Nevada judge allows lawsuit against a ballot question to move forward

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January 25, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

BOULDER CITY, Nevada: A Nevada District Court Judge ruled that Boulder City can move forward with its lawsuit against five citizens who circulated a petition asking for a ballot question during the November 2010 election.[1]

Judge Jerome Tao ruled on January 20, 2011, that the defendants in the case are not immune from the city's litigation efforts.[1] Boulder City filed suit against the five individuals alleging that their petitions violated a city law that requires voter approval if Boulder City goes into a debt of $1 million or more.[1]

Attorney Tracy Strickland who represented the five circulators, along with his wife Linda, filed a motion on December 20, 2010, to dismiss the case.[1] Strickland's motion argued that Boulder City engaged in a strategic lawsuit against political participation (SLAPP)[1]. Also, the motion argued that the city violated an anti-SLAPP law protecting citizens engaged in their constitutional right to petition.[1]

During arguments, Tracy Strickland argued that the actions taken by Boulder City could have an "chilling effect" on citizens wanting to get involved in their city's government.[1] City Attorney Dave Olsen was named in Strickland's motion and argued that he "legally attacked" seven out of the last eight citizen initiatives considered in Boulder City.[1] Strickland also cited a Nevada statute that allows a court to review the proposed question without Boulder City suing the circulators.[1] One example that Strickland mentioned of the statute's application was the City of Mesquite asking the Nevada Supreme Court to review the legality of a recently approved ballot question.[1]

Paul Larsen, who represented City Attorney Dave Olsen, argued that the city was not obligated to review the question without taking legal action.[1] Olsen further argued that the lawsuit was not intended to be punitive.[1] Larsen said: "we are not punishing people. If you propose legislation, it's up to you to defend it...That's how democracy works."[1]

Strickland is planning to appeal the judge's decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.[1]

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