A lawyer for Common Cause alleged Friday that San Diego County Sheriff John Duffy engaged in "forbidden political activity" last year when he urged deputies to pass out post cards calling on state Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird to resign.
But at a hearing in San Diego County Superior Court, the sheriff's attorney said Duffy was merely exercising his freedom of speech and did not violate laws against campaigning by public employees in distributing the cards and making them available at sheriff's substations.
At issue was a civil lawsuit filed last year by Common Cause against Duffy, whose deputies in February, 1985, handed out 18,000 of the post cards denouncing Bird's stance on criminal law and the death penalty.
Duffy's attorney, Janet Houts, on Friday asked Judge Douglas Woodworth to dismiss the case, contending that the issue was moot because the sheriff had halted distribution of the cards when the suit was filed.
But Louis Katz, an American Civil Liberties Union volunteer lawyer representing Common Cause, said the issue was alive as long as Duffy insisted he was within his rights to engage in the campaign against Bird.
Woodworth said he would issue a decision next Friday.