Three City Councilmen and lawyer for the city will defend themselves against a First Amendment lawsuit a newspaper banned from City Hall filed two weeks ago, San Juan Capistrano City Attorney Hans Van Ligten announced late Tuesday.
The City Council technically held three meetings yesterday. The second one was devoted to several pending and expected lawsuits, including the one involving a recent ban on news racks at City Hall and the Community Center. At the end of that second meeting and just before the start of the third, it was announced that there was nothing to report out from the council’s closed-door discussions.
But at the very end of the third meeting, Van Ligten said he needed to correct the record, that there was action to report.
“The city attorney was directed to defend the action [the newspaper lawsuit],” Van Ligten said. The vote was 4-0, with Councilman Derek Reeve, a lawyer, not participating in the session because he previously represented the plaintiff.
In November, the Community Common Sense, an advocacy paper often critical of the council majority, filed a lawsuit against Van Ligten, new Mayor Sam Allevato and Councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor in Orange County Superior Court, claiming they “violate the constitutional right of every resident in SJC to access and read newspapers and news publications as they see fit.”
The suit is in reaction to an August decision the council made to ban all newspaper racks at City Hall and the Community Center after Common Sense asked permission to place its news racks beside the Capistrano Dispatch and Orange County Register’s Capo Valley News.
The lawsuit seeks to lift the ban affecting all three publications.
Reacting to the news, Common Sense attorney Wayne Tate said: “Given their course and conduct leading up to the filing of the lawsuit, I’m not surprised.”
Tate said he had made a settlement offer last week.
“I don’t understand what their defense is going to be,” he said.