Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Residents and community groups throughout Los Angeles have demanded stricter enforcement of a citywide ordinance prohibiting the installation of new digital billboards and supergraphics. The vinyl images are stretched across the sides of buildings by sign companies that make millions of dollars flouting the law.

In response to such violations, the City Attorney charged a commercial landlord with allowing workers to use bolts and wire to wrap an eight story movie advertisement around the face of a 1929 office building on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The corner is a major tourist destination along Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

The landlord had been warned via letter and e-mail not to post unpermitted supergraphics on the buildings. As a result of the repeated defiance to the City, a warrant was issued and the landlord was arrested at his Pacific Palisades home and ordered held on $1-million bail. The defendant’s bail was later reduced to $100,000 after he agreed to reduce the risk to public safety by immediately removing the illegal sign from his building.

The arrests came less than a week after the City Attorney’s Office filed a separate civil lawsuit involving more than a dozen other unlawful supergraphics scattered throughout the City.

Since the filing, five landlords from a pair of buildings on Hollywood Boulevard have also been charged with allowing illegal supergraphic signs to be erected. According to Deputy City Atty. Spencer Hart, the defendants removed the signs immediately.

Jane Usher and Michael Bostrom are handling ongoing billboard and supergraphic litigation and other matters for the Civil Branch. Chuck Goldenberg, Richard Kraft, David Shepherd, Jose Egurbide, Greg Parham, and Spencer Hart are investigating and prosecuting cases for the Criminal Branch.



The Office of the City Attorney and its employees clearly recognize and understand the serious and unprecedented financial challenges facing the City. As such, this Office and its employees have worked hard and sacrificed much over the past year to reduce costs and do increasingly more with fewer resources. These are not platitudes or hollow words. Our success to date in bearing our share of the burden and reducing the City’s deficit is proven and easy to measure. We have successfully done our job, while at the same time dramatically cutting costs and reducing staff from the General Fund.

It is without question and beyond dispute that, as required under the City Charter, the Office of the City Attorney performs vital and essential public safety services and provides financial protection to the City and its citizens.

Our attorneys also protect the City Treasury by fighting in court against frivolous lawsuits. In the past six months alone, our attorneys and their support staff have saved the City almost $100 million in potential damages. Without these victories that were hard-fought and won by attorneys within our Office, the City would be at least $100 million more in debt.

Each month, approximately 30 to 40 claims are submitted to the City for payment, the majority of which are thereafter denied and filed as civil lawsuits. This Office suffered an 18% budget reduction from the 2008/09 budget to the current year budget (2009/10). Our employees have worked hard to meet our budget – as you can clearly see by the cases they have won.

This Office has done its part in reducing costs while protecting public safety and the treasury during these very challenging times. In fact, by June 30, we will meet or surpass the goals set for our Office.

Friday, March 12, 2010


 On Monday February 22, 2010, Neighborhood Prosecutor Raffy Astvasadoorian was traveling from the Van Nuys Courthouse to LAPD West Valley Station when he observed an SUV weaving badly from the number one lane into the painted median.

Astvasadoorian pulled up next to the SUV at a red light and looked over to see what could have been causing the driver to weave so badly. Expecting to see the driver eating or talking on a cell phone, he Instead observed the male driver holding a 9mm pistol in his right hand, laid across his chest pointing towards the driver's side door. The driver was having difficulty holding his head up and appeared to be trying to cock the gun.

Astvasadoorian immediately called 911 from his cell phone to report a possible DUI driver holding a hand gun. He followed the vehicle while relaying information about the car to the 911 operator. Within one minute of the 911 call, five LAPD West Valley Division squad cars pulled the driver over.

The suspect admitted to drinking vodka and the gun that was recovered was a loaded 9mm gun. The District Attorney's Office filed one felony count of Penal Code 12031(a)(1) and the case is set for arraignment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Deputy City Attorney Victor Schulte and Assistant City Attorney Wilberta Breedy-Richardson

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury returned a defense verdict in a $22 million lawsuit against the City involving the allegedly dangerous condition at the intersection of 11th Avenue and Slausen, where two students were involved in an accident. The case was successfully defended by Deputy City Attorney Victor Schulte and Assistant City Attorney Wilberta Breedy-Richardson of the City Attorney’s Civil Litigation Branch.

On March 5, 2010, after a two week trial involving approximately eighteen witnesses, the jury, after deliberating for half a day, returned a verdict in favor of the City of Los Angeles.
The City of Los Angeles was sued for approximately $22 million in damages, the plaintiffs alleging that the crosswalk where the accident occurred was maintained in a dangerous condition.

The jury concluded the City had acted reasonably and that the Department of Transportation and traffic engineers had responded to the needs of the community and could not have prevented the accident. The City was found not liable for the accident.


Pictured: Kimberly Willis, President of the Association of Black City Attorneys with
Earl Thomas, Chief of Criminal & Special Litigation Branch.

In celebration of African American Heritage Month, the Office of the City Attorney, and the Association of Black City Attorneys held a reception on the 8th floor of City Hall East to recognize the appointment of Earl Thomas in recognition of his recent promotion to Chief of the Criminal Branch. Also honored with Earl was Alois Phillips, the Supervising Attorney, San Pedro Branch; James Bell, Bureau of Investigation; Vivian Lackey, Support Staff Supervisor, Metro Branch; Vanessa White, Support Staff Supervisor, Reyes Branch; and Lillian Reed, Legal Secretary III.
The Association presented Mr. Thomas, a founding member of the organization, with a plaque memorializing his achievements in the Office. Over 100 attorneys and staff from the office participated in this tribute to African American heritage and history.

Deputy City Attorney John Carvalho Delivers Huge Win for L.A

Deputy City Attorney John Carvalho Delivers Huge Win for L.A.

Congratulations to Deputy City Attorney John Carvalho of the Business and Complex Litigation Division, for winning a case which resulted in a $4.8 Million payment to the City of Los Angeles.

The case centered around recovering a $2.1 Million grant that the City made in 2001 to the non-profit group, Concerned Citizens of South Los Angeles (CCSCLA).

CCSCLA used the grant money to purchase a three-acre plot of land at Slauson and Main in South Los Angeles for the purpose of building a community center and soccer field sports complex. However, the land remained largely undeveloped through 2008 when LAUSD used eminent domain to purchase the land for $5.4 million in order to build a new elementary school.

Deputy City Attorney Carvalho successfully argued against CCSCLA’s claim for the proceeds from the sale and advocated that the current market value of the land should be paid to the City of Los Angeles, as CCSCLA had breached its contract with the City when it failed to develop the property per the 2001 agreement.
Following a three-day trial, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Coleman A. Swart ruled in favor of the City and awarded a check for $4.8 million to the City of Los Angeles, as well as $132,092 in attorney fees.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Another Big Win!

A Los Angeles Superior Court Jury this week returned a defense verdict in a case involving a City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation worker suing the City for $2 million alleging retaliation and discrimination. The case was successfully defended by Deputy City Attorneys Adena Hadar and Casey Chon of the City Attorney’s Civil Litigation Branch.

On December 30, 2009, after a trial involving approximately twenty witnesses spanning over a four-week period, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before returning a unanimous verdict in favor of the City of Los Angeles and Bureau of Sanitation division manager Richard Myles.

In this case, Plaintiff Joel Zuniga sued the City of Los Angeles for approximately $2 million in damages alleging that he was a victim of race discrimination, race harassment, retaliation, and for failure to prevent race discrimination and/or race harassment in the workplace. The complaint was filed following Zuniga’s termination from the Bureau of Sanitation. The jury concluded the City had acted appropriately in the handling of Zungia’s termination and subsequent appeal through the Civil Service process.

Photo: Nigel Skeet