A state district judge ruled Tuesday that the lawsuit surrounding the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance will go before a jury trial rather than a bench trial, a decision that conservative opponents of the law are hailing as a major victory.
Critics suing the city over its equal rights ordinance had been pushing for the case to go before a jury, a move Mayor Annise Parker’s administration said was not in compliance with state election law.
Judge Robert Schaffer issued a brief decision late Tuesday afternoon, one week before the trial is set to begin. Schaffer’s order denied the city’s request for a bench trial, a response to the plaintiffs’ earlier filing for a jury trial.
“It’s great news,” plaintiff Jared Woodfill said. “It’s great to see that this judge is not going to allow (the city) to keep the vote from the people.”
City Attorney David Feldman said he still “firmly believes” the case is better suited to a bench trial but that he respects Schaffer’s decision. City attorneys argued at a hearing last week that the case was best defined as an “election contest” under state law. Such cases can only be decided by a judge, not a jury.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys had countered that because no election on the equal rights ordinance had taken place, the case did not qualify as an election case.
“It’s an unusual case,” Feldman said. “But we’re prepared to move forward.”
See here and here for the background. As I said before, I don’t think it should really matter whether this is a bench trial or a jury trial. The facts are the facts. What the the repealers’ excitement at this ruling suggests to me is that they’re not confident in their facts and are counting more on winning via emotional appeal. If that’s your strategy, then yes, I’d rather go before a jury.
As for those facts, HouEquality shows how they could be a problem for the bad guys.
We have included a publicly available document from the Harris County District Clerk’s website with regards to the upcoming trial. These are excerpts of a deposition from an individual who gathered signatures for the opposition’s petition efforts.
In short, he admits under oath, that he committed fraud and perjured himself by attesting that the signatures he turned in were all collected by him when, in fact, they were not.
Go read the linked document – it’s a variety of excerpts from a deposition, so there are gaps between pages – and see here for more evidence of possible bad acts on the part of the petition gatherers. I for one am looking forward to how this plays out.