Attorney asks Supreme Court to review ‘Loop Road’ case
January 20, 2019
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The legal fight to save a 2016 ballot measure, which would require city decisions on the "Loop Road" be put to a vote of the people, could be heading to the California Supreme Court.
Attorney Bruce Grego filed a petition for review with the court on Monday regarding a case dealing with the constitutionality of the 2016 ballot measure, Measure T.
In doing so, Grego is hoping the court will consider the case and ultimately establish a new legal requirement for the initiative process in cases where a lawsuit is filed with the intent of reversing the initiative.
Not to be confused with 2018's Measure T, which deals with vacation home rentals, 2016's Measure T prevented the city from "taking any action, adopting ordinance, making any resolution that approves or supports the Tahoe Transportation District Project known as 'The US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project' (also known as the Loop Road project) that includes realigning US Hwy. 50 unless a specific proposal for re-alignment is first approved by the voters within the City of South Lake Tahoe in an election held for such purpose."
The measure passed with 59.94 percent voting in favor of it.
At the time newly elected City Councilor Jason Collin, who had filed a lawsuit attempting to keep the measure off the ballot, filed a second lawsuit claiming the measure was unconstitutional.
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The case was filed against the city of South Lake Tahoe, as it was responsible for enforcing the measure.
In that second lawsuit, Collin did not identify Grego and South Lake Tahoe resident Laurel Ames as "real parties in interest." Grego and Ames were several members of a group that brought the initiative forward, and both were named in the initial lawsuit that sought to keep the measure off the ballot.
The city did not contest the lawsuit and an El Dorado County Superior Court judge ruled the ballot measure was "vague to the point of being unenforceable."
Grego appealed the ruling, and in December California's 3rd Appellate District affirmed the lower court's decision preventing Ames and Grego from intervening in the case.
However, the court did not consider the ruling itself, because it concluded that Ames and Grego lacked standing to appeal the judgement on the constitutionality of Measure T.
That issue is what Grego hopes to contest before the Supreme Court. He argues the court should establish a precedent allowing the party who files an initiative to automatically be given the chance to defend the initiative in cases where a lawsuit is filed.
As Grego explained it, initiatives typically come forward when citizens feel elected officials are not governing in the best interest of the people. It is inconceivable, he argues, those same officials — in this case the city of South Lake Tahoe — would be tasked with defending that same initiative.
If the state truly believes the initiative process is a fundamental right of voters, it should allow the backer of the initiative to defend it in court without having to go through the process of being recognized as parties in interest, Grego said. Rather, it should be automatic.
The California Supreme Court has 60 days to consider the request for review from the date it was filed, according to Grego.
There is no guarantee the court will review the case. According to the state, the court generally reviews less than 5 percent of all cases sent to it.
However, Grego thinks the case is interesting enough and of enough importance that the court could decide to consider it.
"It's unique enough of a question where the court might look at this," he said.