The City of Carpinteria tried to land a preemptive knockout punch against the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition but — at least according to Judge Thomas Anderle — wound up swinging at air. Anderle ruled there is sufficient controversy over what state law allows for the Coalition’s legal challenge to the city’s recently adopted bag-ban ordinance to proceed. Coalition attorney Stephen Joseph contends Carpinteria’s ordinance goes beyond what state health and safety codes regulating food service and preparation allow in its prohibition against restaurants from using plastic bags when selling customers carry-out meals. Because state codes allow plastic bags for takeout, Joseph contends, Carpinteria can’t ban them.
Carpinteria city attorney Peter Brown argued that state health and safety law deals with how food is prepared and stored, not conveyed in take-out eateries. Because of that, he asked Anderle to toss the Coalition’s case outright. Joseph provided enough specific language from state code to persuade Anderle there was enough overlap with — and enough difference from — Carpinteria’s ordinance language to keep the Coalition’s case alive. The Carpinteria City Council could change its ordinance in the meantime to delete the takeout language or it could choose to pursue litigation, a more expensive route. Joseph has filed a similar lawsuit against the City of San Francisco’s bag-ban ordinance. To date, there have been no rulings on the matter.