The United Farm Workers of America lost another court battle in Imperial County on Wednesday in a case that poses a severe threat to the union's financial health.
Imperial County Superior Court Judge William E. Lehnhardt rejected the plea of the UFW that he reduce a $3.3-million bond the union must post by June 5 while it appeals a judgment of more than $1.6-million it has been directed to pay a vegetable grower for losses from a violence-torn 1979 strike.
Lehnhardt spurned arguments by union lawyer Dianna Lyons that the bond (which, according to California law, is twice the amount of the original judgment) is either excessive or unconstitutional. However, he said he would entertain a motion from the UFW that it be allowed to post a bond 1.5 times the size of the judgment (about $2.5 million) in view of the large sum involved.
Lyons said she will appeal the judge's original ruling and Wednesday's decision.
If the union does not secure a stay by June 5, lawyers for grower Carl Maggio will attempt to start attaching union assets--such as dues the union is collecting.
Jay Jeffcoat, an El Centro attorney representing Maggio, said he was satisfied with Lehnhardt's ruling. He said he anticipates that the appeal process in the case could take up to three years.