Guest Commentary: Councilmember Carson Still Thinks That the Citizens He Sued with Developer Money Should Pay Legal Fees

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Alan Pryor speaking during public comment prior to the pandemic

By Alan Pryor

Woodland, CA – In a Yolo County Superior Court filing on April 22, the No on Measure H campaign rejected Councilmember Dan Carson’s latest court filing arguing that six Davis residents should not have their legal bills paid as a result of his spurious lawsuit. The legal bills in question are those incurred by the No on Measure H campaign defending against Carson’s lawsuit that attacked the No on H ballot statement. The No on H campaign believes that the lawsuit was a blatant attempt to squelch their free speech rights.

Further, Carson’s latest filing states that Carson himself intends to file to collect attorney fees from the six individual Davis citizens he named in his lawsuit! However, while Carson’s wants the six Davis residents he sued to be financially responsible for all of Carson’s attorney fees, it turns out that all of Carson’s legal costs are actually being bankrolled by the DiSC developer.

In a reply brief filed in Yolo County Superior Court, the No on H campaign called Carson’s actions “a tried and true political tactic to deplete the opposition’s financial resources through whatever means possible, because in politics, money itself is speech.”

“Petitioner Dan Carson, a City Councilmember and representative of the developer-backed Yes on H Committee, initiated litigation that would have prevented Real Parties in Interest Alan Pryor, Michael Corbett, Stephen Wheeler, Darell Dickey, Juliette Beck, and Roberta Millstein (‘Real Parties’) from expressing relevant opinions about the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus 2022 (DiSC 2022),” the brief says.

“Real Parties were forced to obtain counsel to defend their speech rights, depleting campaign resources. Even worse, Petitioner has now threatened to file a fee motion against these six private citizens for payment of Petitioner’s attorney’s fees, even though he did not achieve the results he sought in his Petition for Writ of Mandate,” the brief continues.

“The case is a triple punch designed to stifle comment, reduce campaign activity, and financially punish citizens who simply engaged in protected political speech in the ballot pamphlet. Unlike Petitioner, who made the choice to come to court, these six Real Parties were dragged unwillingly into this forum by the filing of this lawsuit. These individuals should be made whole, and the attorneys who took this case on a partially contingent basis should be fully compensated for successfully defending Real Parties’ right to present their ballot argument as they intended,” the brief concludes.

Previously, Dan Carson’s lawyers sought to have stricken more than 80 words of the 300-word ballot statement against Measure H. Although Carson filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, Carson is a sitting Davis City Councilmember and the Honorary Chair of the Yes on Measure H campaign committee. Dan Ramos, the DiSC project developer, recently admitted in public that he is footing Carson’s legal costs.

This unprecedented lawsuit targeted six private Davis citizens who authored or signed the ballot statement in question. On March 30, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Daniel McGuire overwhelmingly ruled against Carson, making only two small changes suggested by the No on H campaign itself; one of which simply changed the units that the amount of greenhouse gases was expressed in.

No on Measure H and the six named individual Davis citizens filed a claim earlier this month requesting an award of attorney’s fees for the costs they incurred in successfully defending the lawsuit by Carson. The No on H Campaign believes Councilmember Carson’s role in this litigation grossly oversteps his elected role, blurring the lines between his elected office and his personal advocacy for a development project.

“Real Parties prevailed in their effort to preserve the vast majority of their ballot argument unaltered, with the result that only very modest changes that did not change the meaning or content of the ballot argument were ordered,” states the brief. Thus, the brief argues, a fully compensatory fee award “should be awarded in recognition of this result and the effort expended to ensure that citizens of Davis benefited from the robust exchange of ideas that is at the center of our democratic system.”

The hearing on legal fees is scheduled for April 29 in Yolo County Superior Court.

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11 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Councilmember Carson Still Thinks That the Citizens He Sued with Developer Money Should Pay Legal Fees”

  1. Ron Glick

    “Carson is a sitting Davis City Councilmember and the Honorary Chair of the Yes on Measure H campaign committee.”

    Pryor is the sitting head of the no on H campaign and is the Chair of local Sierra Club chapter Management Committee.

    Pryor also fought to have Measure J renewed in 2020 without any amendments but now publicly laments people using the rules of election law under which Measure J operates.

     

  2. Ron Glick

    Never let a crisis go to waste especially during an election campaign.

    Why not let the judge figure this out? Why litigate this in public?

    Obviously, because it makes good fodder for the campaign.

  3. Alan Pryor

    Why not let the judge figure this out? Why litigate this in public?

    You might ask why Carson and Ramos initially filed this lawsuit at the last hour on the last possible day and then had articles sprang publicizing this fact in the Enterprise and the Vanguard the very next day before even notifiying the No campaign?

    Never mind..you’ve already answered the question.

    Obviously, because it makes good fodder for the campaign.

    You seem have a problem with our filing of press releases about the ongoing status of this litigation but I don’t ever recall that you crtiticized the press releases of those from the Yes folks whose positions you support and who initially started this whole legal ambush.

        1. Keith Olson

          What?  How many articles has the Vanguard written or posted about this issue?

          Do you always write or post articles about issues that people don’t care about?

          So I think Davis voters do care and notice or else it wouldn’t be news worthy.

          1. David Greenwald

            It was an interesting issue up until the court ruling. My assessment is that at this point – the issue of the legal fees – is of limited interest to the community.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Do you always write or post articles about issues that people don’t care about?

          He does.  I’d say about 90% of them qualify for that designation.  (Which is why he’s had to reach across the state and country to find sufficient support for those issues.)

          When you’re on the fringe of issues, you have to broaden your potential “audience”.

  4. Ron Oertel

    David: It was an interesting issue up until the court ruling. My assessment is that at this point it’s of limited interest to the community.

    You certainly had a great deal of “interest” in it, right up until the time that the court removed the word “only” (and changed the units of greenhouse gasses to something more relatable).

    Prior to that, you made quite a few allegations which turned out to not be supported by the result. For that matter, you continued to do so afterward, as well.

    It’s certainly of interest to anyone concerned about what might happen to them personally, if they challenge a development proposal going forward. (So, I can see why “you” would not personally be concerned about that.)

  5. Alan Miller

    The No on H Campaign believes Councilmember Carson’s role in this litigation grossly oversteps his elected role, blurring the lines between his elected office and his personal advocacy for a development project.

    As does everyone I’ve talked to in this town recently.  This has backfired on Carson, and backfired on DISC.

    Vote NO on Carson.

     

  6. wesleysagewalker

    “No on H and the six named individual Davis citizens filed a claim earlier this month requesting an award of attorney’s fees for the costs they incurred in successfully defending the lawsuit by Carson.”

    The temerity of this claim is certainly impressive. To be clear, did the Yolo County Superior Court Judge find sections of their ballot statement to be false and misleading or not? That happened. The judge did not rule that all of the requested statements be amended, but to be very clear here, the No on H campaign had decisions rendered against it. Rather bold to say this was a successful defense.

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