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OK, the update: I misjudged something. The city attorney filed two cases, one was the City of San Diego v. Willkie Farr and Gallagher, LLP. The other was the People of the State of California v Willkie Farr and Gallagher. I thought that was a criminal case. The City Attorney’s Office called to clarify that it’s a civil lawsuit.

Assistant City Attorney Don McGrath said that the office filed the case representing the people of the state of California in order to claim that Willkie Farr violated the state business and professions code with “unfair business practices.”

It appears to be one of those lawsuits that prosecutors file to enforce the law (rather than claim damages) similar to the suit the city attorney filed against that real estate broker who worked on the stinky deals with Mike Madigan downtown.

McGrath said that the city attorney did not get authorization from the City Council to file the complaint on behalf of the city of San Diego. McGrath said it wasn’t necessary. He said he had to hurry to file the case in order to have it be within one year of release of the infamous Kroll report.

“In a legal malpractice complaint against a law firm, you have one year to sue,” McGrath said. “I would rather have done it with a lot more openness but I just had to do it today to beat the deadline.”

McGrath said he had sent the council and the mayor copies of the complaints. One digression: I have often wondered why the city attorney ever asks the council for authorization on his legal pursuits. If he sincerely doesn’t believe he has to, then he shouldn’t. Yet, time and time again, he has. This one just had to go to the court first, however.

McGrath said he didn’t have much to say about the complaints — that I (and you) can just read them (here and here).

“We’ll have more to say about it when the mayor and council are back,” McGrath said.

He said that attorney Bryan Vess, who handled the city’s case against Callan and Associates, will be handling the case. Vess successfully collected $3 million for the city on that one.

Let me know if any of you have any insights about the case law here.

Update: I spelled Bryan Vess’ name incorrectly on the original version of this post. Sorry. And I don’t know if I made my point clear about the idea that the city attorney can’t seem to decide if he really needs City Council authorization for filing suits like this. I was trying to say that the fact that he seeks authorization at times and avoids it at others indicates that he knows he is supposed to but he’s not willing to allow that requirement to keep him from his pursuits. As for McGrath’s excuse that they just had to file it before the one-year deadline and couldn’t consult with the City Council in time, well, I thought you could come to your own conclusion about whether that was a valid explanation.

SCOTT LEWIS

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