U.S. District Court Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz today formally consolidated two separate cases that challenge the constitutionality of a Latin cross on government land atop Mount Soledad and the recent transfer of that land from the city to the federal government.
The cases were brought by Phillip Paulson, the atheist and Vietnam War veteran who has waged a 17-year legal battle to remove the cross, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing a Jewish veterans group and several San Diego citizens.
Moskowitz’s decision was expected. James McElroy, Paulson’s attorney, said the consolidation would only impact his case because now “there are more soldiers in the battle doing the leg work.”
Next week, the judge is expected to announce whether he’ll allow the Pacific Justice Institute, a right-of-center legal defense organization, to join the case as a defendant.
All of the parties involved in the case, including the defendants – the city of San Diego and the United States – have asked Moskowitz to deny the institute’s request.
“I would expect that they will not be permitted to intervene based on the judge’s questions,” McElroy said. “They don’t want to fight the legal battle they want to fight the cultural war.”
Several years ago, a state judge refused to let an attorney from the Pacific Justice Institute join another case brought by Paulson. At the time, the attorney was representing former mayor and radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock.