Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A report on the high-speed rail hearing

The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail sends this report on Friday's hearing:

On Friday, May 31st, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny heard arguments in the case of
Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority. The lawsuit challenges the current high-speed rail project. The basis of the lawsuit is that the project proposed for construction is inconsistent with the requirements of Proposition 1A. When the voters approved Proposition 1A and provided $9 billion for high-speed rail, they expected that the High-Speed Rail Authority would do what the law said, both procedurally and substantively. But the Authority is not doing what Proposition 1A said. That is the basis for the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority are from the Central Valley, ground zero for the current project. The attorneys arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, and on behalf of all California taxpayers, come from the Bay Area. Lead attorney is Mike Brady, a member of the CC-HSR Board of Directors. Stuart Flashman, the attorney who has successfully represented Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and CC-HSR in litigation challenging the environmental review process carried out here in the Bay Area argued the "writ" portions of the case, which were heard last Friday.

Representatives and supporters of CC-HSR were in attendance in the courtroom in Sacramento.

Stuart Flashman began the argument. He cited cases that establish this rule: When a bond act is passed by the voters, the provisions of the bond act are "like a contract," and the government is legally bound to use the money the way it said it would. Judge Kenny seemed to get the point. Since the Authority has not followed important provisions of Proposition 1A, the court can intervene to protect the voters' rights.

After the presentation by Stuart Flashman, a Deputy Attorney General argued the case for the Authority. She said that the procedures and provisions that the Authority has not followed were not really placed in the bond act for the benefit of the voters; they were placed there only to inform the Legislature, and since the Legislature has now voted to spend bond act money on the current project, that is all that counts. The court really doesn't have any role to play. Judge Kenny had some tough questions about this argument!

After arguments from both sides, the case has now been submitted to the Judge, who is expected to rule in the next several weeks. The portions of the case argued on May 31st represent only "Part I" of the lawsuit. More issues may be argued later.

Randal O'Toole on the hearing.



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