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Briggs’ lawsuits are currently holding up numerous big-ticket projects, including plans to expand the Convention Center and borrow money to pay for street repairs. Council members requested the memo and the city attorney’s office compiled it and sent it to them. The subject line reads “Cory Briggs Matters” and the document is stamped “For Confidential Use Only.”
But the memo, which Voice of San Diego obtained, doesn’t appear to contain any secret information about any of Briggs’ cases. It’s simply a list of lawsuits he has filed over the years broken down by the number of times he’s won, lost, settled and the cases that are still pending.
By the city’s count as of March, Briggs had filed 43 lawsuits against the city. He’d won four, lost 17, settled seven and has 15 cases left to go.
The contents of the memo are public information that anyone could check at the courthouse.
Even so, such a memo is unprecedented, said former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. She’s an open government advocate and a Briggs ally who spent almost a decade on the Council. Frye couldn’t remember the city attorney ever writing a secret memo with a scorecard for any other lawyer. She also couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that the memo was secret.
“I have never heard of anything like it before,” Frye said.
A spokesman for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith wouldn’t say what the purpose of the memo was or why it was secret. He referred to sections of California law that allow attorneys to write secret memos for their clients.
Briggs hasn’t seen the memo, but he’s known about it for a while. Council members have railed against him publicly during meetings, but at least one has solicited his business, Briggs said.
Last year, the Council approved giant, lighted signs at the Westfield UTC mall, in Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s district. Lightner was against the signs. After that vote, Briggs said he received at least two calls from Jesse Mays, a Lightner staffer at the time. Mays asked Briggs whether he would sue the city on behalf of Lightner’s constituents who opposed the project, Briggs said.
“I don’t care that you don’t like me or not. That’s perfectly fine. Get in line with all the people who don’t,” Briggs said. “But you’re really kind of a hypocrite to give the impression to your colleagues and your city attorney and anybody else out there that you think Cory Briggs is a son of a bitch, but you didn’t have a problem telling Jesse Mays to call his office and get them to take the case.”
Briggs said he believed Lightner had asked for the secret memo. Lightner’s office said the councilwoman was unavailable for an interview, but that she did not request the memo. Mays couldn’t be reached for comment.
Ultimately, Briggs sued over the Westfield UTC sign issue, though not on behalf of the people he said Lightner had recommended. Briggs won and the lighted signs were spiked. You can read about the case in the secret memo.