Nevada judge allows lawsuit against a ballot question to move forward
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.
Judge Jerome Tao ruled on January 20, 2011, that the defendants in the case are not immune from the city's litigation efforts. 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.
Attorney Tracy Strickland who represented the five circulators, along with his wife Linda, filed a motion on December 20, 2010, to dismiss the case. Strickland's motion argued that Boulder City engaged in a strategic lawsuit against political participation (SLAPP). Also, the motion argued that the city violated an anti-SLAPP law protecting citizens engaged in their constitutional right to petition.
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. 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. Strickland also cited a Nevada statute that allows a court to review the proposed question without Boulder City suing the circulators. 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.
Paul Larsen, who represented City Attorney Dave Olsen, argued that the city was not obligated to review the question without taking legal action. Olsen further argued that the lawsuit was not intended to be punitive. Larsen said: "we are not punishing people. If you propose legislation, it's up to you to defend it...That's how democracy works."