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Judge Orders News Racks Back at San Juan Capistrano City Hall

He orders lawyers for a newspaper and the city into a room to hammer out an agreement.

Judge Orders News Racks Back at San Juan Capistrano City Hall

UPDATED: Edited to include the agreement the judge signed as an order. Originally posted at 4:03 p.m. Dec. 19, 2013.

“The people are going to get their chance to read their newspapers.”

That was Orange County Superior Court Judge James Di Cesare, ordering the lawyers for Community Common Sense newspaper and the city of San Juan Capistrano into a jury room to once again, try to agree where news racks for several media outlets – removed in August from City Hall and the Community Center– can temporarily return.

The controversy began in early August, when representatives from Common Sense, an advocacy paper often critical of the council majority, asked permission to place their racks next to the Capistrano Dispatch and the Capo Valley News at City Hall and the Community Center.

Shortly after, the City Council discussed in closed session eliminating all the racks. A letter to the three newspapers soon followed, asking for their removal.

In November, Common Sense filed a lawsuit against City Attorney Hans Van Ligten,  Mayor Sam Allevato and Councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor, claiming they “violate the constitutional right of every resident in SJC to access and read newspapers and news publications as they see fit.”

The lawsuit seeks the return of all the news racks.

The parties were in court last week, trying to hammer out a settlement, which the City Council discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. Although councilmen announced they had a proposal to allow the news racks’ return, representatives from Common Sense said the offer fell short in several areas.

“You need to agree where these news racks are going to be,” Di Cesare said to the lawyers today, sending them to the jury room to negotiate. “You’re not going to leave here until we’re done or I’ll decide where they’re going to be.”

After 45 minutes, the judge then pulled the lawyers into his chambers. When they emerged, Di Cesare said the racks will be placed, by Dec. 24, to the right of City Hall's entry doors, where a trash receptacle is currently located. The racks used to be the left of the door [see photo].

Also part of the order, Common Sense will be permitted to put 10 copies of its publication in the senior reading room at the Community Center. 

The agreement will take shape as an order from the judge, who placed a Feb. 27 hearing to discuss the matter further.

Patch will have more news from the Santa Ana Courthouse as it becomes available.

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