Tim Shaw is set to keep his seat on the county board of education through the June 7 election after Judge Martha Gooding ruled the lawsuit against him “procedurally improper,” in a new tentative ruling released Monday morning.
But while the judge ruled in Shaw’s favor, the ruling didn’t actually discuss any of the merits of the case.
The case started earlier this year when Michael Sean Wright, a resident of north Orange County and prominent Democrat, sued Shaw after he was appointed following an abrupt resignation of his elected seat on the board.
Shaw was threatened with a lawsuit last year for holding a seat on the County’s Board of Education and the La Habra City Council. Rather than fight in court, he chose to resign from his seat on the board of education.
Gooding ruled that the case couldn’t continue without Wright getting permission from the state attorney general to sue under “quo warranto.”
A “quo warranto” action is a formal inquiry into whether a person, in this case Shaw, has the legal right to hold the public office they occupy, and must be approved by the attorney general’s office.
Last week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta allowed a request by Wright to sue Shaw in “quo warranto.”
While Wright got that permission, the case ultimately sputtered out on Monday.
After receiving permission to sue under quo warranto, Lee Fink, Wright’s lawyer, revised their complaint to single out Shaw instead of the OC Board of Education as a whole, which Judge Gooding says isn’t possible since he’s not a named party in the complaint, citing the rules around those updates in the state’s legal code, which can be read here.
“Section 387 does not permit Plaintiff, as Relator, to inject into his existing action an entirely new lawsuit, asserting a new claim, against a new defendant,” Gooding wrote. “The complaint … is procedurally improper, and the Ex Parte Application is denied in its entirety.”
Because of those errors, Gooding never issued any opinion on whether or not Shaw’s reappointment was properly carried out or whether or not it’s legal.
Shaw thanked the judge for her ruling, saying the entire thing was focused on the upcoming election.
“Fundamentally the question is was I legally appointed to the board, and the other side keeps trying to bring the time frame of the election which has nothing to do with it,” Shaw said in an interview with Voice of OC.
Fink said he was “disappointed,” in the ruling but that he’d be filing a new lawsuit specifically against Shaw.
“As Judge Gooding pointed out herself, that this simply delays the resolution of the case as we will now file the complaint to remove Mr. Shaw as a separate action in the Superior Court,” Fink said.
Beckie Gomez, another member on the Orange County Board of Education, was also hit with a legal threat for simultaneously holding a seat on the Tustin City Council.
Shaw’s seat, along with Mari Barke’s and Lisa Sparks’ seat on the board, will be up for grabs on June 7 during the California primary election and will not proceed to a runoff in November.
Voice of OC Reporting Fellow Hosam Elattar contributed reporting to this story.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.