Originally posted at 4:57 p.m. Dec. 11, 2013.
News racks may soon be back at San Juan Capistrano City Hall and the Community Center after a judge forced city lawyers and an attorney for a local newspaper publication into a room to negotiate.
According to a tentative agreement that must be signed off by City Council members, racks for plaintiff Community Common Sense along with the Capistrano Dispatch and Orange County Register can return, albeit just a few feet away from their original positions
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.
After asking a few questions of lawyers for the city and Common Sense, Orange County Superior Court Judge James J. Di Cesare sent them into the jury deliberation room to work out a deal.
The conversation was loud at times, with the newspaper’s attorney, Wayne Tate, saying the Dispatch and Capo Valley News racks existed for years at City Hall with nary an incident.
Tate left the room about 30 minutes into the negotiations, while Van Ligten continued to consult with colleague Philip Kohn. An hour and 10 minutes, Tate was invited back into the room, and 27 minutes later, all parties emerged with a deal.
The proposal is to place the racks at City Hall in front of a brick planter just a foot or two north of where they were. At the Community Center, the racks will return, but instead of being next to the door, they’ll be allowed adjacent to two benches near the door.
Van Ligten declined to call the deal a defeat.
“We’re here, that’s part of the process. You always evaluate when people have an issue,” he said. “I don’t think of any members of the City Council want to engage in litigation for the sake of litigation.”
If the City Council and Common Sense representatives sign off on the settlement, the racks could return within weeks or even days, Van Ligten said.“I’m just glad logic and reason and common sense could prevail,” Tate said.
Click here for today’s top stories from San Juan Capistrano Patch.