The Superior Court's ruling in 2013 ignored strong federal and state
statutes blocking the county's permitting of billboards along portions of Interstates 15 and 40; and the
erection of three double-faced billboards along Interstate-15 by General Outdoor Advertising.
The Superior Court further appeared to have shown bias in ruling
against the plaintiffs' desired discovery motions, and requests to enter evidence
into the record that the county controlled but refused to release.
After legal briefs were submitted to the appellate court, the court
summoned the parties for a customary oral hearing; scheduled on December 2nd.
The County of San Bernardino, and the billboard party of Tim Lynch of
General Outdoor, walked into the appellate courtroom savoring a victory as the appellate
court had previously provided an unusual tenative (provisional) ruling. State appellate courts
don't normally provide tenative rulings; however, the Riverside court is experimenting with them.
The tenative fully sided with the county stating that the county had properly executed its
comprehensive (spot) zoning.
On the appellants side, Fred Stearn of Newberry Springs entered the
courtroom with his attorney, reknown billboard expert Randal R. Morrison of San Diego.
They had been previously assisted with an amicus curiae (friends of the court) brief that was
earlier presented to the court by Scenic America based in Flordia. Scenic America's expert
William D. Brinton,
a nationally recognized speaker and billboard litigator from Jacksonville, Florida, also attended
the appellate hearing and participated in the appellants' presentation before the court.
With the appellants starting first, each side was given 15-minutes.
The appellants reserved 2-minutes for rebuttal. This was followed by the court
asking numerous questions of William Brinton; wherefrom the court repeatedly
made statements that, "We're going to scrub the case." Meaning, that the
court had recognized from Brinton's testimony that this case was being carefully watched
by billboard interests nationally as to whether a county governmental entity could defeat the
federal Highway Beautification Act by simply spot zoning for billboards; and that the court
was going to carefully reexamine the facts from the beginning.
The court appeared very impressed with William Brinton's expert testimony.
Brinton's testimony unraveled the court's misunderstanding in its tenative ruling and clarified
the application of existing law to the matter.
The court can rule for either side; however, the tenative ruling clearly
appears to have been sent to the laundry for a scrubbing. Based upon the law, the
appellants, Fred Stearn and others, now appear to be favored to prevail which will uphold
the federal Highway Beautification Act in California state court as the federal government