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For each of the past three years, San Diego Unified has paid more than $4 million in legal fees and settlements, an anti-litigation group reports.

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse released a report today listing legal fees paid by Elk Grove, Los Angeles and San Diego Unified school districts. Lorie Zapf, president of the group’s San Diego chapter, said schools are falling prey to a system that makes it too easy to file lawsuits.

“Right now anybody can file a lawsuit … It is so incredibly easy, and there aren’t big repercussions for bringing frivolous suits,” Zapf said. “Then the schools are stuck defending themselves.

“All that money just makes me sick,” she said, “being a mom.”

Most of the money San Diego Unified spent was devoted to legal fees, not to settlements: Between 2005 and 2007, San Diego Unified spent $10.7 million on outside counsel, and $2.5 million on verdicts and settlements, according to CALA’s report.

The sum is dwarfed by the reported fees paid by Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district: between $26 million and $80 million a year, between 2002 and 2005.

EMILY ALPERT

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