A federal judge has confirmed that a temporary restraining order preventing the removal of the seals at the Children’s Pool in La Jolla remains in effect.
But that could no longer be the case by the time a state court holds a hearing June 15 on the city’s plan to disperse the pinnipeds, said Bryan Pease, an attorney for the La Jolla Friends of Seals.
A little background: Last fall, San Diego Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann ruled that the city of San Diego had to immediately disperse the seals to return the manmade cove to a place for children to swim. But Pease’s organization obtained a court order from U.S. District Judge William Hayes prohibiting the seals’ removal.
Last week, Hofmann again ruled that the city must disperse the seals, saying he believed the federal order preventing the seals’ removal expired in November. The city asked for clarification from the federal court, and Hayes verified today that the temporary order is still in place.
But Hayes had been set to decide the issue of whether the temporary order should be made into a preliminary injunction. That’s because the court has dismissed the federal defendant — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — from the case. Pease said the judge now must rule on whether the lawsuit can proceed in federal court now that the federal agency is no longer a party.
It’s not clear whether that ruling will come before Hofmann’s June 15 hearing to discuss the city’s plan to disperse the seals, which involves playing recordings of barking dogs and splashing seals with water.
“It’s still possible the federal court order can be dissolved by then,” Pease said, “but [today’s ruling] just confirms it will remain in effect until the federal court rules otherwise.”
Also on June 15, the state Assembly could vote on a bill to amend the state trust to allow seals to remain at the cove if that’s what the city wants.
“Everything’s happening at once,” Pease said.