The ACLU of Southern California expressed strong disapproval of today's decision by the California State Supreme Court in Regents v. Superior Court (formerly Molloy v. Regents ), a case arising from the University of California Board of Regents' approval of resolutions abolishing affirmative action. The Court held that student reporter Tim Molloy and the UCSB student newspaper, The Daily Nexus, may not pursue their claim that former Governor Pete Wilson and the U.C. Board of Regents violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, in voting to approve resolutions abolishing affirmative action at the U.C. Today's ruling reverses lower court decisions, which had allowed Molloy's case to go forward. Still in question, and unresolved by today's decision, is whether then-Governor Wilson violated the Public Records Act by refusing to turn over telephone records of his conversations with other members of the Board of Regents.

A coalition of civil liberties and civil rights groups representing The Daily Nexus, and reporter Tim Molloy had argued that Wilson violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by secretly locking up the votes through a series of private phone conversations to the regents in the days prior to the July meeting at which the resolutions were formally approved. Such conduct would violate the Open Meeting Act, which protects the public's right to see, hear, and participate in decisions made by government bodies like the Board of Regents and expressly forbids secret commitments to vote a particular way. The Superior Court (Judge David Garcia) and the Court of Appeal had allowed Mr. Molloy and The Daily Nexus to pursue their claims. The Supreme Court reversed on procedural grounds, without ruling on the ultimate question whether Wilson and the regents broke the law.

We're very disappointed by today's ruling,. said ACLU/SC staff attorney Dan Tokaji, who argued the case on behalf of reporter Molloy and The Daily Nexus. This ruling strikes a blow to the gut of the Open Meeting Act. It allows public officials to meet in secret, hide their wrongdoing for a mere 30 days, and get off scot free. We believe that this is against the will of the people of California, who meant to hold all public officials including the governor accountable to the public..

Tokaji added: As a result of today's decision, a cloud of suspicion will always hang over the Wilson Administration. The public is denied the opportunity to find out whether he broke the law. The ruling cuts off any inquiry into whether Wilson and the regents went behind the public's back..

It's disappointing that the Supreme Court threw out our Open Meeting Act claim, said lead plaintiff Tim Molloy. But it provides an impetus to pursue our Public Records Act claim even more intently..

In addition to the ACLU of Southern California, the First Amendment Project, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, ERA, and the ACLU of Northern California all participated in the case.

Date

Tuesday, June 1, 1999 (All day)

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The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has settled a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The suit stemmed from the County's grant of $2,500 to the Mission College Catholic Preparatory High School for a school theater production. The ACLU had argued that the grant violated the Establishment Clause of the United States constitution and Article IX and Article XVI of the California constitution, which prohibit government funding of sectarian schools and institutions.

We are very pleased to have settled this matter without the need for protracted litigation,. said ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg. "This suit sends a clear message that government should not be spending taxpayer money to fund sectarian schools."

As a result of the lawsuit and settlement, the grant to Mission College Catholic Preparatory High School has been withdrawn. In addition, the defendants have agreed to abide carefully by the provisions of the California and federal constitutions guaranteeing the separation of church and state and to reimburse the ACLU for its costs and attorneys' fees in bringing the suit.

Date

Tuesday, May 25, 1999 (All day)

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Education Equity

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The ACLU of Southern California today joined with community leaders in support of Maria Elena Durazo, president of Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union. On Thursday, Ms. Durazo completed an eleven day hunger-strike to draw attention to the union's four-year fight to win a written guarantee of job security for cafeteria workers and janitors at The University of Southern California. The ACLU, among other organizations and individuals supporting the union, have pledged to take up the hunger strike, each agreeing to go one day with only water.

The union is demanding that the university pledge, in writing, that it will not hire outside contractors to perform the jobs now handled by 360 union employees. The workers' contract expired in 1995, and despite the fact that USC and the union agreed on nearly all terms of a renewal, a new contract has not been signed because the university will not agree to subcontracting services.

"This is a matter of principle, a matter of simple economic justice," said ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston. "We stand in solidarity with Maria and all of the members of Local 11 who continue to demand fairness and justice from USC."

Beatriz Lopez Flores, vice-president of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said, "It's critically important that the rights of workers are protected by providing some measure of security in agreements between USC and its empployees. We recognize and are very appreciative of Maria's dedication to achieving this goal."

Edward Asner, the prominent actor and activist said in a statement of support, "If the ivory tower cannot render fair employment conditions to those workers on its lower rungs, can we actually call it a center of intelligent learning? Bravo, Maria! May your hardship produce results for your people who in turn are our people."

Date

Friday, May 21, 1999 (All day)

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