Irvine City Council Candidate Mark Newgent Prevails in Legal Battle Over Ballot Description; Newgent’s Anti-SLAPP Motion Still Looming
Mark Newgent, a candidate running for Irvine City Council in the November 2020 election has submitted papers requesting that he be described on the ballot as “Retired Army Captain.” The designation is identical to what he has used in a prior election. The Irvine City Clerk, the official for the election, has approved this description. An Orange County blogger filed a lawsuit against the Irvine City Clerk, Molly Perry, accusing her of negligently allowing Mr. Newgent’s designation of “Retired Army Captain” to be included in election materials. But after twenty years of decorated service in the military and retirement with an honorable discharge, this designation of “Retired Army Captain” is wholly accurate. He now spends his time caring for his children and volunteering in the community.
Mark Newgent, with the help of Jeff Lewis Law, responded to the blogger’s lawsuit by opposing the lawsuit with declarations by Mark Newgent outlining his decorated military service. The City Clerk also filed an opposition and declaration describing the appropriate procedures followed by the City of Irvine in approving the designation. Jeff Lewis Law also filed a special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP law. Per the anti-SLAPP motion, this blogger is attempting to stifle political speech by telling the Irvine City Clerk how the ballot must appear.
A hearing was held on Thursday, September 3, 2020, on the merits of the petition, and the blogger’s arguments were denied. Judge Nathan Scott found that the ballot designation was appropriate and the Irvine City Clerk appropriately did her job of vetting the ballot designation. An anti-SLAPP motion, to determine whether the petitioner’s lawsuit was filed based on activity protected by the First Amendment is scheduled for hearing in December. The blogger faces the prospect of paying Mark Newgent’s attorney’s fees if the anti-SLAPP motion is granted.
“Elections are all too frequently plagued by excessive expenses not related to the candidate’s political campaign or positions,” says Jeff Lewis. “Regardless of political party or platform, one such tactic that candidates too often resort to is needlessly suing their opponents over ballot descriptions, claiming such descriptions to be misleading even when they are truthful.”
About Jeff Lewis Law
Jeff Lewis Law is a First Amendment and Appellate law firm in Palos Verdes, California. The firm’s attorneys have provided effective, efficient, and ethical representation since 1996. For more information about the firm’s First Amendment practice, visit the website here. For more information and to schedule an interview with the firm, contact Olivier Gibbons at email@example.com. You can reach him at 212-300-5270.
About Christopher Gonzales
Christopher Gonzales is an Irvine general practitioner attorney who can be reached at (949) 664-5757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.