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By Brian Park

Newspaper racks may be on their way back to City Hall and the Community Center after attorneys for the city and a local newspaper negotiated a deal in court Wednesday.

City Attorney Hans Van Ligten and fellow Rutan & Tucker attorney Philip Kohn entered into negotiations with William P. Tate, attorney for Community Common Sense, publishers of a monthly newspaper in San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo, at the request of Orange County Superior Court Judge James Di Cesare.

“We talked about a location at City Hall to place news racks and roughly the same areas at the Community Center,” said Tate, who noted that the discussion took two-and-a-half to three hours.

Tate said both sides will present the negotiated deal to their respective clients before returning to court Thursday, December 19. The City Council will consider the agreement Tuesday, December 17.

In November, Common Sense filed a lawsuit against the city, Mayor Sam Allevato, councilmen Larry Kramer and John Taylor and City Attorney Hans Van Ligten over the council’s closed session decision in August to remove newspaper racks at City Hall and the Community Center. The lawsuit accuses the parties of violating the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Common Sense’s lawsuit states the decision to remove newspaper racks came only after they placed their own papers at City Hall and the Community Center while two other newspapers, The Capistrano Dispatch and the Capistrano Valley News, had racks at those sites for at least a decade.

Common Sense Editor Kim Lefner said the decision to remove newspaper racks is another example of the city targeting her paper and its supporters. Lefner also said Common Sense members and businesses who advertise in the paper have been heavily criticized and threatened by the paper’s critics.

“We’ve been called names, we’ve been targeted,” Lefner said. “This is a very small town and the relationships here have been developed over the decades. So many of these people have been here for a long time and they sort of see it as their town … This is about printing the truth, and they don’t like it. It makes them uncomfortable.”

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