How To Write Compelling Legal Prose: A Clever Paragraph With Impact

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Here is a paragraph I found while doing some research on the Internet.  It is from the Complaint, Page 14, Lines 1-4,  Rodriguez et al. v. Burbank Police Department et al., Los Angeles Superior Court Case BC414602, Filed May 28, 2009.

It should be noted that, as of the date of the filing of the within complaint, no African-American employee in the entire history of the Burbank PD has ever been promoted above the title of “police officer.”  No African-American detectives. No African-American sergeants. No African-American Lieutenants or Captains.  Never.”

Usually, sentence fragments are to be avoided in formal writing.  But this simple paragraph forcefully delivers one of the themes of the case.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Ratio of Attorneys to Population in In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Continuing my series on In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California, here is a new set of data comparing the Attorneys to population in City Attorney’s Offices.

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) # Attorneys Atty/Population Ratio
San Bernardino 211,076 10 21,108
Redlands 69,231 1 69,231
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 3 65,072
Riverside 306,779 14 21,913
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 11 9,482
Compton 96,925 4 24,231
Culver City 38,973 4 9,743
Glendale 192,473 13 14,805
Hawthorne 84,854 3.6** 23,571
Inglewood 110,028 10** 11,003
Long Beach 463,894 22 11,894
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above 17 Included Above
Los Angeles 3,810,129 444 8,581
Palmdale 153,334 2 76,667
Pasadena 138,915 20 6,946
Redondo Beach 66,970 6 11,162
Santa Monica 90,174 24.5 3,681
Torrance 145,927 6 24,321
Orange
Anaheim 341,034 23 14,828
Huntington Beach 190,377 7 27,196
Newport Beach 85,376 5.7 14,978
Orange 136,995 4 34,249
Santa Ana 325,228 8.5 38,262
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 5 39,944
Simi Valley  125,026 4 31,257
Thousand Oaks 127,557 4 31,899
Ventura 107,124 4 26,781
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 4 26,639
Chula Vista 246,496 8 30,812
Escondido 145,196 7 26,774
National City 58,785 2.5 23,514
Oceanside 168,173 6 28,029
San Diego 1,311,882 147 8,924
Vista 94,431 3 31,477
Imperial
El Centro 43,145 3** 14,382
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted

Not surprisingly, the ratio is usually lowest in cities that prosecute state law misdemeanors and in large cities.  For example, Anaheim has a ratio of one attorney per 14,828  in population.  Los Angeles has one attorney per 8,851 people.  San Diego, the State of California’s second largest city, has a similar ratio, one city attorney per 8,924 people.  Palmdale, Redlands, and Moreno Valley have the highest ratios.

What does the data mean?   The average in Southern California is one attorney per 20,000 population. I think in some cases, it means that some cities are richer than other cities.  I think Santa Monica is certainly in this category, with one attorney per 3,861 in population.  In other cases, it may mean that some cities are overweight.  In researching this data, I found, for example, that El Centro was considering eliminating its in-house City Attorney’s Office.  The City of Oxnard looks like it could use another attorney, but these are fiscally trying times.

One caveat is that the cities are not equal.  The number of attorneys includes attorneys in cities that prosecute state law misdemeanors.  Also, full service cities should be expected to need more help then non-full service cities.  That explains Palmdale and Moreno Valley a little, but Moreno Valley cut a vacant position in 2010, also skewing the ratio.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

An Abbreviated Version of the Chart of In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Usually WordPress is a very reliable platform, but in this case, it did not like the chart that I created to illustrate my earlier post.  Here is a more readable post without information about each City’s City Attorney:

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) City Form Charter or General Law Full Service? Elected/Appointed # Attorneys 2011-’12 Budget Prosecute State Law Misdemeanors?
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino 211,076 Charter Y E 10 $3,026,000* No
Redlands 69,231 General Law Y A 1 $429,237* No
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 General Law N A 3 $910,535* No
Riverside 306,779 Charter Y A 14 $3,451,041 No
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 Charter Y A 11 $3,614,447 Yes
Compton 96,925 Charter N E 4 Not Online No
Culver City 38,973 Charter Y A 4 $1,779,809 No
Glendale 192,473 Charter Y A 13 $3720156* No
Hawthorne 84,854 General Law N A 3.6** $551,447 Yes
Inglewood 110,028 Charter N A 10** $2,342,133** Yes
Long Beach 463,894 Charter Y E 22 $8,585,107 No
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above Charter Y E 17 $4,824,978* Yes
Los Angeles 3,810,129 Charter Y E 444 $94,950,894* Yes
Palmdale 153,334 Charter N A 2 $3,988,760 No
Pasadena 138,915 Charter Y A 20 $6,467,000* Yes
Redondo Beach 66,970 Charter Y E 6 $2,496,915* Yes
Santa Monica 90,174 Charter Y A 24.5 $8,672331* Yes
Torrance 145,927 Charter Y A 6 $2,160,322* Yes
Orange
Anaheim 341,034 Charter Y A 23 $5,592,143 Yes
Huntington Beach 190,377 Charter Y E 7 $2,311,624* Some
Newport Beach 85,376 Charter Y A 5.7 $2,298,563.87*** No
Orange 136,995 General Law Y A 4 $1,411,049* No
Santa Ana 325,228 Charter Y A 8.5 $2,081,395* No
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 General Law Y A 5 $1,336,917* No
Simi Valley  125,026 General Law N A 4 $983,400* No
Thousand Oaks 127,557 General Law N A 4 $1,564,032* No
Ventura 107,124 Charter Y A 4 $1,711,112 No
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 Charter Y A 4 $1,336,460* No
Chula Vista 246,496 Charter Y E 8 $2,271,182 No
Escondido 145,196 General Law Y A 7 $1,873,925 No
National City 58,785 General Law Y A 2.5 $703,760 No
Oceanside 168,173 Charter Y A 6 $1,535,860 No
San Diego 1,311,882 Charter Y E 147 $42,442,992* Yes
Vista 94,431 Charter N A 3 $1,011,603 No
Imperial
El Centro 43,145 Charter Y A 3** $588,772** No
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted
*** Includes Outside Counsel budget

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

     Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

In-House City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I was recently speaking to an investigative journalist about in-house versus contract City Attorneys.   The journalist asked me if there were a list of in-house City Attorney’s Offices in California.   Upon review, there does not appear to be a list, though the League of California Cities does keep a list of all City/Town Attorneys in California.  So, I created  a list of in-house City Attorney’s Offices in Southern California:

City Name Pop. (2011 est.) City Form Full Service Elected/Appointed Name of City Attorney Tenure # Attorneys 2011-’12 Budget Prosecute State Law Misdemeanors?
San Bernardino County
San Bernardino 211,076 Charter Yes Elected James F. Penman 1987 10 $3,026,000* No
Redlands 69,231 General Law Yes Appointed Daniel J. McHugh 1994 1 $429,237* No
Riverside County
Moreno Valley 195,216 General Law No Appointed Robert Hansen 2010 3 $910,535* No
Riverside 306,779 Charter Yes Appointed Gregory Priamos 2001 14 $3,451,041 No
Los Angeles County
Burbank 104,304 Charter Yes Appointed Dennis Barlow 1997 11 $3,614,447 Yes
Compton 96,925 Charter No Elected Craig J. Cornwell 2008 4 Not Online No
Culver City 38,973 Charter Yes Appointed Carol Schwab 1997 4 $1,779,809 No
Glendale 192,473 Charter Yes Appointed Scott H. Howard 1990 13 $3720156* No
Hawthorne 84,854 General Law No Appointed Russell I. Miyahira 2009 3.6** $551,447 Yes
Inglewood 110,028 Charter No Appointed Cal P. Saunders 2006 10** $2,342,133** Yes
Long Beach 463,894 Charter Yes Elected Robert E. Shannon 1998 22 $8,585,107 No
Long Beach City Prosecutor Included Above Charter Yes Elected Doug Haubert 2010 17 $4,824,978* Yes
Los Angeles 3,810,129 Charter Yes Elected Carmen Trutanich 2009 444 $94,950,894* Yes
Palmdale 153,334 Charter No Appointed Wm. Matthew Ditzhazy 1994 2 $3,988,760 No
Pasadena 138,915 Charter Yes Appointed Michele Beal Bagneris 1997 20 $6,467,000* Yes
Redondo Beach 66,970 Charter Yes Elected Michael W. Webb 2005 6 $2,496,915* Yes
Santa Monica 90,174 Charter Yes Appointed Marsha Jones Moutrie 1993 24.5 $8,672331* Yes
Torrance 145,927 Charter Yes Appointed John L. Fellowes III 1993 6 $2,160,322* Yes
Orange
Anaheim 341,034 Charter Yes Appointed Cristina Talley 2009 23 $5,592,143 Yes
Huntington Beach 190,377 Charter Yes Elected Jennifer McGrath 2002 7 $2,311,624* Some
Newport Beach 85,376 Charter Yes Appointed David R. Hunt 2008 5.7 $2,298,563.87*** No
Orange 136,995 General Law Yes Appointed David A. DeBerry 4 $1,411,049* No
Santa Ana 325,228 Charter Yes Appointed Joe Straka 2011 8.5 $2,081,395* No
Ventura County
Oxnard 199,722 General Law Yes Appointed Alan Holmberg 2008 5 $1,336,917* No
Simi Valley  125,026 General Law No Appointed Tracy M. Noonan 2009 4 $983,400* No
Thousand Oaks 127,557 General Law No Appointed Amy Albano 4 $1,564,032* No
Ventura 107,124 Charter Yes Appointed Ariel P. Calonne 2007 4 $1,711,112 No
San Diego County
Carlsbad 106,555 Charter Yes Appointed Ronald R. Ball 4 $1,336,460* No
Chula Vista 246,496 Charter Yes Elected Glen R. Googins 2010 8 $2,271,182 No
Escondido 145,196 General Law Yes Appointed Jeffrey R. Epp 1996 7 $1,873,925 No
National City 58,785 General Law Yes Appointed Claudia Silva 2010 2.5 $703,760 No
Oceanside 168,173 Charter Yes Appointed John P. Mullen 2006 6 $1,535,860 No
San Diego 1,311,882 Charter Yes Elected Jan Goldsmith 2008 147 $42,442,992* Yes
Vista 94,431 Charter No Appointed Darold Pieper 2005 3 $1,011,603 No
Imperial
El Centro 43,145 Charter Yes Appointed Luis F. Hernandez 2008 3** $588,772** No
* 2011-2012 Proposed
** 2010-2011 Adopted
*** Includes Outside Counsel budget

I define Southern California in this case as Imperial, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

It can be difficult to directly compare cities and City Attorney’s Offices directly.  The difficulty is that different cities use different accounting.  For example, Newport Beach places the outside counsel directly in its budget.  Some cities use a Risk Management/liability account to pay for outside counsel.  Other differences are whether the city prosecutes State law misdemeanors, which increases the size of the budget and the number of attorneys.  One City offset the budget with internal fund transfers.  I just added them together to get the budgeted amount.  Long Beach has both an elected City Attorney and an elected City Prosecutor, which I have listed separately.  The population figures are  the January 2011 estimates from the California Department of Finance.  There  are a variety of definitions of “full service.”  For the purposes of this list, I define “full service” as having both a Fire Department and a Police Department.

I tried to use equivalent data.  However, some cities have not adopted 2011-2012 budgets, so I used the proposed budget if available, and the 2010-2011 Adopted budget if neither the FY 12 adopted or proposed budget was available online.  Also, some full service cities are more full service than others.  For example, Redlands has both an airport and a landfill, while San Bernardino has neither, but San Bernardino is about three times as big as Redlands in population.  Some full service cities do not have any utilities, while others have solid waste, water and electricity.  The coastal cities have harbors and have to deal with the Coastal Commission.  As far as complexity, I would imagine that the City and County of San Francisco as a the only Charter City and County in California, as well as having its own transit system, would be the most complex City in the State.

The data came mostly from the City’s website.  Sometimes, the number of attorneys comes from the City Attorney’s website, sometimes from the adopted or proposed budget, sometimes from the State Bar’s website (though it is more difficult to do than in the past), and the State Controller’s compensation website.  The determination whether the City is a Charter or General Law City comes from the list maintained by the League of California Cities.  The names of City Attorneys comes from an August 2011 list from the City Attorney’s division of the League of California Cities, and checked against the internet.  The year the City Attorneys were appointed or elected came from a variety of internet sources, such as newspaper archives, Google, or the City’s website. I couldn’t find two.  I counted from the initial appointment (including interim appointments).  I derived the data about which cities have in-house City Attorney’s Offices from Google searches cross-checked against the League’s list of City Attorneys.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 708-6055

Friday Aside: Mildly Amusing Legal Humor Site

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I recently stumbled upon a mildly amusing legal humor site (think The Onion instead of lawyer jokes).  It is called LOLawyer.com.  It appears to be one person who probably is or was a lawyer.  If you like the meta, navel-gazing, behind-the-scenes, business side of law, this is the site for you.  The proprietor gets an A for effort.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP
A: 1447 Ford St. #201
      Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 296-6708

City of Riverside’s City Clerk Online Public Records

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.
Finding a municipal record can be difficult even for in-house municipal lawyers. When I was Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands and a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I would have to go to, email or call the City Clerk’s Office for someone to manually pull the needed document.

Luckily, progressive cities are putting more and more documents online.  This is a good practice because it allows both staff and the public to pull up public records without having to waste staff time retrieving the record.

The City of Riverside has such a system, which I stumbled upon looking for a Government Claim form from the City.  As an aside, I called the City’s 311 call center and they said the Government Claim Form is not available online.  They agreed to email me one.

The City of Riverside record database is available here.   The available folders are: Administration, Agendas, Boards and Commissions, Chaindex, City Council/Agency Reports, Contracts/Agreements, Covenants and Agreements, Deed Chaindex, Deed Outs, Deeds, Discussion Session, Elections, Fiscal, General Plan 2025 Program, Insurance, Minutes, Miscellaneous, Ordinances, Purchase Orders, Resolutions, Upcoming Public Hearings.

The Agendas go back to 1997.  The oldest deed that I could find was from 1955.  The earliest Agreement is from 1960.  Minutes date back to incorporation in 1883, Ordinances to 1907 (dating to the new series Ordinance 1).

There are many fascinating documents, including the Incorporation document from 1883.    Of course, the City of Riverside was then in San Bernardino County, so the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors was William F. Holcomb, first elected to the position in 1882.  Both his grandson and great-grandson would become mayors of San Bernardino.

So, you can’t get the Government Claim form online (I would suggest that someone who needs a claim form call 311, the City emailed it to me), but you can get a whole host of other documents that have a variety of uses.

[Update September 29, 2011]

San Bernardino also has such a system, which I stumbled upon while looking at Gigi Hanna’s website.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave., Suite 104
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055

Form Interrogatories in California Personal Injury Litigation: What are they good for?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Form interrogatories are questions that can be used in civil discovery to find out information about other parties, including information like a party’s name, information about their case, and other information, such as contentions.  The plus is they are cheap to serve.  The minus is they often are not particulary useful.

Form interrogatories are a good tool, but like any tool, they need to be used for their intended purpose.  They are not the end-all, be-all of discovery.  They are designed to do some things, but not others.

California has form interrogatories created by the Judicial Council.   There are general civil law interrogatories applicable to an unlimited civil case (though be warned, there are times that it does not make sense to use them, like in eminent domain proceedings, where they are far too general and rarely relevant to the proceedings).

The general civil form interrogatories, Judicial Council Form DISC-001, have instructions on the front, an opportunity to define the term “INCIDENT” and various interrogatories.  There are also form interrogatories for limited civil cases, unlawful detainer actions, and employment law cases.

Form interrogatories are easy to use, because they involve checking boxes.  The advantage to form interrogatories is that they do not count  (in unlimited civil cases ONLY) towards the rule of 35 for specially prepared interrogatories.  California Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.740(a).  Form interrogatories do count against the grab bag rule of 35 in limited civil cases, so they should be use very judiciously.

Typically, I will use form interrogatories in every personal injury case.  When I was doing personal injury defense, I would serve them as soon as possible after being served, or no later than when the answer.  I also use them judiciously.  Some of them do not apply in every case.   Sometimes, subsequent sets are needed, particularly for the use of Form Interrogatory No. 17.1, in conjunction with the service of Requests for Admission.

Form Interrogatories should not be served on a personal injury defendant without leave of court before the first of ten days after service of summons, or the defendant’s appearance. California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.020(a).

The problems with responses to  interrogatories is that they are often bloated and written by attorneys, chock full of objections.  Responses are painfully slow, with a minimum of thirty days after personal service.  Often the information sought in form interrogatories is better obtained in a deposition.  Interrogatories are also available only to parties.  California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.010(a).

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104, Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055