Gov Kills Bills — And Big Potential Lawsuits

With one signature Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger killed two bills and a potential bevy of civil suits.

Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 1765, which would have allowed Mexican-Americans who were forcibly repatriated in the 1930s to sue for damages. Bill supporters say that Depression-era anti-immigrant anger led government agencies to force or coerce an estimated 400,000 Californians of Mexican descent to flee to Mexico. The move was also a loss — perhaps inadvertent — to victims of the Armenian Genocide.

In his veto message (.pdf), Schwarzenegger called the forced repatriation of Mexicans “a great injustice” but added “broadly drafted legislation that allows private litigation of potentially thousands of claims against the state, local governments, and private citizens is not the answer. It could burden the courts, result in increased and unplanned costs to the state, and may require a settlement account for any successful claim.”

The governor’s veto effectively killed a similar, more popular bill, SB 1524, that would have allowed Armenian Genocide victims and their families to sue to recover seized or looted assets. In an effort to improve their chances with the governor, authors of the two bills added poison-pill language that said if one bill failed, they both would die. And so they did, even though the governor hasn’t weighed in yet on SB 1524. No word on whether the double-bill death was Schwarzenegger’s intent.

The Consumer Attorneys of California were double losers Monday. The plaintiffs group backed both bills.

Cheryl Miller

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