Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
Lawsuit filed over voter registration arrest
El Cajon political activist and former congressional candidate Ray Lutz has filed suit against the City of San Diego over what he alleges is false arrest and battery related to a 2011 arrest while manning a voter registration table in San Diego Civic Center. Arresting officer Tony Lessa and CB Richard Ellis Group, which manages the Civic Center Plaza office building, are also named as defendants.
The Reader ran coverage on Lutz’ original arrest last November, and also noted that two weeks earlier groups representing both major political parties had been allowed to set up much larger voter registration displays without police interference.
At issue is whether the particular corner of the Plaza where Lutz had set up is considered private property under the control of CB Richard Ellis. For precedent, Lutz and his counsel, Bryan Pease, point to Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, a case heard by the federal Supreme Court in 1980 which found that by opening the center to public access, the center’s owners had forfeit their right to deny members of the public of their right to practice free speech on the grounds. Though the original case referred to petition gatherers, Lutz argues that registering voters is a comparable protected speech.
At the time of his arrest, Lutz had completed five voter registrations and was in the process of registering a sixth when building management requested that police place him under arrest for trespass.
“The defendants in this case who forced me to shut down my voter registration table in the public square of the city violated every notion of propriety,” said Lutz in a release on Friday. “The law in the City of San Diego explicitly exempts 'peaceful political activity' on private property that is open to the public, and the Pruneyard Supreme Court case also supports the right of citizens to register voters, not only in privately owned and operated malls, but also in the public town square. This is just one ugly example of how the City of San Diego misused the power of arrest during the the Occupy San Diego protests in the Civic Center Plaza.”