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Red card for SAYSO: Soccer suit tossed out of court

By rgordon
Friday, May 11th, 2007 at 1:25 pm in Uncategorized.

Dreams of their day in court for the San Andreas Youth Soccer Organization (SAYSO) were shattered Thursday, thanks to a U.S. District Court judge who tossed their lawsuit against San Carlos out.

“Plaintiffs spin a yarn alleging a vast conspiracy involving soccer-moms, the City Planning Board, the City Attorney, the City Council, and two non-profit soccer leagues, all of whom purportedly acted in concert to deprive (SAYSO) of the use of playing fields in the City of San Carlos and to keep SAYSO from advertising its soccer tryouts in San Carlos,” Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong wrote in her 17-page decision, which sided with San Carlos to vacate the case.

A peninsula-wide youth soccer academy and competitive club based in Belmont, SAYSO sued Carlos one year ago today for access to field space for its 70 San Carlos residents, which comprise about 20 percent of the group. San Carlos has denied SAYSO field use permits, citing that its over-taxed fields need to be reserved first for organizations with at least 90 percent of their members residing in San Carlos.

Among other allegations, SAYSO contended that San Carlos violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The civil suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

In March, San Carlos filed a motion asking the judge to throw the case out.

“We’re in shock. We always expected to be able to try the case in front of a jury,” Michael Lindeburg, SAYSO’s coaching director, said in a statement Thursday. “It’s a huge disappointment being knocked down by legal maneuvering before arguing the case.”

He said SAYSO has not decided whether they’ll appeal the decision.

“The lawsuit was for the benefit of the children in San Carlos who have elected to be part of SAYSO, and in that regard, we have let them down,” Lindeburg said. “SAYSO will continue to do the best it can for San Carlos children with whatever field resources it has.”

Other San Carlos-based soccer organization, such as San Carlos United Soccer Club and San Carlos AYSO, found the suit a nuisance when they were served with subpoenas to provide extensive documents related to their use of the city’s fields.

In her decision, Armstrong further held that San Carlos’ policy around field use is “sound” and “has been fairly implemented.” SAYSO had also cried foul over not being allowed to put up A-Frame signs advertising tryouts, and Armstrong said those claims had no merit either, noting that SAYSO failed to exhaust known options for appeal.

“I’m really thrilled that the judge validated what we’ve been saying all long,” said San Carlos Parks and Recreation Director Barry Weiss. “We were confident from day one that we were doing the right thing,”

San Carlos, which had to hire outside counsel specializing in land use and municipal litigation (Oakland-based Jarvis, Fay & Doporto LLP) for the case, is happy that they can now direct staff resources on other things. Weiss estimated hundreds of hours were put in.

“We did what we had to do, but I mean, it was months and months of work and certainly a lot of expense,” Weiss said. “Most of all, I’m glad that it’s over and that I can stop spending time on it.”

Previously: Loving soccer in San Carlos, but not each other

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