Sacramento County v. Local Agency Formation Commission

(1992) 3 Cal.4th 903

The California Supreme Court ruled that the “rational relation” test must be applied in determining the constitutionality of a statute defining the appropriate group of voters to participate in an incorporation election. In so doing, the court upheld a California statute limiting voters to those who resided within the boundaries of the proposed area to be incorporated. In reaching its decision, the court was required to overrule one of its earlier decisions addressing similar issues. Before the matter reached the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal had applied strict scrutiny in reviewing the pertinent statute, and had concluded that, in a municipal election involving matters with potential countywide impacts, registered voters in the entire county were eligible to vote.

The Court of Appeal had also upheld the lower court’s determination to require preparation of an EIR as a precondition to incorporation. Applying the “fair argument” standard of review, the trial court had determined that substantial evidence in the record showed that significant environmental effects might occur, and thus required preparation of an EIR. The Supreme Court upheld that portion of the Court of Appeal decision, although the appellate decision is no longer citable statewide precedent on the environmental issue. [RMM Counsel of record: Tina A. Thomas, James G. Moose and Whitman F. Manley]