The city might’ve wasted six years and $10 million along the way, but some good came of the drawn-out battle over expanding San Diego’s Convention Center: City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and attorney Cory Briggs are BFFs.

The two have frequently faced off in major lawsuits, but they exchanged a series of congratulatory messages in the comments section of Scott Lewis’s post on the demise of the expansion’s funding plan, which Briggs had challenged in court.

READ MORE: Five Big Briggs Lawsuits

We learned in May that Goldsmith’s office had compiled a secret memo about Briggs at the behest of the City Council. The memo, titled “Cory Briggs Matters,” detailed the lawsuits Briggs had filed over the years, broken down to those he had lost, won, settled or were still pending. Briggs was something of a thorn in the city’s side; Goldsmith said as much in a recent U-T’ profile:

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said Briggs operates on an “unfair playing field” that allows lawyers who sue public agencies to recover attorney fees when they win but that doesn’t require them to pay up when they lose.

“He’s a smart guy, so I respect him, but our lawyers find him very difficult to work with,” said Goldsmith, who’s the target of a Briggs suit over his refusal to release emails about city business, sent or received on his private email account. “He files a large number of suits that are nuisance (suits) or frivolous, others are arguable, and a part of them I agree with him.”

The years-long battle over expanding the Convention Center was an especially high-profile case. Goldsmith said he’d always thought the tax at the heart of the plan was questionable. So he essentially invited people to sue the city to validate it before allowing it to go forward. Briggs took him up on the offer. In fact, Briggs had two lawsuits against the project: the first claiming the proposed hotel-room tax hike needed to go to a public vote instead of being approved by the hotel industry, and the second saying the project violated California’s environmental quality laws. The expansion imploded this week when City Council voted not to pursue the tax hike.

When one commenter criticized Goldsmith’s handling of the ordeal, Briggs came to his defense.

Cory Briggs: For those who want to blame Jan, please don’t. He was very honest with the city council and mayor about the serious risks of this gamble. He did an excellent job in the disclosures. Only David Alvarez bothered to listen.

To which Goldsmith replied:

Jan Goldsmith Congratulations on your win, Cory

Cory Briggs Thanks, Jan. Mike and Dan at Orrick did a heck of a job for the city given what they had to work with. They were consummate professionals throughout the process and just all-around nice guys.

Briggs further defended Goldsmith’s honor – and their noble pursuit of the public good – later on in the comments.

Cory Briggs Thanks, Phillip. The real heroes are Mel Shapiro and SanDOG’s board, including the late Ian Trowbridge (who I hope is smiling down on the city and toasting the Court of Appeal). We lawyers (on both sides) are just doing our jobs. My office got by with moral support from the client’s board, and they in turn got by with moral support from the many (ignored-at-city-hall) voices around the city who could read the constitution and charter, knew this special tax was illegal, and urged the board to keep fighting. So if anyone is victorious tonight, it’s those of us who still have faith in the rule of law and our courts, slow and imperfect they may sometimes be.

The appellate court’s rebuke was not directed at the city’s lawyers; they were dealt the worst possible hand by the mayor and city council in 2012. The rebuke was directed at the politicians who approved this. The court noted that there is ZERO law on the city’s side, which the city’s lawyers pointed out well in advance. The mayor and city council made a conscious decision to risk public money to benefit private hoteliers. The voters should remember that at the ballot box–especially when they hear a politician claim to be fiscally conservative and in support of Prop 13. No true fiscal conservative would have taken this wager …

It’s unclear how long these two can keep the peace. But at least we still have this to look forward to.

[fold-tweet url=”https://twitter.com/corybriggs/status/501396347720069120″]

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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