Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Feigning Sincerity.

After obtaining an appellate court ruling ordering the Los Angeles City Council to pay attention during public hearings, the winning attorney returned to the Council to chastise them for their “defiant” attitude, according to today’s Los Angeles Times. (J. Garrison, “Lawyer Finally Gets L.A. City Council’s Attention”, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2005, p. B7.)

In the underlying appellate opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed the City Council’s conduct during a zoning hearing, which was videotaped. (Lacy Street Hospitality Service, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (December 30, 2004).) According to the opinion, the videotape revealed “when the council president summoned LSHS to the speaker’s lectern to present its case, eight council members—three of whom were absent—were not in their seats. Only two council members were visibly paying attention. Four others might have been paying attention, although they engaged themselves with other activities, including talking with aides, eating, and reviewing paperwork.

“One minute into LSHS’s presentation, a council member began talking on his cell phone and two council members, one of whom had been paying attention when the hearing opened, started talking to each other.” Despite the attorney’s complaint about the lack of attention during the hearing, the conduct evidently continued. “[T]he council member with the cell phone started another conversation on it and four council members talked among themselves or with others. One council member was especially peripatetic, walking from one side of the council chamber to the other to talk to different colleagues.”

The Court of Appeal ruled that this conduct did not comport with “due process”. The Lacy Street Court stated that one “who decides must hear.” (Quoting Vollstedt v. City of Stockton (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 265, 276.) “The inattentiveness of council members during the hearing prevented the council from satisfying that principle.” (Citing Haas v. County of San Bernardino (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1017, 1024.)

It seems a simple principle: pay attention. If you are not going to, then at least look like you are. If you are not going to do either, then, at the very least, look out for video cameras.