Good Old Lawyers
Carmel dumps S.F. lawyers for local defense on Miller case.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Talk about karma: The city of Carmel has fired the very lawyers who tried to get a litigating employee’s attorney canned.
On Jan. 15, the city swapped San Francisco firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, which had been defending it in a lawsuit by on-leave Human Resources Manager Jane Miller, for Monterey’s Kennedy Archer Harray.
LCW spent months attacking Miller’s Monterey-based attorney, Michael Stamp, arguing he has an unfair advantage because he formerly counseled the city.
But on Feb. 3, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Larry Hayes smacked down LCW’s disqualification motion on several grounds. One: LCW didn’t prove Stamp’s prior work for Carmel gave him confidential info related to the case. Two: The city implied consent because it waited six years – Stamp began representing Carmel employees in 2003 – before bringing up a conflict. Three: Miller retained Stamp in May 2008; LCW didn’t object until September 2009.
Four: LCW didn’t even interview the city’s own counsel, Don Freeman, about Stamp’s history with the city – an omission Hayes calls “disingenuous,” specifically directing the jab at LCW.
Local attorney Rick Harray describes himself as someone who doesn’t indulge in the games that appear to be LCW’s M.O. “Since I’ve moved in, we’ve moved way down the line in terms of getting this thing sorted out,” he says. “[Stamp and I] don’t have to go to court and fuss around, so we can get to the point and not spin wheels.”
Stamp agrees: “It should move much faster now.”
Carmel’s move reunites long-time associates: Stamp, Freeman and Harray go back decades in Monterey County’s legal circles. All three (with LCW) recently helped resolve a police chief-city manager conflict in Seaside, which settled in less than five months.
Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud says the swap is simply a matter of localizing. “We’ve worked with Liebert Cassidy before, and we look forward to working with them again,” she says. “There’s nothing you should read into it in a negative sense.”
It does mean money down the drain. Carmel paid LCW about $138,000 from May 2008 to January 2010.
But don’t cry for Harray’s firm. The city paid KAH more than $50,000 for defense on a developer’s lawsuit last spring, another $23,000 for services over the summer, and more than $52,000 for counsel on Flanders Mansion last month (see story, p. 11).
Look for more drama on the Miller suit this spring: A case management conference is scheduled for April 2.