Thums will take water district suit to appeals
Published: February 8, 2012
THE COUPLE who filed suit over the
Monterey Peninsula Water Management District’s water
conservation rules but lost in trial court have decided to
appeal their case.
The lawyer for Pebble Beach residents Richard and Sharlene Thum
said her clients have a better chance of winning their case in
the 6th District Court of Appeal in San Jose.
“We have received an outpouring of verbal support from local
residents, who have strongly requested that we appeal the case,”
attorney Margaret Thum, Richard’s sister, told The Pine Cone
Tuesday. “It is clear from these unsolicited responses that our
case is vitally important not only us, but also to the community
Following a November 2012 trial, Monterey County Superior Court
Judge Lydia Villarreal ruled against the Thums, who had argued
the district illegally restricted water use, unlawfully charged
them connection fees and violated their rights to privacy.
The decision to appeal, Margaret Thum said, was made after
Villarreal rejected the couple’s numerous objections to her
ruling, including the contention Villarreal didn’t adequately
address the points outlined in their lawsuit.
“On appeal, we will be able to present our case to a three-judge panel in San Jose,” Thum said. “Like all other litigants who appeal, we believe this scenario will afford us a better opportunity to present our arguments that, with all due respect, we believe were overlooked by the local court.”
The Thums began their fight with the water district four years
ago after they converted an 85-square-foot closet to a bathroom.
The water district gave them permission to install the bathroom
before a district worker inspected their house to finalize the
During the inspection, though, the water district employee not
only checked the bathroom but looked through the whole house,
finding two handheld showerheads the district said had been
installed without its permission.
Although the Thums said that the home’s previous owner denied making any changes to the fixtures after the water district’s last inspection in 2007, the district said it was unaware of them.
The Thums contended in their lawsuit that the water district’s
regulations are not in compliance with state law and even
violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of unreasonable
The water district, however, contends the state granted the
district the authority to restrict water use in homes, and wide
discretion how to do it, when it was created in 1977. During the
trial, the water district’s attorney cited the Peninsula’s
longstanding water shortage, which he called an “unprecedented
water emergency,” as reasons for the district’s practices.
The Thums had hoped a judge would compel the water district to
not restrict the household use of water, remove the deed
restriction on their house, refund their connection fees and set
aside its method of counting residential fixtures.
Though Villarreal in her ruling contended the Thums “agreed to
an inspection of their residence,” a point argued by the
water district, the Thums called the judge’s characterization an
“erroneous conclusion” and said there was no evidence they
consented to have their entire home inspected.