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Gingery et al. v. City of Glendale

Michico Shirota Gingery et al. v. City of Glendale et al. refers to a series of lawsuits filed by Global Alliance for Historical Truth (GAHT) and Los Angeles area Japanese migrants against the City of Glendale seeking the removal of a comfort women memorial in Glendale within its Central Park in summer 2013. The lawsuit was initially filed in the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles, but was later also filed in the California State Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles.

Federal Case

Federal case (docket nuber #2:14-cv-01291-PA-AJW) was brought by Glendale resident Michiko Shirota Gingery (who passed away during the trial), GAHT president Koichi Mera, and GAHT-US Corporation on February 20, 2014. The plaintiff was initially represented by Mayer Brown, which removed itself after facing criticisms for promoting historical revisionism. Defendant City of Glendale and its city manager were represented by City attorneys and Sidley Austin, which took the case on pro bono.

While maintaining that they were not arguing over historical accuracy of the comfort women story, plaintiffs alleged that Glendale’s decision to enact the memorial violated the U.S. Constitution by infringing on the federal government’s exclusive authority to conduct foreign affairs. Plaintiffs also argued that the City violated administrative rules by failing to vote on the text of the plaque accompanying the statue.

On August 4, 2014, Judge Percy Anderson ruled that plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring a case on the basis of the alleged violation of the U.S. Constitution. On the question of the violation of administrative rules, the judge ruled that the issue belonged in the state court, no federal. Plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on September 4, 2014 (docket nuber #14-56440) and also filed another case in the state court.

In the August 4, 2016 ruling, the federal appellate court partially reversed the district court ruling by acknowledging the plaintiff’s standing, but nonetheless ruled that the City of Glendale had not exceeded its role in establishing a comfort women memorial, which was considered similar in nature to other cities’ expressive resolutions and memorials on various international issues. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

GAHT’s request for rehearing en banc was denied by the appellate court on October 13, 2016. GAHT appealed the decision to the Supreme Court on January 9, 2017 (docket number #16-917).

In a highly unusual move, the Government of Japan filed an amicus curie brief on February 22, 2017 in support of GAHT’s petition, as did a couple of Japanese far-right groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s petition to review the circuit court ruling on February 27, 2017, ending the suit.

State Case

California State case (docket number #BC556600) was filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles on September 3, 2014. On February 24, 2015 the judge granted the defendant’s special motion to strike under California’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, dismissing the case and granting attorney fees to the defendants. The plaintiffs were ordered to pay about $150,000 to Sidley Austin, which they did on August 25, 2015.

The case was appealed to the Second Appellate Court of California on May 21, 2015 (docket number #B264209). On November 23, 2016 the appellate court ruled in favor of the defendant City of Glendale, ordering GAHT to pay additional damages under the anti-SLAPP statute. GAHT filed a petition for rehearing, but it was denied on December 23, 2016.

GAHT did not file for the California Supreme Court to review the Appellate Court ruling, and the verdict became finalized on February 1, 2017.

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