SA Justice Charter supporters call city attorney’s comments on ballot initiative “unethical”

City Attorney Andy Segovia says most of the initiative’s proposals, including marijuana and abortion decriminalization efforts, are unenforceable

San Antonio – Supporters of a San Antonio ballot initiative meant to decriminalize marijuana possession and abortion in the Alamo City say the city attorney’s public warnings about its enforceability are “unethical” and “immoral.”

“What we want (City Attorney) Andy Segovia to do is to remain silent on this issue,” said Act 4 SA Executive Director Ananda Tomas at a Monday morning news conference, “and when it passes, should it be challenged in court, to defend the people and what we want to pass as policy. We are tired of him subverting our will.”

Segovia has said most of the proposals in the so-called San Antonio Justice Charter, which will appear on the May 6 ballot as Proposition A, are unenforceable since they go against state law.

“Even if adopted by the voters, will not legalize marijuana. It will not legalize abortion. It will not create a complete ban on choke holds. It will not change the established process and procedures under state law for obtaining warrants. And it will not remove the discretion that San Antonio policemen have to either cite or arrest somebody for all these crimes,” Segovia told reporters on Feb. 8, the day the initiatives petition signatures were verified.

Segovia’s use of “legalize” and questions in an FAQ prepared by the City Attorney’s Office on whether pot or abortion will “be legal” frustrate the Justice Charter’s supporters. They say legalization isn’t the point, and using the term is a “misdirection that only serves to confuse voters.”

“The Justice Charter would only require that San Antonio police de-prioritize certain offenses and does not attempt to legalize any of the offenses listed in the ballot language,” said Karen Muñoz, an attorney from the National Lawyers Guild San Antonio chapter.

The supporters also don’t believe the issue of enforceability is as black-and-white as Segovia has portrayed.

“We haven’t seen this yet. It hasn’t been challenged yet,” Tomas said. “Let us fight for this, pass it, and then when it comes to whatever ballot - like, challenge in the courts, then defend us and let’s see how far we can get. But we are - our backs are against the wall. We’re fighting for our lives.”

Even the initiative’s biggest opponent, the police union, has doubts about Segovia’s interpretation.

“I understand what the city attorney states, that it’s not enforceable. But here’s the problem, is that they said the same thing in Austin and other cities. They’re forcing those officers to enforce that,” San Antonio Police Officers Association President Danny Diaz said in an apparent reference to the marijuana portion of Proposition A.

In response to Monday’s news conference, Segovia released an emailed statement through a city spokeswoman:

“The City Attorney provides legal advice to the City Council, the City Manager, and City staff. In performing those duties I am obligated to follow standards of professional conduct and to give sound legal advice aimed at mitigating legal risks for the City. I have met those obligations with respect to the proposed City Charter amendments. We continue to stick to the facts and the law. A City Charter amendment cannot change State law.”

Andy Segovia, San Antonio City Attorney

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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.