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Lawsuit against Spreckels, City Ballet dismissed

A lawsuit against Spreckels Theatre and the City Ballet of San Diego for selling discounted tickets just to individuals under 30 was dismissed recently.

Spreckels was accused of violating California's Unruh Civil Rights Act by refusing to give individuals older than 30 years of age the same $9 discount given to individuals younger than 30 for City Ballet performances.

In her successful motion for summary judgment in San Diego Superior Court on behalf of the City Ballet, however, attorney Evelyn F. Heidelberg successfully argued that the ticket discount for young people was supported by favored public policy and was not arbitrary, and therefore did not violate the Act.

Heidelberg is an attorney for the San Diego law firm Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, which represented both defendant Spreckels Theatre and the City Ballet of San Diego on a pro bono basis. The ruling enables the City Ballet to continue to sell tickets to young people at a substantial discount as part of its efforts to build and diversify its audience.

"After the enactment of Proposition 13, there has been little exposure to the performing arts in California public schools, so an entire generation has grown up without substantial exposure to ballet," said Heidelberg, who serves on City Ballet's board of directors. "City Ballet instituted the discount to reduce the financial barriers for young people to experience ballet; therefore the discount was justified under public policy."

She added that City Ballet depends financially to a large extent on a grant from the City of San Diego, which requires grant applicants to describe how they plan to diversify and attract new audiences, and serve customers whose opportunities to participate in the arts may be limited by age or education constraints.

According to Ron Cole, president of the City Ballet, "The effect of this lawsuit could have been devastating to our organization and could have conceivably ended City Ballet's ability to perform on stage. The pro bono work provided by Ms. Heidelberg and Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP stands out as an exemplary model of community service and commitment to a thriving arts community in San Diego."

Send your comments, thoughts or suggestions to doug.sherwin@sddt.com

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