Thursday, February 27, 2020

On Recusal and Representing the Public

Earlier this week I received an email from Bill Jordan regarding his project that is coming before Council next week.  In this email, Mr. Jordan requested that I recuse myself from the proceedings, and included what I interpret as a thinly veiled threat: ("I would hope you seriously contemplate my request for your immediate recusal for the obvious significant downside of not recusing yourself.").  I wonder what the obvious significant downside could be?

Below is the letter he sent:

First, I must say I'm flattered that Mr. Jordan is such an avid reader of my writing.  Rather than go line by line about various irrelevancies, I'll quote a few paragraphs from the CA Supreme Court in Fairfield vs. Superior Court:
A councilman has not only a right but an obligation to discuss issues of vital concern with his constituents and to state his views on matters of public importance. His role in the community is depicted in Todd v. City of Visalia (1967) 254 Cal. App. 2d 679 [62 Cal. Rptr. 485]. Rejecting a contention that councilmen who had acquired information outside the hearing room concerning a proposed assessment district were disqualified from voting at a hearing to determine the validity of that district, the court observed that: "A city councilman is elected usually because of his acquaintanceship and popularity. He may not be instructed on many of the technical matters to which he is called upon to pass judgment. He is frequently an extrovert, who circulates widely in the community and talks with businessmen and voters about all sorts of questions that may come before the council. He is a legislator, an administrator, and at times a quasi-judicial officer. In the present instance, it would be strange if the members of the council living and working in Visalia did not have considerable cognizance of what was going on in the city, of the efforts of [14 Cal. 3d 781] some people to form the present assessment district and of the municipal needs in this respect, fanciful or actual." (254 Cal.App.2d at p. 691.)

Many of the alleged statements on these community matters that plaintiffs seek to adduce were made during the election campaign of Campos and Jenkins. [8] Campaign statements, however, do not disqualify the candidate from voting on matters which come before him after his election. In Wollen v. Fort Lee (1958) 27 N.J. 408 [142 A.2d 881], the court stated: "[I]t would be contrary to the basic principles of a free society to disqualify from service in the popular assembly those who had made pre-election commitments of policy on issues involved in the performance of their sworn ... duties. Such is not the bias or prejudice upon which the law looks askance. ... The contrary rule of action would frustrate freedom of expression for the enlightenment of the electorate that is of the very essence of our democratic society."
Suffice to say, I will be declining Mr. Jordan's request.