Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Judge to Block LACBA Election if a Plaintiff Is Challenged
Chalfant Says Preliminary Injunction Will Issue Friday if Jensen, Lam or Booth Draws Opponent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge yesterday conditionally granted a preliminary injunction, effective Friday, barring the Los Angeles County Bar Association from continuing to conduct an election this month for officers and trustees—but only if someone files a nominating petition by tomorrow’s deadline challenging one of the three plaintiffs who is a candidate.
Those plaintiffs are LACBA Vice President Tamila Jensen, running for senior vice president; Senior Vice President Phil Lam, seeking the post of vice president; and Real Property Section Chair Susan Booth, the lead plaintiff, a candidate for a trustee spot.
The plaintiffs claim those candidates, along with Brian Kabateck, a candidate for president-elect, and nine candidates for trustee positions, were elected in March. However, those results were nullified by LACBA based on alleged breaches of confidentiality within the Nominating Committee; a new election was called for; and a new nominating committee renominated the same slate—but members of that slate are now vulnerable to being challenged in the new election.
Judge James Chalfant found that Jensen, Lam and Booth would “be harmed if somebody runs against them.” The other plaintiffs are two trustees and a past president, whose interests, Chalfant said, do not outweigh those of LACBA.
None of the Nominating Committee’s Feb. 27 choices was challenged by the March 22 deadline for filing nominating petitions and, under a bylaw, LACBA President Margaret Stevens was obliged to direct an acting chief executive officer to cast a ballot for the slate, unanimously electing it. In light of her refusal to do so, Chalfant on May 16, observed, in denying a temporary restraining order, that no election had been consummated.
He therefore declined at that time to set a hearing, pursuant to Corporations Code §7616, to determine the validity of a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation’s election.
At yesterday’s hearing on a preliminary injunction, Chalfant broadly hinted that he would have declared the Feb. 27 slate of officers and trustees elected if a writ had been sought compelling Stevens to cause certification.
Chalfant said he cannot do what he has not been asked to do, and has “not been asked” to order consummation of that election. Although the attorney for the plaintiffs, Joel Goldman, alluded in a brief to the power of a court to issue a writ ordering Stevens to carry out her duty under the bylaw, no writ petition was filed.
The judge assured Goldman it is still not too late to seek a writ, or a mandatory injunction requiring installation of the members of the slate.
A second election was proclaimed on April 26 by a 6-5 vote of the members of the 28-member board who were not “recused”—some voluntarily, some not—based on having served on the Nominating Committee, or for other reasons. That board purported at its closed door meeting to amend the bylaws, on the spot, to authorize a second election.
Chalfant observed that the board did not follow procedures set forth in the bylaws for amending them.
The bylaws set July 1 as the date for terms to commence for new officers and trustees, and the second election has been set to conclude on June 30. Chalfant said that was an artificial deadline, and pointed out that the bylaws can still be amended properly and the association “could have an election in July or August.”
His tentative decision, which he adopted after brief argument, said:
“The application for preliminary injunction is granted, effective June 16. 2017, and only if one or more re-nominated Plaintiffs is challenged by a valid nominating petition for an office or trustee position. The remedy sought by Plaintiffs is a prohibitory injunction preventing the Board from invalidating the Nominating Committee’s first nomination slate, reconvening the Nominating Committee, re-nominating a new slate of officers and trustees, and conducting a new election for I.ACBA’s officers and trustees for the 2017-18 year (commencing on July 1, 2017).”
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