City of San Diego to Pay SoccerCity Attorney Fees
“If you try to limit someone from exercising their right to participate in public forums, then not only will you lose your case, if that’s what you’ve done. But you may also be on the hook for attorney’s fees which can be a significant deterrent,” Michael Attanasio said.
Attanasio is the legal council for the SoccerCity group looking to redevelop the Mission Valley site where the decrepit SDCCU Stadium sits today. His clients were the subject of a failed lawsuit by San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott who attempted to obstruct the SoccerCity initiative from being voted on in the upcoming November election, citing that the Citizens' Initiative mechanism deployed by SoccerCity overstretched its capacity.
Last week an appellate court dismissed Elliott's lawsuit along with an identical one aimed at eliminating the SDSU West initiative from the same November ballot. As a consequence, San Diego will have to pay SoccerCity backers more than $100,000 to cover their legal fees.
“Thorough examination of the merits of the initiatives would extend past the deadline for printing ballot materials (Aug. 10th)... we decline to eliminate the right of the public to express its views on the competing initiatives,” Justices Patricia Benke, Richard Huffman and Joan Irion said in their denial of the City Attorney’s suits.
The City Attorney's decision to file suit in the first place came in May of 2018, over a year after the SoccerCity initiative gathered over 112,000 signatures in just 12 days. Many questioned at the time of filing why such a large amount of time in between the successful qualification of the ballot measure and the lawsuit from the City Attorney was allowed to transpire, and there has be speculation that Elliott's suits were motivated by political pressure.
Not everyone in City Hall approved of the lawsuits in the first place. Council member Scott Sherman, who has been a vocal supporter of SoccerCity has been particularly critical of Mara Elliott in recent months.
With the path clear to November, backers of both SoccerCity and SDSU West are gearing up for a fall campaign season that is sure to continue to yield all sorts of headlines.
“I’m confident the taxpayers will look at the initiative and judge it on its own merits and that’s all SoccerCity proponents wanted, was the opportunity to make the case for why this was the best initiative,” Attanasio said.