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Judge orders seals away from La Jolla children's beach

July 20, 2009 |  1:00 pm

A San Diego County Superior Court judge today ordered the city of San Diego to shoo the harbor seals off the beach at the Children's Pool in La Jolla by Thursday.

But an attorney representing seal lovers plans to seek a restraining order from a federal judge that would block the city from removing the seals.

Superior Court Judge Yuri Hoffman said today that state law requires the beach be kept clean for children under a 1931 deed to the property.

Attorneys for the city asked Hoffman to delay his ruling, noting that the Legislature in Sacramento has voted to allow the city to decide whether the seals should stay or go.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to sign the legislation, and Hoffman, increasingly impatient with the city, said he was not willing to wait until the governor makes his decision.

In the two-decade fight over the seals on the tiny beach, federal courts have sided with seal lovers, noting that the creatures are protected by federal law. The standoff between federal court and superior court  has cost San Diego hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

If the bill is signed in Sacramento, the City Council plans to declare the beach a marine sanctuary and allow the seals to remain.

Attorney Bryan Pease, representing the pro-seal side, said he plans to seek a restraining order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to delay Hoffman's ruling. Pease called Hoffman's ruling both extreme and illegal.

Under the ruling by Hoffman, the city has 72 hours to disperse the seals into the water, probably by the use of loud noises.

-- Tony Perry

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