The state Supreme Court has declined to review Inglewood City Council candidate Garland Hardeman's request that he be installed in the 4th District seat occupied by Councilman Ervin (Tony) Thomas.
Last October, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leon Savitch annulled Thomas' June 1987 runoff victory over Hardeman and declared 31 votes for Thomas illegal, wiping out Thomas' 16-vote margin of victory. Savitch declared the council seat vacant and called for a new election, but Thomas remains in office while appeals are being considered.
Thomas and the city each have filed appeals challenging the annulment. Hardeman's lawyers have appealed Savitch's refusal to declare Hardeman the victor.
The transcript of the six-day proceeding before Savitch has not yet been completed, which attorneys say is necessary for the appellate process to move forward.
Arguing that the normal appellate process could allow Thomas to remain in office for several years, Hardeman's lawyers went to the state Court of Appeal, which in December denied their emergency petition to have Hardeman placed in office. The lawyers then went to the state Supreme Court, which made its decision Wednesday.
Hardeman's lawyers argued that voters are being denied their rightful representative. They said Savitch disregarded state law requiring him to declare a new winner if a court challenge changes the outcome of an election.
Attorneys for all parties had predicted that the state Supreme Court would refuse to review the request, which would have required justices to rule on the basis of brief written arguments without benefit of the transcript.
"It's not a matter of statewide concern," said Assistant City Atty. Jack Ballas. "It's basically a question of whether one Inglewood councilman should be replaced by a candidate. That's not the kind of thing (to which) they grant review."
Ballas said that the appellate process could be completed within a year. City officials have said they will not schedule a new election, if one is necessary, until the appellate process is over.
Because an election could be scheduled as late as 180 days after a final decision, Hardeman's attorneys argue that the bulk of the four-year council term could be over before a new election is held.
Hardeman's attorney Mark Borenstein said Thursday that he will file a motion early next week asking the state Court of Appeal to shorten the time allotted for filing trial briefs and presenting arguments in the case.
"Hopefully we could cut what could be a six- to eight-month process down to two months," Borenstein said. But even if the motion is granted, he said, the court could take as long as a year to make a ruling once it has heard arguments.
Another of Hardeman's attorneys, Fred Woocher, said: "We're expecting him to be placed in office on our cross-appeal. We're confident of that."
Hardeman said he would meet with his attorneys to discuss his next move. He said he is considering launching a drive to recall Thomas while the appeals are proceeding.
'Back to the People'
"Thomas plans on remaining there as long as he can buy time with this appeal," Hardeman said. "If the wheels of justice are going to turn so slowly, I'll take this back to the people."
Thomas did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Among other considerations, Hardeman said that he wants to establish whether Thomas can be recalled while appeals are pending.
Ballas said it is the city's position that Thomas is legally the councilman and that he could be recalled. According to city officials, signatures from 30% of the registered voters of the district would be required to hold a recall.