Tentative Ruling Stops LA County's Most Ambitious Justice Reform Measure

Los Angeles police headquarter in downtown Los Angeles.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has published a tentative ruling that it appears will stop the voter-approved Measure J from taking effect.

The ruling does not address the intent of the measure, which was to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the County's budget each year away from law enforcement activities, but instead focuses on an underlying authority of government issue, which is whether or not a voter initiative can strip elected officials of their fundamental roles of making law/deciding on a budget.

The judge says Measure J cannot do this:

Measure J restricts the budgeting discretion of the current and any future elected Board of Supervisors by prohibiting them from using portions of the General Fund for “carceral” or law enforcement purposes, and requiring them to allocate those moneys for other designated programs.  At the outset, the court notes that this case does not involve any evaluation of the policy choices embedded in Measure J.  Nor does the court’s resolution of this case prohibit in any way the current Board of Supervisor or any future Board, from adopting a budget wholly in line with Measure J’s provisions.  Rather, the only question presented is whether the ballot process can be used to take this budgeting choice out of the hands of the current and future elected boards.  For the reasons discussed further below, the court concludes it cannot.

And concludes after dozens of pages of legal discussion:


The petition for writ of mandate is GRANTED.  The court will issue a writ prohibiting Respondents from enforcing or implementing the County Charter amendment enacted by voters as Measure J on November 3, 2020.  

The lawsuit was filed by a number of LA County employee unions, who argued the measure unlawfully changed the County’s budgeting process. 

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