Kings County Anti-HSR Lawsuit Loses First Round in Court
Late last week a Sacramento judge dealt a blow to a Kings County lawsuit against the high speed rail project:
In her tentative ruling, Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang ruled that Tos, Fukuda and Kings County do have legal standing to sue over the project, against the objections of the state Attorney General’s Office. But she also agreed with arguments put forth by the attorney general that the suit fails to show that the rail authority either has or will receive the permission it needs to spend Prop. 1A funds for construction in the Valley.
Chang also agreed with the attorney general that the individual defendants — Brown, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, finance director Ana Matosantos, acting Transportation Secretary Traci Stevens, Controller John Chiang and state Sen. Mark Leno — cannot be sued for exercising their discretion in their duties, and also lack the authority to spend money for high-speed rail construction.
But Chang declared that Brady will have a chance to address the deficiencies by filing an amended version of the lawsuit by June 29.
The suit is intended to show that the HSR project currently under consideration doesn’t meet the specifications of Prop 1A. The judge did grant them an opportunity to file an amended suit. But the fact that the plaintiffs screwed up so blatantly in their first version should not inspire confidence that their arguments are particularly strong. This is another catch-all lawsuit filed by longtime HSR opponents looking desperately for a judge who might help them kill a project they don’t like.
The high speed rail project has weathered similar lawsuits before. In some cases a judge may find one small technicality that requires an EIS to be reopened and revised, but no legal challenges have yet succeeded in stopping or significantly slowing the project. Of course, delays may well happen in the future due to court action, and I haven’t yet seen any tabulation of the costs to the state of California of these lawsuits.
Designing and approving a project of this kind through the courts is a recipe for disaster, and further evidence of why the state’s planning process needs to be reformed so that good, environmentally friendly projects don’t get subjected to this kind of absurd legal wrangling.