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PLEDGE CASE WILL LAND TWO KIDS WITH COURT APPEARANCES The school district sued over the Pledge of Allegiance is turning it into a learning opportunity. Elk Grove Unified School District, outside of Sacramento, is inviting students to submit 500-word essays that both agree and disagree with its pro-Pledge position. Two winners will be flown to Washington, D.C., to watch arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on whether the phrase “under God” makes recitation of the Pledge unconstitutional in school settings. In its briefs, of course, the district argues that it doesn’t. But Elk Grove students who agree with the plaintiff, atheist dad Michael Newdow, can still win a trip. The district will pick a winner from each side. The contest is limited to Elk Grove students in the 9th, 10th and 11th grades, with entries due no later than Jan. 23. Terence Cassidy at Sacramento’s Porter, Scott, Weiberg & Delehant is handling the case for the district. No word yet on whether he plans to take any tips from the winning essays. — Jason Hoppin TIME TO END EXILE? With the announcement last week that DA-elect Kamala Harris plans to hire veteran Alameda County prosecutor Russell Giuntini as her chief assistant, lawyers at the Hall of Justice are wondering what other job offers might be in the works. Harris boasted a long list of lawyer supporters, including several former prosecutors who, like her, have spent the last few years at the S.F. city attorney’s office. So is City Attorney Dennis Herrera bracing for an exodus? Matt Dorsey, who worked to help Herrera win the city attorney’s seat and subsequently landed a job as spokesman for his office, predicts lots of resumes, a lot of positioning — and a whole lot of sealed lips. “At this point, everybody’s going to be reluctant to talk about it on the record.” “One, nobody wants to seem presumptuous,” he said. And two, he said, a lot depends on requisitions from the mayor’s office. “Even if people leave the office, she doesn’t necessarily have those positions to replace.” — Pam Smith SUPES GET SCHOOLED The Alameda County supervisors have some explaining to do. So says Senior U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti, who’s presiding over a suit filed by Redwood Christian Schools after the supes rejected a proposed 650-student high school. The county was too hasty, Conti ruled. The supervisors “owed Redwood Christian a more thoughtful and detailed response to their proposal,” Conti wrote in a Dec. 17 order granting Redwood Christian’s partial summary judgment in the 2001 suit. “At the direction of the county, Redwood Christian spent a significant amount of money generating alternatives for the project . . . nevertheless the board decided to deny the project outright and . . . made no mention of the alternative designs,” he wrote. Redwood Christian Schools has alleged that the supervisors’ actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, or RLUIPA. The act was intended to help religious institutions that have struggled with local land use regulations. Conti’s ruling did not address RLUIPA. A public interest law firm on Redwood Christian’s legal team hailed the ruling. “It requires the county to do something that it should have done �� literally years ago,” said Pat Korten, spokesman for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The fund specializes in religious liberty cases and has attorneys handling the Redwood Christian case. The county has maintained that its actions were proper and that the school would have changed the rural feel of the neighborhood. The county has plenty of documentation to back its decision, said County Counsel Richard Winnie. “The school has never really offered a reasonable alternative,” Winnie said. — Jahna Berry

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