Five Latinos Settle Poll Suit for $400,000
Five Latinos announced Wednesday that they have accepted $400,000 to settle their lawsuit against Republican officials who posted uniformed guards at predominantly Latino polling places in Santa Ana last year.
Attorneys for the five voters, who accused Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R-Garden Grove) and the Orange County Republican Party of conspiring to violate their right to vote, said they chose to settle because they got what they wanted: a good sum of money and a state law banning the use of uniformed guards at polling places.
Defense attorneys said their clients settled because their insurance companies insisted, based on “purely economic reasons.” If the defendants had chosen to go to trial, they would have given up their right to insurance coverage for their legal fees, the lawyers said. The insurance firms will pay the $400,000.
Attorney Darryl Wold, who represented the county Republican Party, said the plaintiffs were on “a flight of fancy” in thinking that they could have won the lawsuit.
The defendants disclosed the settlement of the federal lawsuit Friday, but it was not final until the plaintiffs signed it Tuesday night.
“This clearly will send a message nationally that you just can’t do this,” said Joseph Remcho, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. “Goons in polling places will not be tolerated.”
The settlement encompasses all the remaining defendants: Pringle; the county Republican Central Committee and two of its officials, Executive Director Gregory Haskin and Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes; Assemblyman John R. Lewis (R-Orange), who helped Pringle’s campaign; Pringle’s campaign manager, Marsha Gilchrist; political consultants Michael R. Williams and Carlos Rodriguez, and attorney William P. Godfrey.
Earlier settlements of $20,000 from the county registrar of voters and $60,000 from the firm that employed the security guards bring the total settlement to $480,000. The plaintiffs agreed to contribute $150,000 of it to nonprofit, nonpartisan groups working for voter education and registration in Latino areas of the 72nd Assembly District.
The five plaintiffs will keep $17,000 each, Remcho said. They are Jose Diaz Vargas, 53; Rudy Rios, 39; Helen Canales, 60; Tommy Canales, 68, and Jane Fantauzzi, 74.
The largest chunk of settlement money, $243,000, will go toward attorney’s fees and costs, which exceeded $400,000, Remcho said. Some of the legal debt will be eased with $100,000 that was raised by Democrats, Remcho said, including $50,000 in campaign funds from Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), $35,000 from other Democratic legislators and $15,000 from private citizens.
Pringle, who was not available for comment Wednesday, defeated Christian (Rick) Thierbach by 867 votes.
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