Tuesday, November 27, 2001
Cheryl White Mason to Lead City’s Civil Litigation Team
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo continued to revamp his office’s leadership yesterday with the announcement that O’Melveny & Myers partner Cheryl White Mason will lead the city’s civil litigation team.
As chief of the Civil Liability Management Division, Mason will supervise about 100 lawyers in all aspects of litigation and will have among her primary marching orders achieving Delgadillo’s campaign promise of slashing city liabilities.
Delgadillo vowed during his successful drive to be city attorney last spring to cut Los Angeles’ estimated $1 billion annually liability by a third.
“Cheryl White Mason is an extraordinary addition to the City Attorney’s Office…,” Delgadillo said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has demonstrated an abiding dedication to public service and to the city of Los Angeles, as well as exemplary litigation skills in high-profile cases.”
Mason’s appointment fills one of the key openings in the Delgadillo administration, which undid the management structure put in place by Mayor James Hahn during Hahn’s 16-year tenure as city attorney. Delgadillo kept the criminal branch intact but eliminated Hahn’s police litigation division and divided the civil branch into Municipal Counsel—the legal advisor for the city’s dozens of departments—and Civil Liability Management, which handles litigation.
That branch’s responsibilities now will include police litigation—-defending the city in lawsuits brought by plaintiffs accusing LAPD officers of wrongful arrest and excessive force.
Police liability soared over the last several years, especially after corrupt ex-officer Rafael Perez asserted that falsifying police reports and lying on the stand to secure convictions were common practices at the LAPD.
Mason’s branch will also handle collections and risk management, two areas in which the city has been heavily criticized in the past. The city’s efforts at risk management were crippled during the Riordan administration by turf battles and philosophical differences among the mayor, the City Council and the city attorney.
Mason will also oversee workers compensation and special litigation.
In bringing in Mason, Delgadillo landed a highly regarded litigator and the first African American woman to be a partner at O’Melveny, one of the city’s most storied firms. Delgadillo began his own legal career at O’Melveny before moving to the administration of Mayor Richard Riordan, and after his election called on Mason’s fellow O’Melveny litigation partner Mark R. Steinberg to lead his transition team.
Mason’s selection also furthers Delgadillo’s often-stated goal of reaching into the private sector to fill posts in the City Attorney’s Office.
The city attorney’s top appointments so far have brought mixed private and public sector backgrounds. Chief Deputy Terree Bowers was an associate at Adams, Duque & Hazeltine before moving to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and serving as the region’s top federal prosecutor. UCLA law professor George Cardona, who is due to lead the Criminal Branch starting Jan. 1, also spent most of his career as a federal prosecutor. Municipal Counsel Branch Chief Patricia Tubert is a City Attorney’s Office veteran.
Delgadillo has yet to appoint an attorney to lead his new Appellate Branch.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company