Berkeley People’s Alliance Files Lawsuit to Prevent Mayor Arreguín and the Berkeley City Council From Committing Further Brown Act Violations

Last week the Berkeley People’s Alliance along with Nathan Mizell, an Alliance Board Member and Berkeley resident, filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda. The lawsuit is in response to the Berkeley City Council’s recent violation of California’s Brown Act, the open meetings law that prevents government secrecy and promotes public participation. The suit asks for an injunction to prohibit the City of Berkeley from violating the Brown Act in the future. It seeks to protect the right of the public to be present in person when important legislative decisions are made. 

The lawsuit is based on three Brown Act violations that were committed by the Berkeley City Council at Council meetings on November 21, 2023, November 28, 2023, and January 16, 2024. The last Brown Act violation occurred after the council received a January 11 letter notifying it of the lawsuit that asks the City to unconditionally commit to cease, desist from, and not repeat these illegal violations.

The Brown Act violations occurred when Council business and citizen protests were in conflict during the meetings.The protestors were asking the Council to pass a resolution supporting a ceasefire in Gaza. At these three meetings, Mayor Arreguín recessed the Council and held the remainder of the meeting in a different location, isolated from members of the public. 

The complaint states: “the City has simply moved Council meetings to another room without the public present in person…[t]here is no provision of the Brown Act that permits what the City is doing no matter how much the City prefers its solution over the Legislature’s.”

“We, the Alliance and I, are acting to protect the public’s civil rights and to prevent the Berkeley City Council from violating the Brown Act in the future. While it was our strong desire to avoid the need for litigation, the City’s insistence on maintaining the ability to disregard the plain text of the Brown Act poses a continued threat to the ability of Berkeleyans to participate in open meetings” Mr. Mizell said.

The Brown Act ensures that open meetings are held where members of the public can make their presence felt and where the public can know that their legislative bodies are acting with transparency and citizen input.

Berkeley People’s Alliance is a community alliance of local organizations dedicated to advancing social, racial, economic, and environmental justice in the City of Berkeley.