Court date set for recall writ
April 9, 2013 — Tom Hammond, the south county proponent seeking to force the Lassen County Clerk to move forward with the effort to recall Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson, will finally have his day in court.
“This very important dispute is the exact type of matter our founders considered when setting up our government,” wrote Stephen King, Hammond’s attorney. “We have three co-equal branches of government. Petitioner is asking the judicial branch to limit the power of the executive branch to disenfranchise its citizens. It’s as simple as that.”
Last month visiting judge Charles H. Ervin issued a minute order advising the parties involved in the dispute he will hold a “hearing on (the) petition for (a) writ of mandate” at 10 a.m. April 16 in Department 3 at the Lassen County Hall of Justice.
According to Erwin’s order, the court will issue a tentative ruling at 1 p.m. the day before (April 15).
If the parties — Hammond and Lassen County — do not agree with the tentative ruling, they will be allowed to present oral arguments at the April 16 hearing if they notify the court in advance they wish to be heard. Those arguments will be limited to five minutes. If the parties do not wish to present an oral argument, “the tentative ruling shall become the final ruling of the court,” according to Ervin’s order.
New court documents
King filed a reply to the county’s opposition to writ of mandate March 29. The purpose of the filing was to “respectfully reply” to the county’s opposition to the writ and “correct some misconceptions therein and possibly engendered thereby.”
King’s reply responds to three of the points contained in the county’s opposition: that the recall proponents used previously rejected forms; that the disenfranchisement of more than 700 registered voters is not a statutory or constitutional violation; and, state bureaucratic officials agreeing with the county clerk’s rationale in deciding to reject some of the recall petitions is relevant.
King’s pleading challenges the county’s allegation the recall proponents used previously rejected forms.
According to the court documents, the proponents allege the county clerk mistakenly approved the form with the errors, but King calls that argument “a red herring.”
The error, the misspelling of one of the proponent’s names, is “a very minor spelling error that confused no one. (It’s) an error so minor (the) respondent (Lassen County clerk) did not notice it when she returned the wrong form,” and “There is no way to determine who made the error.”
According to the court filing, the recall proponents can provide “testimony that the error was the respondent’s.”
The county alleges the clerk rejected the form because of the error and directed the recall proponents not to use that form.
King also argues one must ask if the misspelling of the proponent’s name has “a material effect on the meaning (or) understanding of the petition.”
He cites Article 2 of the California Constitution that “all power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their protection, security and benefit, and they have the right to alter or reform it when the public good may require."
According to King’s pleading, “(The California Constitution) does not say that the rule makers hold the power nor does it say the bureaucrats (who) scour petitions for minor errors have the power to take away the right to alter or reform the government.”
Minor errors in court documents do not affect the court’s orders, King argues, and the county’s position appears to be “the most inconsequential error that is unnoticed and immaterial should prevent an election to remedy a perceived wrong. Make no mistake. The recall petition only puts the question on the ballot … the constitutional right of a citizen to alter or reform his government is worthless if the bureaucratic perfectionists are allowed to make their own rules without outside review. At what point do the constitutional rights of the people become so difficult to assert that they are essentially meaningless? Should (the county’s) argument be accepted, the ability of Lassen County citizens to control their government is on the road to extinction.”
King also argues the county clerk’s consultation with other government officials regarding her actions carry “no water” because those officials do not legislate or interpret the law.
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