Friday, October 31, 2008



Copyright © 2008 by Leo E. Laurence • All rights reserved

Photo credit: Christine Hill.

Hillcrest — Through the genius of a young, animal-rights attorney who is battling like the biblical David and Goliath, curious kids will be able to continue get to watch the seals at the so-called Children’s Pool (pool) in La Jolla. The seals will soon give birth to their babies when their “pupping” season begins in a month or so.

The clever lawyer is Bryan Pease of Hillcrest, who specializes in a rare field of law involving animal-rights.

He serves as the pro bono counsel for the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), also of Hillcrest; and also spearheaded with Kath Rogers the campaign for Proposition 2 (which would abolish three especially cruel treatments of animals at corporate farms raising animals for food) on the November ballot.

A Long Court Battle

The plight of those 150+ seals, which by nature need the sandy beach at the Children’s Pool their home for birthing their “pups,” has for years been weaving its way through our local state and federal courts.

It even became a hot-button issue in the re-election campaign of City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who is a victim of an unethical campaign by the local mainstream news media – and particularly the Union Tribune – to replace him with a weak, local judge with absolutely no trial experience.

Attorney Paul Kennerson – who has received over $1.25 million in taxpayer money in attorney fees for fighting to get rid of the unique seals – won a ruling some time ago that requires the City of San Diego to dredge the beach at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. That would permanently destroy the area as a haven for the seals.

And, he wants that dredging done NOW, even though the original court Order which he won does not specify immediate dredging.

Kennerson wants to evict the seal colony out NOW, even before the city can complete the mountain of state and federal permits and paperwork required by federal law before the city can physically evict the seals and dredge the beach.

Kennerson even had the gall to unsuccessfully ask Superior Court Judge Yuri Hoffman to fine the City $10,000 a day for failing to follow the court’s dredging mandate. Kennerson apparently wants to get rich off taxpayers, who are paying now his high fees.

The problem is, the original court Order that Kennerson won does not contain a requirement that the seals be chased out now. Adding that requirement would be a de facto rewrite or revision of the court’s earlier Order.

The court doesn’t have the power to do that, absent fraud or other prejudicial misconduct or dramatically new evidence (not provided).

With Kennerson aggressively trying to immediately kick the seals out of the famous Children’s Pool in La Jolla, the APRL’s attorney Pease filed papers in federal court to stop Kennerson’s pushy tactics to oust the seals.

Pease on Oct. 22 won a federal court order that says, “Defendant City of San Diego, its agents, servants, employees, and representatives, and all persons acting in concert or participating with them, are hereby enjoined and restrained through the hearing date of November 25.”

The federal court Order also prohibits the city “ … from engaging in, committing, or performing, directly or indirectly, any and all of the following acts: harassing or dispersing the colony of harbor seals at Children’s Pool in La Jolla.”

“The underlying purpose of the (federal) temporary restraining order is to preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable harm before a preliminary injunction hearing may be held,” the federal Order of the Court reads.

City Attorney Helps

City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who is fighting the whole downtown establishment’s massive efforts to unseat him in the Nov. 4 election, has personally appeared in court adding the prestige of his office to help the seals.

Aguirre believes the state legislature should amend the arcane law being used by the state court to force the City of San Diego to take extreme measures to evict the seals.

But, which state legislator will act?

“(State Senator Christine Kehoe) is not initiating anything,” Kehoe spokesman Sean Wherley bluntly told the Union Tribune.

It is unknown why Sen. Kehoe does not want to help save the seals in La Jolla.

Lawyers for all sides will be back in state court on November 14 after the judge has had time to read the city’s voluminous papers filed in the case.

Those filings argue that the City of San Diego needs until September 2009 to comply with a re-quired environmental review of the dredging project.

The city also needs, according to the city attorney’s office, permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Coastal Commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Anti-seal attorney Kennerson is trying to get around those federal and state requirements.

The legal maneuvering in federal court is to determine whether the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act – which might pre-empt state laws – also requires a permit before the city can disturb the seals, which are on the verge of their annual pupping season.

A hearing in federal court is set for November 25.

It is highly unlikely that a state court would issue any Order that might be in conflict with federal laws or pending federal jurisdiction.

For comment, contact Leo Laurence at (619) 757-4909 or at