||[Jan. 1st, 2005|01:03 pm]
I must admit, I have never seen this sort of action during my wanderings through various political meetings and processes. I have the personal feeling that anyone who considers their duty to be *impractical* shouldn't be there at all, and doesn't deserve the trust of the voters who placed them in a position of responsibility.|
LOS ANGELES - During public hearings, members of the City Council talk on cell phones, chat among themselves, read mail or wander around the room. A state appeals court says they should be doing something else: paying attention.
Ruling on a suit brought by the owners of a strip club, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the 15-member council acts as a quasi-judicial body when it holds hearings and has a legal duty to listen to testimony — or risk violating citizens' due process.
In a hearing involving a strip club owner who was seeking to extend his hours, both sides "had the right to be equally heard, not equally ignored," the court wrote in a decision Thursday, ordering a new hearing.
The city has not said whether it will appeal.
Roger Jon Diamond, a lawyer for the Blue Zebra strip club, videotaped the June 13, 2003, public hearing because he believed he would get little attention from the council.
At the hearing — which also was Hawaiian Shirt Day for the council — one council member paced, deep in a cell phone conversation; three huddled in conversation; another strolled about the room.
Afterward, the council voted unanimously against extending the Blue Zebra's hours.
Dennis Zine, a councilman who appeared to be paying attention in the videotape, said he thought the city should appeal.
"It's impractical for us to sit there like students in a classroom paying attention to the professor," he said.