College of the Canyons officials and plaintiffs suing over an alleged Voting Rights Act violation are close to a settlement Monday, according to officials.
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A court-supervised settlement conference was planned to pre-empt what could have been a lengthy and potentially fruitless battle for the Santa Clarita Community College District, which oversees bothy College of the Canyons campuses in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Related article: COC, Plaintiffs To Host Settlement Talks In Voting Rights Lawsuit
“We’re working on terms and we’re hopeful there will be an agreement,” said Kevin Shenkman, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the case.
The terms were not disclosed, but the two sides were working on “putting pen to paper.”
In court Monday, Judge Rolf Treu upheld his earlier ruling on a summary judgment and denied three rulings of evidence sought by COC.
COC attorneys sought to exclude a Paul Mitchell report the college commissioned, the use of Darren Parker as an expert for the plaintiffs and evidence toward the plaintiffs’ contention of racially polarized voting in several past proposition ballots.
The lawsuit claimed Hispanic voters are being disenfranchised in the Santa Clarita Valley by the district’s at-large elections due to the existence of racially polarized voting.
No California Voting Rights Act lawsuit has been successfully defended in California.
The Santa Clarita Community College District pushed the case to the brink of trial, the last of three Santa Clarita Valley entities to settle a suit.
The city of Santa Clarita and the Sulphur Springs School District both were hit with lawsuits alleging a California Voting Rights Act violation around the same time as COC’s governing board.
As part of its settlement agreement, the city agreed in February to move its City Council elections to match up with the November primary and adopted cumulative voting.
Sulphur Springs School District officials agreed also in February to settle a lawsuit alleging a California Voting Rights Act violation with a remedy that includes districts after an hourlong closed session discussion during their governing board meeting.
The city settled for several hundred thousand dollars in attorney fees, moving the election to November and a move to cumulative voting.
In cumulative voting, if there were three city council seats on a ballot, then a voter has the ability to vote for three candidates or one candidate up to three times.
The Sulphur Springs School District agreed to move to districts as a result of the lawsuit. Those districts will be drawn by demographer David Ely’s company, Compass Demographics.
College of the Canyons officials said they intended to fight the lawsuit in court, a plan abated by an 11th-hour meeting the day before the trial was to start.
After a two-hour closed door session last Tuesday, attorneys for the community college district requested a settlement conference Wednesday in court.
Palmdale recently lost a decision in a similar CVRA lawsuit on appeal and was ordered to pay more than $3.5 million in legal fees.
Palmdale officials are rumored to be thinking about asking for a review of the appellate court panel’s recent decision for the plaintiffs.
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Source: Santa Clarita News