Judge appears tired of Town’s stall tactics in airport litigation
The Town of Mammoth Lakes was given one extra week to file any additional pleas and defense motions in a Thursday morning hearing regarding its ongoing airport litigation.
The hearing was held in Mono County Superior Court, concerned a Writ of Mandate, recently filed by the plaintiff, Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition.
The writ essentially petitions the court to enforce the judgment against the Town as part of the Hot Creek Aviation litigation.
The Town now owes roughly $42 million in judgment and attorney fees, and has exhausted all of its appeals. If Presiding Judge Roger D. Randall, a retired Superior Court justice from Kern County, upholds the writ, the Town would have to begin putting plans in place for a 10-year payment schedule to settle its obligations under the judgment, which was made final one year ago.
Attorney John Higginbotham with Best & Krieger, the Town’s retained counsel, asked Judge Randall to consider an evidentiary hearing so the Town can better present evidence to support its position, as well as what Higginbotham said would be an accurate account of the Town’s finances. He said the Town needed more time to respond than the 10-days notice that accompanied the writ.
Randall, however, said such hearings aren’t generally an expectation in these types of writs, and also pointed out that the Town has already had an extra 14 days, but was willing to grant an additional week.
Attorney John Pierce, representing MLLA, told the Judge he’s still waiting to hear whether the Town intends to present any type of defense. “There’s no disputing the facts … the judgment was final a year ago, and there’s been no attempt at payment or raising funds to make any payment,” Pierce said. “Do they intend to seek a 10-year installment plan rather than bandy about some hypothetical check?” He also said there’s been no lack of due process.
Higginbotham replied that the Town is effectively insolvent. “If the court orders [the writ], it will be insolvent many times over,” Higginbotham told the Judge. Higginbotham asked the Judge to consider allowing due process by means of recently enacted state legislation for municipalities to mediate these types of dire situations, “rather than being forced into emergency action and declaring Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which isn’t in anyone’s best interest.”
Pierce countered, saying that mediation is “irrelevant to the matter before us.” Judge Randall seemed to agree, adding that, “Mediation has nothing to do with these proceedings.” Additional pleas and defense motions are due by March 15. Any further response from the Town itself is due by March 21. The hearing is scheduled to reconvene on March 23 at 1:30 p.m.