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CITY ATTORNEY THROWS LOW BLOW IN RIDERS SPARRING Things have gotten personal between City Attorney John Russo and Oakland Police Officers Association President Robert Valladon, and the second round of acquittals in the Oakland Riders case has only made it worse. Russo says a Riders settlement saved millions of dollars compared with the potential costs of trials for the 119 alleged victims of three Oakland cops recently cleared of charges that they beat and framed drug suspects in West Oakland. But Valladon says the payout was a waste. “It should have never been spent,” Valladon said. “It’s only because our city attorney jumped the gun and, without an investigation, paid these people off.” Last week, Russo said again that the $11 million settlement cost Oakland only $2.2 million because insurance coverage is paying the rest, while a federal trial could have cost at least $6 million, and insurance wouldn’t have covered the payouts. “I got a deal to make with Bob Valladon, since he regularly decides to comment on my lawyering,” Russo said. “If [he] will agree to stop commenting on my lawyering, I’ll agree to stop commenting on his watching baseball games on the public dime.” Russo wouldn’t elaborate on the baseball story except to say Valladon was an “overtime abuser.” “Go look at the records,” he suggested. When told of Russo’s comment, Valladon said he was recently contacted by KTVU News, which suspected he was getting paid overtime from the city for providing security at Oakland A’s games. A reporter at the station said it had a picture of Valladon drinking a Coke at the West Side Club at the Oakland Coliseum. Valladon thinks Russo tipped the station off to the story. But Valladon said he was being paid by the A’s, not Oakland taxpayers. A police spokesperson did not return a call seeking comment. Is there a story? KTVU News Director Ed Chapuis wouldn’t say. But Valladon thinks it’s over. “It’s a straight-up lie,” he said. “And if [Russo] wants to argue that, I’ll be happy to.” — Warren Lutz A DEFENSE TEAM OF GOOD SPORTS Steven Gruel likes sports. The federal prosecutor-turned-detective/defense attorney even named his agency, Blue Colt Investigations, after his favorite childhood sports team, the Baltimore Colts. So it made sense when he recently used sports metaphors to explain the defense team he’s put together to help with his highest profile case since leaving the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office. Gruel is defending Julie Lee, the San Francisco community activist and political fundraiser linked to former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. Although Shelley has resigned and so far escaped prosecution, Lee has been indicted in state and federal court for alleged fundraising improprieties. For help in the case, Gruel turned to well-known defense attorneys John Philipsborn and Bill Fazio. He compared Philipsborn to famed 49ers receiver Jerry Rice, who was “methodical with his practice, training and the way he played the game.” Philipsborn has the same traits, Gruel said, something he learned firsthand while prosecuting Nuestra Familia gang members while still with the U.S. attorney’s office. Philipsborn represented one of the defendants in the massive case, and he “peppered me almost daily with motions,” Gruel said. Evidence included thousands of documents, and Philipsborn was “painstakingly deliberate in reviewing the government’s case.” “Having been on the opposite side of him . . . it was clear to me that John Philipsborn had read every piece of paper,” Gruel said. Fazio, on the other hand, is like John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics. In the 1960s and ’70s, Havlicek and the Celtics were famous for their knowledge of their home stadium, the Boston Garden, and even allegedly took advantage of the places in the floor where a ball would not bounce properly to time their steals. Gruel said Fazio knows his way around the San Francisco Hall of Justice and hopes he’ll bring a Havlicek-like home court advantage. “He knows the floor,” Gruel said. He’ll need the help. Three agencies — the Eastern District U.S. attorney, the San Francisco district attorney and the state attorney general — are working on the prosecution, something Gruel said he never saw in his 19 years as a Department of Justice lawyer. — Jeff Chorney DAVIS TO LAWYERS: BE HONEST Former Gov. Gray Davis has a message for lawyers and corporate executives: Be ethical and honest with the public. “Trust is your most valuable asset,” he told hundreds of attorneys and jurists attending the Beverly Hills Bar Association’s 51st annual state Supreme Court luncheon May 31 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “Our success depends on the acceptance and goodwill of other people,” he lectured. “Whatever your field, without public acceptance you won’t be doing it for long.” Davis, of counsel at Los Angeles’ Loeb & Loeb who advises companies about solving complex problems, provided four examples where corporate greed or resistance either roused public anger or brought the company down. They were the Enron collapse, pharmaceutical opposition to prescription drugs from other countries, ChoicePoint’s reluctance to notify people nationwide that their personal information may have been compromised and initial opposition to the state’s Do Not Call Registry. Davis was especially hard on Enron, the Texas energy trader that contributed to Davis’ recall by illegally manipulating the West Coast’s energy supplies in the guise of deregulation. The public was willing to try deregulation if prices went down, Davis said, but they went up by $40 billion. “[Enron officials] would have made a fortune if things had been done legally,” he said. “They didn’t need to do anything but count the money.” Instead, Enron got greedy, outraged the public and the company — whose “whole business model was a house of cards,” Davis said — came tumbling down. “Recognize the difference between what is legal and what is acceptable,” Davis told the crowd. Davis, who was lieutenant governor and state controller before serving five years as governor, also warned pharmaceutical companies to back off efforts to block the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and other countries. Seventeen states are working on programs that would permit importation, he said, and even former New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson and current Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — both Republicans — favor importation. “You cannot tell Americans that they have to pay more for drugs than Canadians or Mexicans or anyone else,” Davis said. “Trying to stop [prescription drugs] from crossing the border is like trying to stop the tide.” Davis’ speech was titled “Public Sentiment, Ethics and the Law, A Unique Perspective.” — Mike McKee BILL TO FUND JUDGES GET VAGUE The Administrative Office of the Courts’ dream of adding 50 new judgeships to the state’s superior court bench may have bumped up against fiscal reality. SB 56, authored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Joe Dunn, D-Santa Ana, was amended before a Senate floor vote last week and now contains language asking only for an “unspecified number of judges.” That’s exactly how the bill started out when it was introduced way back in January at the request of the AOC. The measure was then amended during committee hearings in the Senate to add the 50 judges envisioned by the AOC — part of a long-term plan to add 150 judges to the state’s burgeoning courthouses over a three-year period. The bill also called for converting up to 161 subordinate judicial officers, who now hear minor matters, into full-fledged judges. That number has also been removed from the bill. Bill supporters say the removal of solid numbers is a negotiation tool and doesn’t mean the end of possible new judgeships this year. “This is in recognition of the fact that adding the new positions and adding the conversion has a fiscal effect,” said Kate Howard, the AOC’s director of governmental affairs in Sacramento. “The Legislature has not yet made a determination about how many of those positions can be approved this year, but Sen. Dunn remains committed to working with us to advocate for as many of those positions as we can get.” Dunn’s bill moved out of the Senate on June 1 with 36 yes votes and 2 no votes and is now headed to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which is led by bill co-author Dave Jones, D-Sacramento. — Jill Duman

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