MARTINEZ, CALIF. -- The California Superior Court of Contra Costa County Friday struck a blow to the state and the Richmond Unified School District by ruling that the district's defaulted certificates of participation are constitutional.

In a terse and forceful bench ruling that is expected to be appealed, Judge John F. Van de Poel swept aside the state and school district's arguments that the $9.8 million lease issue violated the state constitution's prohibition against long-term debt not approved by voters, because it was used largely to finance operating deficits rather than capital projects.

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