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Orange County

High Court Lets Charter Vote Stand

County voters, not the governor, can continue to select replacement supervisors.

June 12, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

The California Supreme Court has declined to consider a final challenge to an Orange County ballot measure passed last year allowing voters to fill vacancies on the Board of Supervisors rather than the governor.

The court issued no statement in declining to hear the appeal from a March ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana.

The state appellate court unanimously upheld Measure V, passed by voters in November, which created a county charter. The charter incorporated all other state laws applicable to Orange County with one exception -- it required supervisor vacancies to be filled by election.

The high court's decision was final validation of the January election of former Assemblyman Bill Campbell. He was chosen in a Jan. 28 special election to succeed Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who took Campbell's seat in the Legislature.

Private attorneys representing the state on behalf of Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer argued that such a single-issue charter was unconstitutional. The appellate judges disagreed, saying there was nothing "substantially inconsistent" with county voters deliberately choosing to adopt large portions of state law for their own charter.

"If that is the county's choice, then that is the county's choice," Presiding Justice David Sills wrote. That ruling overturned a decision by Superior Court Judge Andrew P. Banks, sued two days before the election, that Measure V was unconstitutional.

Critics argued that politics, not local control, were behind Measure V. They said it was an attempt by Republicans to prevent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis from appointing a successor to Spitzer, who argued that it merely allowed local voters to choose their own representatives.

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