Newhall Land Seeks Judge’s Removal
Newhall Land Development Inc. has filed motions to remove the Los Angeles Superior Court judge who issued a setback last month to the developer’s planned Newhall Ranch.
The longtime Santa Clarita Valley firm challenged Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones’ ability to rule on two cases related to the planned 20,000-home community west of Santa Clarita.
Newhall Land cited alleged conflicts of interest and potential prejudice, saying they interfered with her ability to objectively rule.
Jones ruled Oct. 15 that the planned Newhall Ranch residential development violated certain provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act and that further study was necessary to fully identify and lessen any environmental effects.
Newhall Land is asking Jones to recuse herself from ruling on two specific portions of the Newhall Ranch project, Mission Village and Landmark Village, both of which face environmental lawsuits from groups in and around the Santa Clarita Valley.
The company also plans to appeal Jones’ Oct. 15 decision.
“We have spent more than a decade and more than $10 million to create the most environmentally sensitive development plan in Los Angeles County history,” said Marlee Lauffer, a spokeswoman for Newhall Land.
“As our motion makes clear, we are hopeful that Judge Jones voluntarily recuses herself so that we can resolve pending litigation as expeditiously as possible.”
The motion also contains details related to Jones’ involvement in a proposed subdivision adjacent to her home on Quigley Canyon Road in Newhall.
The project, which would have split a two-acre lot into two parcels, was presented to the Santa Clarita Planning Commission on Sept. 18. The commission voted to direct staff to draw up a document denying the project.
Commission members approved that document Oct. 16.
Jones opposed the project and wrote a letter to the commission detailing her environmental objections.
Jones also met independently with the project’s applicant, Curtis Hairell, outside commission meetings to try to resolve the issue, according to Curtis Hairell’s father, Michael.
Michael Hairell told The Signal on Oct. 20 that he plans to appeal the commission’s decision to the Santa Clarita City Council.
Newhall Land alleges in its motion that Jones never disclosed her involvement in the proposed subdivision during any court proceedings.
A third portion of the motion outlines what Newhall Land claims is grounds to suspect prejudice by Jones, including claiming that her original ruling went outside the facts presented.
Mary Eckhardt Hearn, acting director of public information for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, said Jones cannot comment on the matter.
“No judge can comment on any pending case,” Hearn said.
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