LAPD Legal Payouts By the City of Los Angeles

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

On January 22, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published a spreadsheet showing the amounts paid by (or collected in some rare cases) by the City of Los Angeles related to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).  The numbers are fascinating, and no doubt required a great deal of clerical work either by the employees of the Los Angeles Times, or by the employees of the City of Los Angeles.  This is a good illustration of the benefits of the California Public Records Act.

The cases run the gamut from minor traffic accidents to wrongful death suits to disability payouts to Federal civil rights cases, and even dangerous condition of public property.  I have a perspective on this data because I am a plaintiff’s attorney, both in the personal injury and the 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 civil rights arenas, and because I defended cities and police officers for about ten years, first as a Deputy City Attorney and then as as an Assistant City Attorney.

The information regarding the car accidents is not surprising.  In an accompanying article, reporter Joel Rubin writes:

The city has paid nearly $24 million in settlements or verdicts in about 400 LAPD traffic-related lawsuits over the last nine years and must contend with dozens more cases that remain unresolved, city records show. In all but a few of the closed cases, city officials opted to pay a negotiated settlement instead of taking their chances at a trial — a strong indication that the officers were in the wrong.

However, other interesting information can be gleaned from the data: the City of Los Angeles does not try as many cases as you would think for a City of that size or a City Attorney’s Office of that size.  I counted only 25 trials out of 921 cases with a listed disposition.   On the other hand, there were not that many outright $0 verdicts or settlements, 16 by my count.

Thirteen of those are what I would characterize as alleged Federal Civil Rights allegations: 4 were listed as Dismissal-Court, which I would take to mean a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.    There are 4 voluntary dismissals, though it is not clear if that means that there was a dismissal with a waiver of costs and a release, or whether the cases listed as Settlement (three cases).  Only one of the civil rights cases was listed as won on Summary Judgment.  One case does not give information about how the City of Los Angeles was not liable.

Federal Civil Rights cases are very fact dependent, so looking at the raw statistics without more information (the alleged conduct, the case number, stage of disposition), for example.

This is good investigative journalism by the Los Angeles Times.

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) 296-6708

Email: michael@michaelreiterlaw.com

Computation of Time in the California Code of Civil Procedure

 

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Computation of time is very important in any California lawsuit.  Litigants, attorneys and support staff should be aware of how to calendar important dates and deadlines.   The answer can generally be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 12, Computation of Time.  That section reads, as of the date of this post:

“The time in which any act provided by law is to be done is computed by excluding the first day, and including the last, unless the last day is a holiday, and then it is also excluded.”   This section is probably going to stay in effect for awhile, it was originally enacted 140 years ago  in 1872.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 12 is modified by section 12a, which was added in 1933, and as of this writing, last amended in 2007.  It reads, as of the date of this post:

(a) if the last day for the performance of any act provided or required by law to be performed with a specified period of time is a holiday, then that period is hereby extended to and including the next day that is not a holiday.  For purposes of this section, “holiday” means all day on Saturdays, all holidays specified in Section 135 and, to the extent proved in Section 12b, all days that by terms of Section 12b are required to be considered as holidays.

(b) This section applies to Sections 659, 659a, and 921, and to all other provisions of law providing or requiring an act to be performed on a particular day or within a specified period of time, whether expressed in this or any other code or statute, ordinance, rule, or regulation.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 135 reads, as of the date of this post:

   Every full day designated as a holiday by Section 6700 of the Government Code, including that Thursday of November declared by the President to be Thanksgiving Day, is a judicial holiday, except September 9, known as “Admission Day,” and any other day appointed by the President, but not by the Governor, for a public fast, thanksgiving, or holiday.  If a judicial holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, the Judicial Council may designate an alternative day for observance of the holiday.  Every Saturday and the day after Thanksgiving Day is a judicial holiday.  Officers and employees of the courts shall observe only the judicial holidays established pursuant to this section.

This section was added in 1985, and last amended in 2001.  Government Code section 6700 reads, as of the date of this post:

The holidays in this state are:

(a) Every Sunday.

(b) January 1st.

(c) The third Monday in January, known as “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.”

(d) February 12th, known as “Lincoln Day.”

(e) The third Monday in February.

(f) March 31st known as “Cesar Chavez Day.”

(g) The last Monday in May.

(h) July 4th.

(i) The first Monday in September.

(j) September 9th, known as “Admission Day.”

(k) The second Monday in October, known as “Columbus Day.”

(l) November 11th, known as “Veterans Day.”

(m) December 25th.

(n) Good Friday from 12 noon until 3 p.m.

(o) Every day appointed by the President or Governor for a public fast, thanksgiving, or holiday.

Except for the Thursday in November appointed as Thanksgiving Day, this subdivision and subdivisions (c) and (f) shall not apply to a city, county, or district unless made applicable by charter, or by ordinance or resolution of the governing body thereof.

If the provisions of this section are in conflict with the provisions of a memorandum of understanding reached pursuant to Chapter 12 (commencing with Section 3560) of Division 4 of Title 1, the memorandum of understanding shall be controlling without further legislative action, except that if those provisions of a memorandum of understanding require the expenditure of funds, the provisions shall not become effective unless approved by the Legislature in the annual Budget Act

 

California Code of Civil Procedure sections 659 and 659a pertain to motions for new trials, and section 921 has to do with continuance of an attachment after an appeal by levying party.

The computation of time continues with California Code of Civil Procedure section 12b, which reads as of the date of this posting:

If any city, county, state or public office, other than a branch office, is closed for the whole of any day, insofar as the business of that office is concerned, that day shall be considered as a holiday for the purposes of computing time under Sections 12 and 12a.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 12b was added by the legislature in 1951.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 12c reads, at the time of this posting:

(a) Where any law requires an act to be performed no later than a specified number of days before a hearing date, the last day to perform that act shall be determined by counting backward form the hearing date, excluding the day of the hearing as provided in Section 12.

(b) Any additional days added to the specified number of days because of a particular method of service shall be computed by counting backward form the day determined in accordance with subdivision (a).

This section was added by the statutes of 2010, A.B. 2119.  I was curious to see the legislative history of this bill.  It was introduced on February 18, 2010 by Assemblymember Van Tran, a Republican from Orange County.  The bill, as introduced, is exactly as shown in the chaptered version shown above.  According to a biography I found online, he was the managing partner of a law firm before being elected to the Assembly.

No votes were cast against A.B. 2119.  The bill was sponsored by the State Bar of California Committee on Administration of Justice.   The bill was supported by the California Judges Association CompuLaw, LLC, Consumer Attorneys of California, the Judicial Council of California, and the San Francisco Association for Docket Calendar & Court Services.

Why was this law needed?  According to the Senate Committee Analysis dated June 9, 2010:

California law provides deadlines for notice to be given of hearings on certain motions and deadlines for service and filing of motions, oppositions, and replies thereon. Prior to 2004, the Code of Civil Procedure calculated by calendar days the service of specified moving, supporting, and opposing papers regarding motions and other hearings, the deadline for the completion of discovery proceedings prior to trial, and the deadline for a demand for the exchange of information concerning expert witnesses prior to trial. AB 3078 (Assembly Judiciary Committee, Chapter 171, Statutes of 2004) and AB 3081 (Committee on Judiciary, Chapter 182, Statutes of 2004), among other things, revised those deadlines by referring to court days rather than calendar days. This bill would further clarify the method for calculating these deadlines by providing that they would be calculated by counting backward from the date of the scheduled hearing and would exclude the hearing date.

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

 

Voter Pamphlet in the February 7, 2012 San Bernardino City Clerk General Municipal Election

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters has the Voter Pamphlet online, including candidate statements, a copy of the ballot showing ballot position, voting instructions and a letter from San Bernardino City Clerk Rachel Clark.  The materials are in English and Spanish.

The General Municipal Election is the run-off from the Primary Municipal Election held in November 2011.  The top two candidates were Amelia Sanchez Lopez and Georgeann “Gigi” Hanna, and they are the only candidates in this race.  This is an all mail-in election, and the votes must be received by February 7, 2012.

For more coverage of the San Bernardino General Municipal election, go to sbdpolitics.com.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

City of Riverside Charter Change and the City Attorney’s Office

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

I have previously written about the City of Riverside City Attorney’s Office.  In today’s Press-Enterprise, there is an article about proposed Charter changes that would limit the office of the City Manager.   The article is written by Alicia Robinson and is titled Charter changes would set limits on City Manager.  I do not know where it was located in the physical newspaper.

The section regarding the City Attorney’s Office is very interesting:

The other change removes the city manager’s authority over employees of the . . . city attorney. . . .

City Attorney Greg Priamos, who proposed the change, would only speak generally about it and would not comment on whether it was a response to a specific incident.

The charter now lets the city manager approve or disapprove hiring decisions of the city clerk and attorney. Priamos said he doesn’t think that matches the intent of the charter to keep those three positions independent.

“Having the city manager having any influence whatsoever on the personnel decisions of the city attorney can … impair the city attorney’s ability to provide independent, unbiased legal advice and counsel to my client,” which is the city as represented by the council, Priamos said.

. . .

. . . Barbara Purvis, a retired assistant city attorney . . . said she is puzzled as to why a charter change is needed. But city documents suggest former City Manager Brad Hudson was likely the impetus for the proposal.

According to documents released in response to a California Public Records Act request, former Deputy City Attorney Rachele [sic] Sterling filed an internal complaint in February alleging Hudson accessed her city emails because of her political support of Councilman Paul Davis, and because he wanted to know what city employees had told her about “improper and unethical practices in the public works department.”

In March, Sterling wrote to the council detailing alleged improprieties in awarding contracts, saying employees were directed to steer work to Hudson’s friends. Hudson and the city have denied the allegations and a city-commissioned outside legal investigation found no wrongdoing. Sterling was fired in May.

The city has never explained why Hudson was looking at the emails of one of Priamos’ subordinates, and officials have not clarified whether that could be a violation of attorney-client privilege. When asked in August, Hudson refused to say why he was looking at Sterling’s emails, but in documents from the outside law firm’s investigation, Hudson said he had heard complaints that Sterling was interfering in public works matters.

The report noted that Hudson “functioned as a supervisor” over Sterling and thus had the power under city policy to review her emails. Priamos said attorney-client privilege prevents him from discussing the email incident.

Purvis said it would be “totally improper” for anyone outside the city attorney’s office to review its employee emails. She’d like an explanation of the proposed change, she said, because the charter shouldn’t be altered without a compelling reason.

As background, Raychele Sterling was my immediate predecessor at the City of San Bernardino.  She returned to the City of Riverside in 2001, opening up the position of Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino.  She was always very helpful to me both in the brief hour or so we discussed the cases and matters I was inheriting from her in San Bernardino, or to point me in the right direction in the Riverside City Attorney’s Office, or if I had a public works question.  I last spoke to her last year, in person, at Riverside City Hall, before her firing.  I have not spoken to her since, and I have no inside knowledge of what happened in Riverside beyond what has been reported in the Press-Enterprise.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the charter committees proposals online, so I cannot explain the actual changes to the existing charter.  The committee will present its proposal to Council on January 24, 2012.

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) 296-6708

Using a Bluetooth Keyboard WIth an iPad 2: First Impressions

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I have written before about the iPad 2 about whether it was a serious legal tool.  I concluded  that it was not particularly because you couldn’t touch type on the screen.  I had meant to buy a case keyboard combination for the iPad 2, but I neglected to do so.  Until today.

I bought the Logitech / ZAGGmate case keyboard combination at Costco.  It was on sale with an instant rebate for about $50.

First, the good.  There are a few special iPad tools, such as cut and paste, but like special keys on a regular keyboard, you usually have to look down to find them.  The best feature are cursor keys.

You can touch type on it, but it’s only about as good as a keyboard on a netbook.  Good, but not as good on a full size  keyboard.  But it is light years away from the keyboard version.  However since it is a case combination,  my palms tend to rest on the somewhat hard aluminum of the case

I am used to a trackpad and find myself reaching for one.  However, since the touchscreen capabilities of the iPad still work, I think that I can find a work around for it.

The keyboard is good enough for a quick blog post (which was so difficult with the  keyboard), for a medium size email.   There appears to be some redundancy that makes typing really quickly problematic.  Wordpress seems to have some problem with cutting and pasting, but that’s probably a WordPress problem.

I can see it would be good to take notes at a deposition, but I don’t have an app right now that does that.  I’m not sure I would write a summary judgment motion on it, even if you could rig it up.

In short, probably worth $50, don’t expect miracles, makes it easier to write email and short blog posts.

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) 296-6708

Mailbag: The League of California Cities Ethical Princples for City Attorneys and the San Bernardino City Attorney

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Jeff Thurman of San Bernardino asked me this question on my Facebook page, and I told him on Facebook I would write about here at the blog:

“Would be interested in your take on CA City Attorney Code of Ethics regarding Mr. Penman’s activities in the last election.”

I do not know Jeff Thurman, I only know that he posted this on Gigi Hanna’s campaign website, which I had seen before today:

“Jeff Thurman I campaigned for David McKenna – if you’d like my help, please contact me.”

Here is some Background for people unfamiliar with the context of this election:  San Bernardino, a charter city in Southern California, had a primary election in November 2011.   David McKenna was a candidate for City Attorney in November 2011.  The incumbent, James F. Penman, won reelection.  Gigi Hanna is a candidate for City Clerk in the San Bernardino City General Election in 2012, after having been one of the top two candidates in 2011.  Amelia Sanchez Lopez was the top vote getter in the City Clerk’s race, and in the primary election, she shared elections signs with City Attorney James Penman.  City Attorney Jim Penman was first elected in 1987 and has been elected every four years since; he defeated City Attorney Ralph Prince, who first won election in 1959.  City Attorney Jim Penman’s opponents say that he is a polarizing figure, and have accused him of a variety of ills, including a lack of professionalism, including numerous ethics complaints to the State Bar of California over a number of years.  However, he has no public record of discipline by the State Bar of California

This blog is neutral politically, my only loyalty is to my clients, and I do not currently represent the City of San Bernardino, nor have I since January 2, 2006.

Mr. Thurman is asking about is not the California Rules of Professional Conduct or the California Business and Professions Code’s mandatory ethics rules and duties that each attorney in California must follow.  His reference  of “CA City Attorney Code of Ethics” is to a document properly called “Ethical Principals for City Attorneys” adopted on October 6, 2005 by the League of California Cities City Attorneys Department Business Section, and I believe (since I was at the conference as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, but I could find no citation) ratified by the City Attorney Section of the League of California Cities by a voice vote in May 2006.

There is some misunderstanding about this document, particularly in San Bernardino, and what it means.  First, the League of California Cities is not a governmental entity.  According to the League itself, the “League of California Cities is an association of California city officials who work together to enhance their knowledge and skills, exchange information, and combine resources so that they may influence policy decisions that affect cities.”

The League does wonderful work, particularly with its conferences.  I have attended a few League functions, and they are very educational.  I have been both to a League of California Cities Spring City Attorney’s Conference and the Annual Conference.  I was also the City of Redlands’ staff member for the League of California Cities, Inland Empire Division, Legislative Task Force for a period of time as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands.  I also contributed to the League’s California Municipal Law Handbook by reviewing a section during my time in Redlands (the book is now published by CEB).

However, its injection into San Bernardino politics, is a red herring, for a few reasons to be discussed later.

Here is the preamble: of the Ethical Principles for City Attorneys:

Preamble

A city attorney occupies an important position of trust and responsibility within city government.  Central to that trust is an expectation and commitment that city attorneys will hold themselves to the highest ethical standards.  Every effort should be made to earn the trust and respect of those advised, as well as the community served.

The City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities has therefore adopted these ethical principles to:

  •   Serve as an aspirational guide to city attorneys in making decisions in difficult situations,
  •   Provide guidance to clients and the public on the ethical standards to which city attorneys aspire, and
  •  Promote integrity of the city and city attorney office.

City attorneys are also subject to the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct.  For an explanation of how the rules apply to city attorneys, please see Practicing Ethics published by the League of California Cities in 2004, available at www.cacities.org/attorneys.   These aspirational ethical principles are not an effort to duplicate or interpret the State Bar’s requirements or create additional regulatory standards.

The role of the city attorney and the client city varies.  Some city attorneys are full-time public employees appointed by a city council; some are members of a private law firm, who serve under contract at the pleasure of a city council.  A few are directly elected by the voters; some are governed by a charter.  When reflecting on the following principles, the city attorney should take these variations into account.

The city attorney should be mindful of his or her unique role in public service and take steps to ensure his or her words and deeds will assist in furthering the underlying intent of these principles.

Note the statement that these principles are “aspirational ethical principles.”   Note also that the “role of the city attorney and the client city varies.”  That is certainly the case in the relatively few cities in California which are elected City Attorneys.  There are 11, and the link to the left tells you they are San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Compton, Huntington Beach, Oakland, San Bernardino, Long Beach, San Rafael and Chula Vista.

The preamble continues a “few are directly elected by the voters” which is a grudging nod to the peculiar institution of the elected city attorney in California.

To better understand what Mr. Thurman is talking about, former City Attorney candidate Marianne Milligan alleged, both in 2007 when she was running to be City Attorney and 2011 in an opinion piece in the Sun on August 25, 2011 that City Attorney James F. Penman, provided in part (I don’t have access to the full version, and this is only part of the version that is available elsewhere on the web):

It is important that we, the voters, understand that city attorneys in California are expected to abide by ethical principles adopted by the City Attorneys Department of the League of California Cities.

This universally adopted Code of Ethics states: There should be “no politicization” of the office of city attorney and more specifically states “the city attorney or persons seeking to become city attorney should not make campaign contributions to or participate in campaigns of that city’s officials.”

Marianne Milligan was my immediate supervisor at the time that I transitioned from a Deputy City Attorney in San Bernardino to become the Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands, and before that we were briefly Deputy City Attorneys together in San Bernardino (though she was of higher rank).  In that time, and since, I never had any problems with her either as a boss or as a coworker.  We last spoke when she was leaving Code Enforcement in 2010 and I believe that we are on good terms though we haven’t spoken since 2010.

I think that it is unfair to categorize a document which purports to be “aspirational ethical principles” and designed for the vast majority of city attorneys that are either in-house and appointed or are outside contract attorneys as “universally adopted.”

The “aspirational ethical principles” fail to take into consideration the needs of the eleven elected City Attorneys in California. And the basic fact is that an elected official inherently is involved in politics because they are elected.  It is also incorrect to say that city attorneys in California are expected to abide by the principles; the use of the passive voice is no doubt intentional, even the preamble says that the “aspirational ethical principles are not an effort to duplicate or interpret the State Bar’s requirements or create additional regulatory standards.”

Here is the politicization principle: from the aspirational principles:

Principle 3 (No Politicization).  The city attorney should provide legal advice in a manner that avoids the appearance that the advice is based on political alignment or partisanship, which can undermine client trust.

Explanation.  The city attorney and the city attorney’s advice needs to be trusted as impartial by the entire council, staff and community. 

 

Examples
1.        The city attorney should provide consistent advice with the city’s overall legal interests in mind to all members of the city team regardless of their individual views on the issue.
2.        Each city council member, irrespective of political affiliation, should have equal access to legal advice from the city attorney, while legal work on a matter consuming significant legal resources should require direction from a council majority.
3.        The city attorney or persons seeking to become city attorney should not make campaign contributions to or participate in the campaigns of that city’s officials, including candidates running for that city’s offices or city officers running for other offices.  For private law firms serving as city attorney or seeking to become city attorney, this restriction should apply to the law firm’s attorneys.

4.         When considering whether to become involved in policy advocacy on an issue that may potentially come before the city, the city attorney should evaluate whether such involvement might compromise the attorney’s ability to give unbiased advice or create the appearance of bias.

The example in 3 shows why this does not apply to the City of San Bernardino because the City Attorney has to participate in the campaign of at least one city official, their own.  A better guide of what the City Attorney should and should not do is the Charter of the City of San Bernardino.

The Charter of the City of San Bernardino, as amended in 2004, effective in 2006 reads:

Section 55. Position – Duties – Salary. (a) The office of City Attorney shall

be a full-time position, and the incumbent shall not engage in private practice.

(b) To be eligible to hold the office of City Attorney, the person elected or

appointed shall be an attorney at law, duly licensed as such under the laws of the

State of California, and shall have been engaged in the practice of law for at least

five (5) years prior to his/her election or appointment, and shall have been a

resident and elector of the City for a period of at least thirty (30) consecutive days

next preceding the appointment or the filing of nomination papers for election to the

office.

(c) In the event a vacancy shall occur in the office of City Attorney during

his/her term, such vacancy shall be filled by appointment by the Mayor and

Common Council, which appointment shall be valid until the next general municipal

election, at which time a City Attorney shall be elected for the remainder of any

unexpired term, or for a full term in accordance with Article II of this Charter.

(d) The City Attorney shall be the chief legal officer of the City; he or she

shall represent and advise the Mayor and Common Council and all City officers in

all matters of law pertaining to their offices; he or she shall represent and appear

for the City in all legal actions brought by or against the City, and prosecute

violations of City ordinances, and may prosecute violations of State law which are

misdemeanors or infractions and for which the City Attorney is specifically granted

the power of enforcement by State law without approval of the District Attorney, or

those violations which are drug or vice related; he or she shall also act and appear

as attorney for any City officer or employee who is a party to any legal action in his

or her official capacity; he or she shall attend meetings of the City Council, draft

proposed ordinances and resolutions, give his or her advice or opinion in writing

when requested to do so in writing by the Mayor or Common Council or other City

official upon any matter pertaining to Municipal affairs; and otherwise to do and

perform all services incident to his or her position and required by statute, this

Charter or general law.

(e) The salary of the City Attorney shall be fixed by the Mayor and Common

Council, but shall not be less than seventy-five hundred dollars ($7,500.00) per

annum. He/She shall be provided with office space and equipment, and clerical

help by the City.

That is the language of the Charter of the City of San Bernardino, and that gives the incumbent City Attorney some flexibility in operating.   Former City Attorney Ralph H. Prince had one type of style, which I know only from reading old newspaper articles, hearing from former city officials and his son, and old City Attorney opinions.  Current City Attorney Penman has a different style that he calls elected watch dog”.   That style is a political decision, and if the voters do not like the style of the incumbent, they can vote the incumbent out or recall the incumbent.  They can even try to change section 55, which the City Attorney’s opponents unsuccessfully attempted with Measure C in 2010.

Remember that the aspirational principles have not been adopted by any government agency, including the State Bar of California and the California Legislature, is not a fair question.  It is reminiscent of the song lyric: “we thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.”  The introduction of these principles were a red herring to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt in the political process  because these voluntary aspirational ethical principles are not “universally adopted” and because they should not apply to a situation like in San Bernardino.  Voters should look to Charter section 55, and to the results of the office in judging the efficacy of an elected city attorney.

The proper method for evaluating the job of an elected city attorney is whether the legal advice given to the City as an entity is sound; whether the elected city attorney has done the things promised in their campaigns, whether the elected city attorney has observed the State Bar’s ethical rules, the dictates of the Business and Professions Code and the case law related to both, whether the elected city attorney is performing the duties given to them by the city’s charter, and whether the city attorney has performed the duties required by state law.

An appointed city attorney is a different creature than an elected city attorney.  An appointed city attorney serves at the whims of elected officials.  In a general law city with a five member council is just two votes from the unemployment line, if a quorum is three.   The appointed city attorney must be political in a different way.  However, it was the appointed city attorneys writing the voluntary aspirational principles, not the elected city attorneys.

Appointed city attorneys often just want to do their job (which is “political” with a small “p”) and avoid Election Politics. They don’t want to be hit up by everyone running for election.  The preamble of the voluntary ethical aspirations states that it exists to “provide guidance to clients and the public on the ethical standards to which city attorneys aspire.”    That means that if Council member A asks the appointed City Attorney to sign her nominating petition or make a donation to the campaign, appointed City Attorney can show her the voluntary aspirational principles and politely say that it is unethical to do so.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Creating a Tracked-Changes Version of An Ordinance, Resolution, or Charter Is Helpful to The City Council or Legislative Body

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

In my series about the Charter of the City of San Bernardino, I have created tracked change versions of the Charter through the years.  I started by recreating a modern version of the 1905 Charter.   I created that by finding the Statutes of 1905, page 940.  This book is now in the public domain, having left copyright a long time ago.  Google has scanned the book.  If you look at the first page, the physical book scanned by Google was from the ” Library Leland Stanford Junior University.”  Though it is a cut-and-paste job to get from the OCR version provided by Google,  you have to go line-by-line and take out the funky annotations.

Then, as the Charter of the City of San Bernardino was updated, first (successfully) in 1908, I took the 1905 Charter, reviewed the changes added by charter amendment, and made a strike out version with additions and deletions.  Each charter amendment is in the Statutes of California for the respective year of passage, because the Legislature of the State of California had to approve the changes until the law changed, and now municipal charters must be sent to the Secretary of State, so they still appear in the Statutes of California.  You can find these at better law libraries; in particular, I can recommend the Victor Miceli Law Library, where I found the versions that I use in the series.  They also have an excellent legislative history collection.

Back to the subject at hand, here is an example of a strikeout or legislative version:

Section 133. Whenever the mayor and common council shall by ordinance or resolution, determine that the public interest or necessity demands the acquisition, construction, or completion of any municipal improvement, the cost of which would be too great to be paid out of the ordinary annual income and revenue of the city, they are hereby given the power and authority to call a special election and submit to the qualified voters of the city the proposition of incurring indebtedness to pay the cost of such improvement set forth in said ordinance or resolution. If said proposition be accepted by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors voting at such election, the mayor and common council may issue and dispose of bonds of said city in evidence of said indebtedness.; provided that such indebtedness, together with the unpaid and outstanding bonded indebtedness actually existing at the time such proposition is submitted to said voters, shall not exceed three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  But the city or municipal corporation of San Bernardino shall not incur any indebtedness for public improvements which shall in the aggregate exceed fifteen (15) per cent of the assessed value of all the real and personal property of said city or municipal corporation.  In all other respects not herein provided for, the procedure for calling and holding such elections and the issuance of bonds shall be governed by general law of the State of California applicable to cities of the fifth class.

A strikeout version allows the city council member (or in the case of a charter amendment, the voter to see what is being changed).   A strikeout version is particularly useful to a member of a legislative body if an entire chapter or title is being changed because it allows them to see a large amount of changes.  I recommend to any municipal attorney to consider creating a strike out version for their clients even if one is not specifically requested.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

Gophers Can Cause Trip and Falls

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

I went out for another walk today, in the late afternoon.  I love to see California native wildlife, like a California Pocket Gopher

I am a big fan of California wildlife, particularly Pocket Gophers, though not as much as my late friend Emma.  I had never seen a living pocket gopher before, but this individual poked his head up a few times, and I was able to get a picture of his head.  Unfortunately, I only had an iPhone to take a picture, and it was from about six feet away.

Gophers can cause damage to lawns.  They can also damage parks.  When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, I defended a lawsuit involving an AYSO coach who allegedly tripped and fell in a field in Wildwood Park.  Because the case involved a public entity, the plaintiff had to plead and prove a dangerous condition of  public property cause of action, but with a private landowner, the standard is typically negligence.  The case also involved cross-complaints against the City’s pest controller contractor and the American Youth Soccer Organization.  If I recall correctly, the American Youth Soccer Organization, Inc. picked up the City’s defense under an express indemnification clause in a field use agreement.

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.

Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

A: 300 E. State St. Suite 517
Redlands CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com