Judge calls city of Ventura water lawsuit 'a huge time suck'

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Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
The judge in the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper watershed adjudication lawsuit says the city of Ventura needs to do more clerical work before he can proceed with the case.
At the latest status conference in the case March 15, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger told attorneys representing the city that mismatches still exist in the city’s spreadsheets of cross-defendants’ names and parcel numbers involved in the litigation against thousands of property owners in the Ojai Valley and Ventura.
Highberger said he was pleased the party and overlier spreadsheet information was now available on the website for the case, but when he went to aggregate stipulations, “one worked; two of the first three I looked at didn’t,” he said.
Highberger expressed frustration with having to work through the clerical errors, calling it “a huge time suck” and “not the highest and best uses of a judge’s time.”
Regarding the discrepancies, attorney Shawn Hagerty, representing the city of Ventura, told the judge the city was working with court staff and court administration, “and we will do everything to clean this up.”
“We understand it’s not your job to micromanage these things,” Hagerty said.
“Our staff is trying very hard on this, Mr. Hagerty, but this is a totally out-of-the-normal run kind of case. So it is a crushing burden on clerical staff, even apart from COVID problems,” Highberger said.
The proposed physical solution was not lodged with the court for the first time and Highberger did not set a schedule for an evidentiary hearing in the case.
He set the next status conference for Monday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m., with ideas for a site visit field trip by the court possibly up for discussion during the hearing.
Hagerty said the city of Ventura was “really struggling” to serve summonses and complaints to certain owners of isolated, gated private residences, but had otherwise completed the noticing process.
During the prior status conference Feb. 9, Highberger said all initial disclosures in the case need to be filed by June 1.
Parties seeking remote audio access to the April 19 status conference can register through
To get access you must register beforehand for each status conference in the case.
Visit the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication website for more information on the case, at


January 2020 Ojai Valley News article on city of Ventura lawsuit: