Earlier today, it looked like Mike Aguirre was headed for another legal setback.

Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. issued a tentative ruling on one of the lawsuits Aguirre has filed against the pension system. The judge had initially ruled that Aguirre doesn’t have the legal authority to bring lawsuits on behalf of the city of San Diego without first getting the City Council’s permission.

But in a hearing this afternoon on the issue, the judge backpedaled.

Attorneys for the pension system have attempted to have Aguirre’s suit thrown out, arguing that he lacked the authority to bring the case.

And the judge initially agreed, despite Aguirre’s claim that he has express authority to bring cases without the approval of the City Council because he’s elected by the people and because the city charter says he can.

Later in the afternoon, Nevitt said because the wording of that charter is more than 70 years old, the legal meaning of the words and clauses used within it may have morphed or evolved over time. As such, he said, it’s difficult for him to clearly define whether or not Aguirre does or does not have authority under the charter to bring a lawsuit without the express backing of the City Council.

So Nevitt asked both sides’ lawyers to go away and prepare a brief that details any changes in the legal definitions of the words over the last 70 years or so. Once they’ve put together those briefs, Nevitt said, he’ll hear their arguments in another hearing and decide on the pension system’s motion once and for all.

Outside the courtroom, Aguirre’s No. 2, Don McGrath looked relieved. He said it’s very rare that judges reverse a tentative ruling and said he’s confident his team can put together a good argument that shows their interpretation of the charter is correct. They’ve got about four weeks to do so before the hearing.

But, across town at City Hall, Aguirre was proposing another path.

He’s asking the City Council to vote to support his lawsuit, thereby skirting the pension system’s motion to have the case thrown out.

“We are very thankful that Judge Nevitt has given us an opportunity to address the issue of our authority to bring the case,” Aguirre said. “However, we believe that the better course of action would be for the council to take up the matter, and that the council join in and concur with the city attorney, so that we can remove this procedural roadblock.”

Aguirre sent a memo today to Council President Scott Peters urging that the City Council hear the matter March 4.


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