Look, I know it’s too early to start talking about who deserves credit for getting the city off the hook on this Roque de la Fuente lawsuit because nobody is off any hook … yet.

But assuming the appeals court’s tentative ruling stands, somebody is going to get credit and they should get a lot of it. Not everyone can say they have saved city taxpayers more than $100 million. And, of course, if the court ends up reversing its tentative ruling, than we get to add a new group of people to blame to those already shamed by the initial disaster of this case.

The mayor specifically commended two people for their role: City Attorney Mike Aguirre and Kris Wilkes, an attorney with the law firm Latham & Watkins.

Anyway, after my last post, I got a call from a former city official who is knowledgeable of the de la Fuente case. The source wanted to explain how some of this has been handled over time but didn’t want to be identified. So take his comments below however you want.

The former official said that if the city does indeed shake this horrible specter of de la Fuente, the city attorney “should get credit for being part of recommendations on how to proceed with the matter, but the decision to appeal, and to appeal with the outside counsel that they have, was made long before Mike Aguirre took office.”

He went on. The people who deserve the most credit – or the most blame if it fails – are lawyers from the firm Horvitz & Levy. They are the ones, the former official said, who crafted the apparently persuasive arguments against two of the four main allegations de la Fuente successfully raised years ago.

Some background: Roque de la Fuente is a developer who claimed years ago that his property was devalued or made useless irreversibly by decisions made by the city without going through due process. He won his initial case against the city for $94 million. When you’re a city that’s close to bankruptcy, you don’t exactly have 94 big ones to spare, so this case is a huge deal. A negative judgment in the appeals process may just be the straw that breaks San Diego’s back.

Back to our unnamed former official – the city was pretty upset about losing the original de la Fuente case. The former official told us that the city hired the firm Latham & Watkins and then Horvitz & Levy because the latter was an “appellate specialty firm.” Horvitz & Levy, the source said, came up with the arguments against de la Fuente’s contention that the city had committed “inversely condemnation” on his property and that it had directed cargo trucks heading for the border in an effort to lower the value of his land.

Horvitz & Levy crafted successful arguments against that, the source said, the city attorney was mostly involved with unsuccessful settlement talks with de la Fuente.

I’ve been getting lots of comments on this so stay tuned. The crack staff at SLOP Blog will keep updating as we parse this one out.


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