Court to Rule on Law Mandating Women on Corporate Boards ... and Other Legal News You May Have Missed

By Richard Dahl on December 07, 2021

Can a state require that the boards of publicly traded companies include women?

A California case that could answer that question went to trial on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Three years ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the nation's first law requiring women on those boards even though he admitted that it might not survive legal challenges. So did an analysis by the state assembly, which concluded that a quota system "may be difficult to defend."

That quota system is at the center of the legal challenge by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group claiming that the law violates the state constitution's equal-protection clause.

The law required these companies to have had at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019. By January 2022, companies with five-member boards are to have two women, and companies with boards of six or more members must have three.

The law also imposed $100,000 penalties for companies that fail to report or that fail to meet the quota. The Los Angeles Times reported that less than half of the applicable corporations filed reports last year but that the state has not issued any fines yet.

Even so, "(s)upporters of the law said it has already had a big impact in California and beyond," the Times reported. That includes Washington state passing a similar law this year, along with proposals in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Hawaii.

A Zoo and a Gun Rights Advocate Squabble Over Money

The St. Louis Zoo has apparently prevailed in its effort to be a "gun-free zone," but the zoo's legal fight with an Ohioan who objects to the ban continues.

Jeffrey Smith of suburban Cincinnati began his fight against the zoo in 2015, when he promised to sponsor a march at the zoo with other activists, openly carrying guns. The zoo obtained a restraining order to stop Smith.

He sued the zoo and three years later won an appeal reversing the restraining order. Last year, however, St. Louis Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty ruled that the zoo could be a gun-free zone because it qualifies as an educational facility and as a gated amusement park.

The remaining battle is over money. The zoo is seeking to recover a portion of the $150,000 in attorney's fees it billed to taxpayers to defend the ban in court. On Nov. 5, Smith filed a memo objecting to the zoo's motion for attorney's fees, arguing that the zoo took on the expense willingly because it could have turned to the state attorney general to defend it.

The zoo filed the motion for recovery of the fees in August, but a judge has not yet ruled on it.

Should a Robotaxi Be Allowed to Double Park in San Francisco?

General Motors Co.'s self-driving unit is pushing back against city officials in San Francisco who claim that the Cruise robotaxi raised safety concerns by double parking.

The unit applied for a permit to operate in the city, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency withheld approval on the grounds that the driverless taxi was illegally double parking.

Last week, the SFMTA cited a Cruise promotional video showing passengers entering and exiting the vehicle in the middle of the street. Then the agency said the vehicles were seen double parking during a test run in the city.

Cruise responded by saying that state law permits commercial vehicles to park away from curbs when reasonably necessary to load and unload passengers. Furthermore, the company said, San Francisco has no special restrictions in the areas cited in SFMTA's complaint about Cruise.

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