A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that the title of a fall ballot measure to ease term limits for the L.A. City Council must be modified to better inform voters of the measure's intent.
Ruling on a lawsuit brought by several residents, Judge Robert H. O'Brien said the title must say the measure would "lengthen" rather than merely "change" council members' term limits.
Written by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the measure was put on the Nov. 7 ballot by a council vote last month. If approved, the measure would allow council members to serve up to three four-year terms instead of two and would impose new restrictions on lobbyists.
"It was a big win for the little guys," said Jason Lyon, board member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, who was among several neighborhood council members who brought the suit.
In a legal opinion last month, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo warned the council that the ballot title could provoke a legal challenge and recommended that it use "lengthen" in the title while also saying that "change" was legally sufficient.
At the time, council President Eric Garcetti said that using words such as "lengthen" or "extend" were politically loaded terms and that "change" was more neutral.
A spokesman for the city attorney said Thursday that his office would continue to do its best to defend the city.
O'Brien also ruled that the measure's opponents had to soften some of the language they used in arguments that appear on the ballot, and proponents had to strike an erroneous statement about one of the lobbyist proposals.
A second and more sweeping lawsuit against the ballot measure is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in Superior Court.
That suit, brought by a Los Angeles resident with the backing of the national group U.S. Term Limits, is seeking to have the measure stricken because it allegedly violates the state Constitution by combining unrelated items: the term limits proposal and lobbying restrictions.