The ACLU today applauded Governor Davis for signing into law a bill that reverses the California Supreme Court's June 1, 1999 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court (Molloy). The ACLU's of Southern and Northern California, along with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the First Amendment Project, and Equal Rights Advocates, represented the UC Santa Barbara Daily Nexus and one of its student reporters, Tim Molloy, in this case.
The Regents case challenged the UC Regents' actions in approving resolutions banning affirmative action. In July 1995, the UC Regents, led by former Governor Wilson, approved two resolutions abolishing affirmative action at the University. After a several month investigation uncovered evidence of an Open Meeting Act violation, the ACLU and other civil liberties organizations brought suit, alleging that Governor Wilson had illegally locked up the vote ahead of time.
Although lower courts had allowed this lawsuit to proceed to trial, Governor Wilson and the Regents appealed to the California Supreme Court. In its June 1, 1999 ruling, the California Supreme Court reversed the lower courts. It held that Mr. Molloy and the Nexus could not pursue any relief for a past violation of the Open Meeting Act. On September 15, 1999, Governor Davis signed into law AB 1234. This law states the California legislature's express intent "to supersede the decision of the California Supreme Court in Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court (Molloy) (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 509. In particular, AB 1234 specifically allows lawsuits to be brought, alleging past violations of the Open Meeting Act.
"This new law vindicates the principle for which we have long fought: That public officials must be held accountable to the people they serve," said ACLU staff attorney Dan Tokaji, who argued the Regents case before the California Supreme Court. "Public officials can no longer act in secret, hide their wrongdoing for 30 days, and then get away with it, as former Governor Wilson and the UC Regents sought to do. This is a great victory for all of us who believe that government should conduct its business in the light of day."