Moody abandons referee appointment in CCC case

Ralph Moody, a visiting Lassen County Superior Court judge, had considered the appointment of Harvey Leiderman as a referee in the city of Susanville’s lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to investigate “whether a party engaged in improper conduct in the legislative process” regarding the city of Susanville’s lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Further the judge wants to investigate if the state has taken other steps to close the California Correctional Center in violation of a preemptory order issued in 2021 by Lassen County Superior Court Judge Mark Nareau when it initiated a California Environmental Quality Act review for CCC months after Nareau’s order.

But Moody issued a minute order Monday, Aug. 15 abandoning Leiderman’s appointment. According to the order, “In view of the case of Sagaser v. McCarthy, 176 Cal App 3rd 288, the court will not be appointing a referee in the above referenced case.”

Sagaser v. McCarthy
According to casetext.com, “In Sagaser v. McCarthy (1986) 176 Cal.App.3d 288 at page 298, the plaintiffs brought a California Environmental Quality Act challenge to the construction of a prison that the court dismissed as moot following the legislature’s passage of a bill, applying retroactively, that exempted the proposed prison from CEQA compliance.”

According to the court case, in 1983 the legislature authorized the construction of a prison near the city of Avenal, and CDCR prepared an Environmental Impact Report. The appellants challenged the adequacy of the report through administrative channels and eventually filed an action in Kings County Superior Court. The court ruled against them and they filed an appeal.

“While appellants sought relief in the courts, Assembly Bill No. 2251 was introduced and passed by the legislature; it was signed by the governor on Sept. 24, 1985. The 1985 legislation found in chapter 931, hereafter referred to as AB No. 2251, exempted three proposed prison sites, including one near Avenal from compliance with the requirements of CEQA. The bill carried an urgency clause and became effective immediately upon the governor’s signing the legislation,” according to the court case.

Citing Lee v. Lost Hills Water District, the court decided, “no vested right stems from CEQA provisions and no constitutional duty arises on the part of a court to provide relief to those affected by the preparation of an EIR … Because we hold that AB 2251 is constitutional and valid legislation, and because the validity of AB 2251 is the only issue before us, we must dismiss the appeal as moot. Appellants misconceive the very nature of the CEQA provisions. The rights derived from the environmental quality act are not of constitutional dimension and the legislature constitutionally may eliminate any of its requirements.”

The next hearing in the city of Susanville’s lawsuit is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26.