Thursday, April 28, 2016

Justice Aviation Leaving Santa Monica Airport (KSMO)

April 28, 2016 -- After more than two decades at Santa Monica Airport (SMO), the flight school Justice Aviation, which offers additional services, is expected to close by May 11 as part of an agreement with the City to settle several legal disputes.

Justice Aviation will receive $450,000 from the City “as compensation for the closure of its business operations at SMO,” said City Attorney Marsha Moutrie at the City Council meeting on Tuesday as she read the details of the settlement.

The company must “cease all operations at SMO no later than May 11, 2016 and will vacate all premises it now occupies at the airport no later than June 10, 2016,” Moutrie said.

The settlement calls for Justice Aviation to withdraw a federal lawsuit against the City that challenges the attempted eviction from the airport property.

Also, Justice Aviation will withdraw two filings with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) against the City known as Part 16 Complaints, as well as end its participation in a class action lawsuit that challenges the City’s “excessive and unreasonable landing fees.” ("Santa Monica Sued Over Airport Landing Fees," December 10, 2015). 

The City in turn will dismiss its "unlawful detainer" (eviction) notice filed against Justice Aviation earlier this year.

No member of the City Council commented on the settlement prior to or after the governing panel’s 6-0 vote in favor of it. Councilmember Terry O’Day was not there for the vote.

Justice Aviation has operated at SMO for 23 years, according to a legal document it filed.

The City says Justice Aviation signed the latest lease in 2008, and it expired June 30, 2015. The company continued renting the space on a month-to-month basis.

The City issued a 30-day “notice to termination of tenancy” in January, but Justice Aviation did not leave. So, the City then issued the eviction notice.

Justice Aviation responded with a legal document making various allegations, including that its First Amendment rights were being violated and that the City was acting in retaliation because the company was involved in various legal challenges against the Santa Monica government.

The City "seeks to evict [Justice Aviation] because [Justice Aviation] is engaged in enforcing its civil rights against [the City] and is currently involved in three legal actions against [the City],” the document states.

Justice Aviation filed the federal lawsuit last month that made various allegations and said that it had the right to lease property at SMO. The suit also requested at least $175,000 in damages.

This settlement brings an end to various legal battles with Justice Aviation, but is only the latest chapter in a seemingly endless war.

This war, a bloodless one of course, is between City officials, many of whom want to see airport operations come to an end as soon as possible if not sooner, and aviation interests who believe SMO should remain open in perpetuity.

City and FAA attorneys argued about the airport’s future last month before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal (“Fate of City Claim over Santa Monica Airport in Hands of Appeals Court,” March 21, 2016).

A decision on those argument is pending, but it definitely will not be the final decision issued on the topic.

Original article can be found here:

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