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Judge reviews new trial request for Measure V

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Posted: Monday, November 3, 2008 10:00 pm

It's election day, yet the attorneys supporting and opposing Measure V still don't agree on what will happen if the measure is approved by voters.

Measure V supporters hoping for judicial clarification are now waiting for San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Humphreys to consider their request for a new trial.

Humphreys said Monday at the end of a 20-minute court hearing that she is taking the request under advisement.

The request is for Humphreys to clarify what she really meant when she issued a decision on Aug. 8 that the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District legally followed Proposition 218 regulations while approving a groundwater charge in 2007.

The sticky issue came when attorneys for the water district and Measure V author Bryan Pilkington couldn't agree on just what Humphreys really meant.

For that reason, Pilkington requested a new trial, but his attorney, Tim Bittle of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, acknowledged after court recessed that requesting a new trial is merely a procedural move to try to extract more clarity on the meaning of the original decision.

"You just have to have some statutory authority to go back to the judge and ask for a clarification," Bittle said later on Monday. "If you tried an issue in fact before the judge and the judge either didn't decide the issue or decided in a way that is confusing or contradictory, you have to go back to court and ask for a 'new trial.'"

It was unclear when Humphreys would either clarify her previous ruling or order a new trial.

What happens if Measure V wins today?

According to Tim Bittle, attorney for Measure V petitioner Bryan Pilkington, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District cannot levy any future groundwater charges unless the district submits to voters in a future election a measure to repeal Measure V. It also means that the groundwater charge approved for the 2007-08 fiscal year is repealed and that property owners who paid the charge can request a refund, Bittle said.

Lawyers for North San Joaquin, including lead counsel Steve Herum, see it much differently.

They say Humphreys' ruling was crystal clear. They contend Measure V will have no real effect. They say the 2007-08 groundwater charge cannot actually be repealed retroactively.

Additionally, they say North San Joaquin's board of directors can legally levy the groundwater charge in future years if the board conducts a "protest hearing" under Proposition 218 rules.

Under Proposition 218, property owners must file a written protest, with a non-vote being the equivalent of a "yes" vote.

- News-Sentinel staff

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 2:55 am on Wed, Nov 5, 2008.


    I live in the county. I voted yes as no clear facts supporting the county will do anything for us to insure our water will stay here. All I see is another tax and nothing being done with it other than fighting court room procedures.

  • posted at 5:53 am on Tue, Nov 4, 2008.


    nothing should be on the ballot unless it's ready to be voted on.



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