommittee has been charged with investigating leaks from closed door session meetings of the City Council. On November 2, 2017, 12:14 p.m., Dave Aleshire disclosed to Ms. Berkowitz confidential information shared with the City Council in closed session. That is an unauthorized leak that the City should investigate. On October 31, 2017, 6:19 p.m. Mr. Aleshire disclosed to Sharon Loveys a costs summary shared with the City Council in closed session. That is also an unauthorized leak that the City should investigate.

A complete copy of the request for recusal letter is available here: 20181004 – Recusal Letter

Jeff Lewis files Opening Brief in First Amendment Appeal Challenging Misuse of California’s Anti-Harassment Statute, Code of Civil Procedure, Section 527.6

Jeff Lewis is representing a party restrained under California’s Civil Harassment Restraining statute, Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6. The appeal is now pending against personal injury attorney Dan Dunbar in the second District Court of Appeal. Section 527.6 was intended to protect victims of violent stalking but in the case of Dan Dunbar, the law was misused to prevent the restrained party from speaking the truth about criminal drug convictions and a jail sentence imposed upon Palos Verdes Estates resident Cindy Dunbar. The order issued by Judge Gary Tanaka is an unlawful prior restraint in violation of the restrained party’s First Amendment rights because it purports to restrict him from speaking or writing truthfully about the drug convictions and nursing license surrender proceedings involving Dan Dunbar‘s wife, Cynthia Dunbar. Jeff Lewis agreed to represent the restrained party in this case because he has witnessed a trend of increased restraining orders issued not to prevent violence but instead to silence defendants or to improperly restrain persons who have not committed or threatened violence or harassment. You can access the brief filed in this case here.

It’s Over: California Supreme Court Denies Review of Palos Verdes Estates Parkland Sale

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association — still convinced it has the absolute power to sell parkland — asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in and hear the case. On April 11, 2018, the Supreme Court declined. Thus, the 2015 ruling by the Superior Court and the January 30, 2018 Court of Appeal ruling are now the final word on whether the Palos Verdes Homes Association has the power to sell parkland.

 

Court of Appeal Denies Rehearing of Parkland Appeal

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association filed a Petition for Rehearing asking the same three appellate justices who decided the case to change their mind. Today that request for a rehearing was denied. In addition, the Court of Appeal strengthened its earlier decision by adding the following footnote to the opinion on the validity of the deeds:

The Association argues that it had the right to transfer the parkland to the Luglianis because this original declaration was never properly amended. But, the Chairman of the Association’s board expressly consented to the terms of the 1940 deed. By expressly agreeing to those terms, the Association cannot now argue that Bank of America had no power to include them.

 

Court Orders PV Homes Association to Count Votes

For some time, an organization named “Residents for Open Board Elections” or “ROBE” has been attempting to get the Palos Verdes Homes Association to allow votes to be counted in the annual election to determine the members of the Board of Directors. The PV Homes Association’s long standing practice is not to count the votes and simply vote to re-appoint themselves as board members. As indicated in an article by the Daily Breeze, the Los Angeles Superior Court has ordered the board to count the votes:

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ordered the Palos Verdes Homes Association to unseal and tally ballots cast in its recent board election even though the group considers them invalid.

This was the ninth year in a row the association hasn’t met its quorum requirement — more than 50 percent of members voting — and each time that happens, the ballots remain uncounted and the directors retain their seats or appoint new members. This year, however, the association extended its voting deadline to Feb. 8 in an effort to reach a quorum.

Judge Ruth Kwan, hearing a lawsuit filed by a filed last May by a group of activists, said in December she would wait to see if a quorum was reached. Notified that it wasn’t, the judge last week called for an informal tally of the votes to help her decide how to rule in the case.

(Judge asks Palos Verdes Homes Association to count votes in disputed board election, Daily Breeze, February 23, 2018).

Cartoonist Ted Rall Takes His Battle Against the Los Angeles Times to the California Courts of Appeal

Ted Rall is an award-winning nationally syndicated political cartoonist who was terminated by the Los Angeles Times as a favor to outgoing LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in 2015. (At the time, the LAPD Protective League pension fund was the biggest shareholder of the Times’ parent company.) Adding insult to injury, the Times published two pieces, both proven false, that defamed Rall in a scorched-earth attempt to destroy his journalistic career. Mr. Rall sued in 2016. Now his fight for justice goes to California’s Courts of Appeal.

The Times, now under new ownership but being run into the ground by the Chicago-based “Tronc” corporation at the time, wrongfully terminated Mr. Rall in 2015 based on allegations that Mr. Rall falsified a story about being roughed up and handcuffed by the LAPD for jaywalking in 2001. Thanks to audio technology, Mr. Rall used the Times’ own evidence to prove that he told the truth, and that the LAPD lied. Inexplicably, the Times still refuses to admit they were wrong, issue a retraction and give Mr Rall his job back. Mr. Rall sued the Times and others responsible for his firing in 2016 but in the summer of 2017 the case was dismissed. Ironically, the Times used a California law designed to protect individuals’ First Amendment rights – the anti-SLAPP law – to obtain a dismissal before Mr. Rall could conduct discovery and before a jury could hear Mr. Rall’s story.

“This is about a lot more than a newspaper firing a cartoonist,” said Mr. Rall. “It’s about a newspaper colluding with a government agency, the most heavily militarized police department in the United States, in order to send a chilling message to journalists in Southern California that they risk losing everything if they dare to report the truth about the LAPD. How can the Times speak truth to power, when it’s in bed with that power?

This week Mr. Rall’s legal team – Roger Lowenstein and Jeff Lewis – filed an appellate brief before California’s Court of Appeals to reinstate Mr. Rall’s case and vindicate Mr. Rall’s First Amendment rights to speak his mind – draw his cartoons. You can access Mr. Rall’s opening brief here. As argued in the brief: “The Times hired Rall to speak truth to power, and when he did his job too well, they fired him.”

“Working on a case like this for a client like Ted is the reason I went to law school,” said Jeff Lewis. Although Mr. Lewis frequently represents defendants in anti-SLAPP motions and appeals, in this case, accepting the representation for a plaintiff was an easy choice. “The anti-SLAPP law was designed to protect an individual from a wealthy corporation using an army of lawyers to silence critics. In this case, the anti-SLAPP law was turned on its head by the Times’ massive financial and legal resources to keep a jury from ever hearing Ted’s story,” said Mr. Lewis.

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About Jeff Lewis

Jeff Lewis is a Certified Specialist in Appellate Law The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization representing businesses and individuals in First Amendment and SLAPP matters throughout California. Contact Info: Tel. (310) 935-4001, E-Mail: Jeff@JeffLewisLaw.com, Web: www.JeffLewisLaw.com

 

About Roger Lowenstein

Roger Lowenstein is a lawyer (Harvard ‘68) and former professor of constitutional law. He is the founder and Executive Director of a social justice-themed charter school in Lincoln Heights. The school, Los Angeles Leadership Academy, K-12, serves 650 predominantly Latino families and is designed to produce critical thinkers who perceive themselves as agents of social change. 100% of the students graduate and go to college.

 

About Ted Rall

Ted Rall, cartoonist for Forbes, is America’s most widely-syndicated alternative editorial cartoonist. Twice the winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Rall’s cartoons and illustrations have appeared in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice and hundreds of other publications and websites. He is a regular contributor to MAD magazine.

Rall is the author of 20 books, including the Gen X manifesto Revenge of the Latchkey Kids, the bestselling first book filed from the 2001 U.S. invasion, To Afghanistan and Back, the radical Anti-American Manifesto, and a mixed-media look at the U.S. occupation from beginning to end, After We Kill You We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests. Most recently, he authored the New York Times bestselling graphic biography Bernie, as well as the bios Snowden and Trump.