Change of venue sought for Paso Robles groundwater lawsuit

dsneed@thetribunenews.comMarch 31, 2014 

One of two lawsuits filed over the Paso Robles groundwater basin is likely to be transferred to a court in San Jose.

On Friday, the city of Paso Robles filed a change of venue motion to have the case transferred to the Superior Court in Santa Clara County. The case is a quiet title lawsuit filed by Steinbeck Vineyards and other basin property owners to protect their water rights.

All parties in the lawsuit have agreed to the location change, said Jim App, Paso Robles city manager. The city filed the motion because the court in San Jose has more experience handling complex water issues, and it would be a neutral venue.

“Attorneys on both sides of the case have argued in this court,” App said.

Specifically, the case would be transferred to Santa Clara County’s Complex Civil Litigation Department. That department handled litigation in the Santa Maria groundwater basin and is currently litigating the Antelope Valley groundwater basin.

“The scope and technical complexity of issues concerning water resource management are unequalled by virtually any other type of activity presented to the courts,” the motion stated.

A change of venue will not increase the cost to the city, App said. The law firm hired by the city and other defendants regularly appears in that court.

The change of venue request is the second motion Paso Robles has filed in the case. Earlier this year, the city filed a demurrer in the case which, if successful, would have the case thrown out for lack of evidence. No decision on the demurrer will be made until the change of venue is decided.

The case is currently in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court. Judge Jac Crawford is scheduled to hear the change of venue request April 22 in Paso Robles.

The other lawsuit seeks to overturn the county’s emergency ordinance limiting new pumping in the basin. No request to move that case has been filed.

In the quiet title case, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, Atascadero Mutual Water Company and the Templeton Community Services District are defendants. Quiet title cases are typically used to determine ownership of property.

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