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California

Ruling in Open Meeting Case Upheld

February 05, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Los Angeles County's appeal in a case involving illegal closed-door meetings of the Board of Supervisors.

In October, a state appellate court ruled in a lawsuit brought by The Times that the board and its attorney had violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's open meeting law, during a series of closed meetings in 2001. The county was ordered to pay the newspaper's legal fees, which exceed $100,000.

The supervisors voted to appeal the decision. But the state Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, letting the lower court ruling stand. "It's really a vindication for the public," said Karlene Goller, an attorney for The Times.

Goller said the case sets an important precedent for anyone who wants to hold government bodies accountable for breaking the open meeting law.

"Before, Joe Schmo would have a hard time bankrolling a case like this," she said. "But now, a person could go to an attorney, and the attorney could take the case on a contingency basis, because they're going to get their fees paid if they win.... It means people can afford to take on big governments."

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