STOCKTON — At first glance, the development of the downtown movie complex and the refurbishment of the adjacent Hotel Stockton looks to be a story from the distant past lacking any compelling reason for it to be retold.

In fact, however, related litigation continues to this day and may continue into the foreseeable future.

Then again, a recent court judgment in the city’s favor finally may prove to be the end of the saga. Or, it may not, depending on what is decided by Civic Partners Stockton LLC, which has been in litigation with the city for about 15 years.

“We are, of course, disappointed in the outcome of our appeal,” Steve Semingson, a member of Civic Partners Stockton LLC, said this week in a phone interview. “We’re currently evaluating our options to seek a rehearing or petition the California Supreme Court for a review. We’re confident this isn’t the last word.”

Private attorney Thomas Keeling, who has handled the case for the city since 2011, responded: “I’ll give them one for tenacity. But tenacity is not the same as a good judgment. Diehards sometimes really do die hard.”

The story began unfolding in 1998, when Civic Partners and the city agreed on a plan to renovate the aging, landmark hotel and to build the movie theaters.

Four years later, however, the city severed its deal with Civic Partners, claiming the company had failed to live up to its agreement. The city signed on, instead, with developers Anthony and Edward Barkett of Stockton and Cyrus Youssefi of Sacramento.

That’s when Civic Partners took the matter to court, asserting that the city’s decision cost the company millions of dollars.

The case has ping-ponged through the California court system ever since, landing at various times in Sacramento County Superior Court, the Third District Court of Appeal and even the state Supreme Court.

Civic Partners has argued for years that it is entitled to a remedy because when Stockton severed the initial agreement in 2002, it cost the company millions of dollars.

Much of the court time has centered on the contention by Stockton’s attorneys that before Civic Partners brought the case to court, it was required to file a claim for damages with the city but failed to do so.

The project itself, as handled by the Barketts and Youssefi, was a major piece of Stockton redevelopment when it was completed. The City Center Cinema 16 opened in 2003, and the Hotel Stockton opened to its low-income residents two years later.

Eleven years ago, when the city won one of its court victories in the case, an attorney for Stockton said the triumph was a win for cities statewide. The requirement of a pre-litigation claim protects cities from expensive litigation when a case could be resolved beforehand, the attorney said in 2007.

Keeling said after this month’s ruling that Civic Partners has been seeking more than $20 million from Stockton. Keeling also said the city may, in the end, recover more than $2 million in attorneys fees.

Of the likelihood Civic Partners will pursue this case into a third decade, Keeling said, “They have procedural options, but because (last week’s) opinion and decision were so thorough and well-reasoned, I’m very confident it will survive any challenge.”

 

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/rphillipsblog and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.