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News Next Door: San Juan City Hall to see newspapers once again

By Brian Park

Newspapers are coming back to San Juan Capistrano’s City Hill and Community Center, following an agreement between the city and a local newspaper that filed a lawsuit over the removal of news racks.

On Thursday, December 19, attorneys for the city and Community Common Sense, publishers of a monthly newspaper, met in court for the second time to negotiate a deal to bring news racks back to the two city properties.

Following about 45 minutes of negotiations inside a jury room, Orange County Superior Court Judge James Di Cesare announced that news racks would be located to the right of the entrances at City Hall and the Community Center. The court order also allows Common Sense to place 10 copies of their paper in the Community Center’s senior reading room.

The judge’s decision follows the City Council’s closed session vote earlier this month to temporarily bring back news racks, although representatives for Common Sense said the city’s proposal fell short of their expectations. Phillip Kohn, an attorney for the city, said Di Cesare’s order is similar to the council’s proposal.

“Needless to say, I’m satisfied. The order simply puts into writing what the council was prepared to do,” Kohn said.

In November, Common Sense filed a lawsuit against the city, City Attorney Hans Van Ligten and the council majority of Mayor Sam Allevato and councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor for the trio’s closed session vote to remove news racks in August.

The lawsuit accused the parties of violating the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and states the city’s decision came only after they placed their own papers at the two locations, despite two other papers, The Capistrano Dispatch and the Capistrano Valley News, having racks there for at least a decade.

The two sides are due back in court February 27 to consider continuing the order.

Tate considered the Di Cesare’s order a victory.

“I think my client prevailed and more importantly, freedom of speech and the freedom of the press prevailed,” Tate said.

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