A D.C. Superior Court judge yesterday cleared away one legal hurdle placed in the path of tenant groups who are trying to force a referendum in November on the city's recently enacted and controversial rent control law. But another barrier could arise as early as today.
Judge Leonard Braman, ruling in a lawsuit filed by landlords protesting language in the referendum, refused to give the landlords 10 more days to review additional changes in the wording.
Braman said he agreed with some of the landlords' objections to the language and suggested that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics modify some of the wording.
The elections board has scheduled a special meeting today to make modifications in the petition language and Braman has scheduled another hearing this afternoon at which landlords could raise further objections to the wording.
The landlords sued the election agency last week for approving the initial petition language.
Tenant groups must collect the signatures of 14,000 registered D.C. voters by July 10 to get the referendum on the November ballot.
Gottlieb Simon, a leader in the referendum drive, charged that the landlords "want to make the language in the petitions as complicated and confusing as possible. Happily, the judge was not prepared to go along with that."
Vincent Mark J. Policy, who represented the landlords, denied allegations by Simon that the landlords were merely seeking to delay the referendum process.
"That is not the purpose [of the lawsuit]," he said. "If the referendum does go forward, we want it to go forward correctly."