SLO County redistricting lawsuit judge recuses himself

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo Superiors Court Judge Hernaldo Baltodano disqualified himself on Tuesday from hearing a lawsuit challenging SLO County’s redistricting map.

Erica Baltodano, the judge’s wife, represents SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg on the Civil Service Commission. Erica Baltodano is also the chair of the board of the SLO Legal Assistance Foundation, while redistricting lawsuit plaintiff Patricia Gomez is a member of that board.

SLO County Citizens for Good Government and three SLO County residents, registered Democrats, filed a lawsuit on Jan. 12 challenging the county’s selection of the Patten map, arguing it benefits the Republican Party at the expense of Democrats.

Last week, the plaintiffs filed for a temporary restraining order against the supervisors’ adoption of the Patten map. The plaintiffs are asking the court to insert a “status quo” map until their lawsuit winds its way through the court system.

During the redistricting process, the plaintiffs and the two Democrat supervisors battled to retain a map adopted in 2011. The three Republican supervisors disagreed, arguing the status quo map was drawn to benefit Democrats.

Before recusing himself, Judge Baltodano set the temporary restraining order hearing for Feb. 10. The court has now assigned Judge Rita Federman to hear the case.

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