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.