New lawsuit filed to block seal dispersal in La Jolla

Attorneys representing the Animal Protection and Rescue League have filed a new lawsuit in Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order to bar seals from being dispersed without a permit at La Jolla’s Children’s Pool.

The suit was filed by the law firm of Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik of La Jolla Shores against the city of San Diego and Mayor Jerry Sanders.

“The city of San Diego has begun, or will begin shortly, to disturb, molest, harass, annoy, disrupt and displace the seals, which are protected marine mammals,” states the suit. “The intended goal of the city is to drive the seals from the coastline, away from the seal rookery and out of their habitat. Plaintiff contends these acts by the city violate the law and should therefore be restrained, enjoined or declared illegal.”

Asked why the suit was filed, attorney Norm Blumenthal said, “Now that a federal court has said they have no jurisdiction, we’re going to state court to put the injunction (against seal dispersal) back on. They (state) clearly have jurisdiction over the city that these seals should not be dispersed without a permit.”

Blumenthal added it is their side’s contention that there has been a sea change in law relating to seals in a recent case, Center for Biological Diversity, Inc. v. FPL Group Inc., which, he said, “recognizes that marine mammals have standing equal to humans with regard to habitat.”

Reacting to the suit filed on behalf of the Animal Protection and Rescue League, Paul Kennerson, who’s been representing Valerie O’Sullivan and arguing in favor of the the pool’s trust which presently does not allow for seal habitation there, said: “This case (Center for Biological) was raised months ago, if not longer, in front of Judge Hofmann to no avail because he found that it did not apply.

“What motive can you ascribe to filing another lawsuit on the same grounds except delay? I don’t see how in good faith they can do this if they look at the pleadings in the O’Sullivan case.”

Ericka Perryman, Sacramento aide to State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-75th District, who represents La Jolla, said it is hoped that the bill winding its way through the state legislature, which would make seal habitation a permissible use at Children’s Pool, could be voted on by the full Senate as soon as July 9.

However, due to the impasse in state budget hearings, consideration of SB 428 could be delayed as Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger in a recent letter to legislators has threatened to veto all bills that come before him until the state’s budget impasse is resolved.

Blumenthal said the O’Sullivan case is not just about a trust, but also about animal rights.

“We need to have some respect for seals,” he said, adding he hopes the temporary restraining order will be in place before July 20 when Kennerson and city attorneys appear again before Judge Yuri Hofmann to update him on competing plans for dispersing seals at Children’s Pool.