Assembly Republican Leader Curt Pringle and others suspected of having knowledge about an attempt to dilute opposition votes in last month's special election in Orange County escaped further embarrassment Friday when a judge ruled they did not have to give depositions in the case.
Democrats had gone to court to force Pringle (R-Garden Grove) and three others to tell what they know about Democratic candidate Laurie Campbell's successful attempt to get on the ballot in the Nov. 28 election in the 67th Assembly District.
But Superior Court Judge James T. Ford denied a request by lawyers for Orange County Democrats to force Pringle, Campbell, Pringle aide Jeff Flint and Campbell's husband, Rick, to give depositions explaining their role in the Campbell candidacy.
Ford dismissed the lawsuit, ending attempts by Democrats to force statements from Pringle or the others. Once the judge signaled his decision, George Waters, the lawyer for the Democrats, offered no argument, saying that he sought only monetary settlement of attorney fees and costs incurred by Orange County to remove Campbell from the ballot.
Without ruling on the issue of whether such depositions are justified, the judge simply said that his court's jurisdiction in the case had all but concluded when he tossed Campbell off the ballot in October for irregularities discovered in her nomination papers.
Ford left open the possibility for Democrats to collect attorney fees from their suit, saying they could bring a separate legal action.
The Democrats also had petitioned the court to force Campbell and the others to reimburse Orange County $50,000 for costs incurred in changing the ballot as a result of her aborted candidacy. Ford said he would have heard arguments for reimbursement if the county had petitioned his court, but since it had not, that component of the case was also concluded, although he said the county could pursue its claim in an Orange County court.
A lawyer from the secretary of state's office, representing the Orange County registrar of voters, said he had been informed that county officials "are intending to look at a new action in Orange County" to recoup its costs.
As for the Sacramento court, Ford said, "I can't see any reason to retain jurisdiction in this case . . . ," effectively dismissing the Democrats' lawsuit.
By the judge's ruling, Pringle in particular avoided becoming further mired in the political fallout from the bungled Campbell candidacy in the race to recall Doris Allen (R-Cypress). Republican Scott Baugh of Huntington Beach was elected to replace her.
Pringle has denied any direct role in the Campbell candidacy, but he has conceded that an aide helped her gather the signatures to get on the ballot. Pringle's name frequently appears in news coverage the episode has attracted, including his support of Baugh, who faces a criminal investigation for alleged campaign irregularities.