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La Jolla seals can stay, at least until Oct. 6

July 23, 2009 - 10:04 am

Judge Yuri Hofmann set aside his own dispersal order this morning, granting City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s wish for a more detailed hearing in October.

The city of San Diego was granted an emergency hearing for 8:30 a.m. this morning, just one hour before it was required to comply with Judge Hofmann’s Monday morning order to disperse the seals within 72 hours. Circumstances had changed on Monday night, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law sponsored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe that gave the city discretion to turn the Children’s Pool into a marine reserve “for the education of children.” But the law doesn’t officially take effect until Jan. 1, 2010, creating a gray area for the judge.

At this morning’s hearing, Goldsmith argued several legal points but concluded his argument with what he called “a question of justice.”

“The expense is just too much,” Goldsmith said, referring to the thousands of dollars cash-strapped San Diego would have to spend to clean the beach. “We can’t afford it.”

Paul Kennerson, the attorney for anti-seal litigant Valerie O’Sullivan, appeared to be laying the ground work for future lawsuits over the constitutionality of the new state law. He proposed that in earlier iterations of this case, the state had bound itself to a contract and argued that the Legislature could not change the contract all of a sudden. Even if Judge Hofmann remains unconvinced by this argument in October, Kennerson could potentially make this case in federal court.

Kennerson declined to talk to reporters. He walked briskly out of the court room, his face set in a frown. When approached by CityBeat, he barked, “Don’t bother me now,” and never broke his stride.

Goldsmith indicated in his post-hearing remarks to the press that his main goal was to “stop the bleeding” of constant lawsuits. CityBeat asked him about Kennerson’s apparent plans for the future.

“It seems like people stay up late into the night trying to find ways to sue over the seals,” he told CityBeat. “I can’t do anything about that.”

The hearing on Oct. 6 will address the decision by the court in 2005 that ordered the city to remove the seals, in light of the new law passed by the state.

“We’re just trying to get it closer to Jan. 1,” Goldsmith said to CityBeat, “so the council can make it’s own decision.”

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