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Home » Santa Clarita News » Crime » Court » Trial For COC’s Governing Board In Voting Rights Act Lawsuit To Begin Wednesday
Trial For COC's Governing Board In Voting Rights Act Lawsuit To Begin Wednesday

Trial For COC’s Governing Board In Voting Rights Act Lawsuit To Begin Wednesday

A trial is set to begin Wednesday over a lawsuit alleging the Santa Clarita Community College District is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act with its at-large elections.

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The SCCCD, which is the governing board for College of the Canyons’s two Santa Clarita Valley campuses, is the only local entity to take a CVRA lawsuit to trial.

Related article: Judge Issues Tentative CVRA Ruling On COC Lawsuit; Trial To Start In June

Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser and Jim Soliz discuss their California Voting Rights Act lawsuits (Click the photo to link to video)

“The college’s (demographic) consultant told them that they are violating the law, our expert found that they were violating the law — we had hoped that (SCCCD officials) wouldn’t go down that path,” said Kevin Shenkman, a lawyer for the suit’s plaintiffs, Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser.

“It’s shocking that COC would do the same thing,” said Shenkman, who added Palmdale could face eight-figure legal fees in the if the city continues to fight.

Santa Clarita Community College District officials declined to comment on this story, because the lawsuit is part of ongoing litigation.

Wednesday’s trial comes one week after a three-judge appellate court panel ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor in a CVRA lawsuit against Palmdale.

Related article: Appeals Court Rules Against Palmdale In Voting Rights Act Case

College of the Canyons's Canyon Country campus (photo by Jessica Boyer)

In that case, the court rejected the defendant’s claim that charter cities are granted a means to select their own officials different from general law cities, according to the state’s constitution.

Palmdale City Council members are expected to make decision as to whether the city will continue to fight the lawsuit, said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy.

“Certainly, we are disappointed that the will of the voters, who elected the first African-American to the City Council, will not be honored at this time,” Ditzhazy said. “I’m also disappointed in the ruling by the court of appeals as to the authority of charter cities under the California constitution to prescribe the manner and method of electing their councilmembers.”

Both Santa Clarita and Sulphur Springs School District leaders voted to settle CVRA lawsuits filed in June of last year.

Officials in both of those cases noted no defense of a CVRA lawsuit has ever been successful, and the cost of fighting such a suit could likely range in the millions of dollars, as part of the justification for their respective settlements.

Nielsen Merksamer is the law firm defending the SCCCD, which is a firm also representing Palmdale officials in their legal battle.


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Trial For COC’s Governing Board In Voting Rights Act Lawsuit To Begin Wednesday

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About Perry Smith

Perry Smith is a print and broadcast journalist who has won several awards for his focused, hyperlocal community coverage in several different regions of the country. In addition to five years of experience covering the Santa Clarita Valley, Smith, a San Fernando Valley native, has worked in newspapers and news websites in Los Angeles, the Northwest, the Central Valley and the South, before coming to KHTS in 2012. To contact Smith, email him at