Federal Judge issues TRO against SMO runway shortening; No Miegs Field attack

No bulldozers at SMO
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Federal Judge Grants TRO To Halt SMO Runway Shortening

US DC Judge Lew stops City

High Legal Standard so TRO likely to be in force for a while

Much like all of the naysayers said, the City of Santa Monica is using the bizarre settlement obtained during the interstice between the Obama and Trump Administrations to dismantle its airport. There are many commentators who believe that the agreement is not supported by the statutes, but the pro-airport litigants have had little success finding a judge who agreed with their position YET.

Judge Ronald Lew of the US District Court for Central California has issued a Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Santa Monica’s order to shorten the runway at both ends.  The case, Scott et al v. City Council for the City of Santa Monica.

The plaintiffs, described as either airport “neighbor Kate Scott and James Babinski, a pilot who frequents the airport” or “two flight school students, and supported by the Santa Monica Airport Association”, on an ex parte basis, sought a TRO against the City from taking any action to shorten the runway.

Judge Lew explained the extraordinary burden placed on plaintiffs seeking a TRO; they “must establish that he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his favor.”

The case involved different claims than past actions against the City in that

  • it failed to comply with environmental review and public hearing requirements before moving forward with the terms of the settlement agreement.
  • such a mandated review would have to determine if the shortened runway shortening would require aircraft to fly lower over neighborhoods, increasing noise.
  • another issue that must be assessed is the concern flight at the lower altitude over densely populated areas “increases the risk to pilots.”

The City previously moved back its start date for tearing up the runway; so, it will have a chance to argue before Judge Lew that the order should not be made permanent. Court observers predict that it will be difficult to be persuaded.

The timely action by the plaintiffs and their counsel stopped the destruction of the SMO runway and avoided the disaster of Meigs Airport ,but that assault was pulled off the all-powerful mayor of Chicago.

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