Wednesday, April 7, 2010
ADDA Seeks Class Action Status for Federal Suit Against Cooley
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys is seeking class action status for a suit in federal court alleging Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley discriminated and retaliated against the union’s members.
The group on Monday filed a motion to amend its complaint to add a claim that members of the District Attorney’s Office violated the constitutional rights of the group’s approximately 650 members by disclosing their identities to management officials.
Woodland Hills attorney Marla Brown, who represents three of the plaintiffs in the suit currently pending before U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II of the Central District of California, said the motion is set to be heard May 3. She also said the motion would add three additional plaintiffs to the lawsuit.
According to the proposed amended complaint, the class would consist of deputy district attorneys in grades I through IV during the period from December 2007 to February 2008 who signed union cards demonstrating their desire to become unionized employees.
The complaint alleges that the class-based claims arise from the “unlawful disclosure” to Cooley and management officials of a list identifying each of the prosecutors, and from Cooley’s subsequent use of that list to “intimidate, harass and slander union supporters.”
“This disclosure illegally revealed one of the most personal and sensitive decisions employees ever make in their careers,” it states. “As explained by the head of the County’s independent labor agency, this disclosure may subject any union supporter to ‘retaliation by management, which may include discipline up to and including termination under a pretense.’ ”
The complaint also seeks damages “on behalf of all prosecutors who are victims of what amounts to identity theft committed against them by Cooley and his agents.”
The ADDA and an unnamed member filed suit against Cooley, Chief Deputy District Attorney John Spillane, Bureau Director John Zajec, and Assistant District Attorneys Curtis Hazell and Jacquelyn Lacey last October, claiming constitutional violations based on the defendants’ alleged attempts to quash the fledging union.
The association, which bills itself as the largest prosecutors union in the country, was certified as the collective bargaining unit for the county’s deputy district attorneys in March 2008.
The proposed amended complaint filed Monday would also add members of Cooley’s management team as defendants, including Assistant Head Deputy Peter Burke; Bureau Director Janet Moore; Head Deputy District Attorney Lance Wong, a member of Cooley’s collective bargaining team; and Mario Trujillo, special assistant to Bureau Directors Pam Booth and Zajec.
Brown said the amended complaint would be deemed filed if Wright grants the motion, but declined to discuss the class action claim, noting that she represents only the union’s president, Steve Ipsen, and two other high-ranking members: Marc Debbaudt and Hyatt Seligman.
Montana attorney Matthew G. Monforton—a former county prosecutor who now represents the ADDA, and who Brown said is handling the class action request—could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The District Attorney’s Office referred a request for comment to the County Counsel’s Office, which did not return a call seeking comment. Co-counsel for the District Attorney’s Office—David Wilson of Manning & Marder, Kass, Elrod, Ramirez—also could not be reached.
Monforton sought sanctions against the county last month over alleged bad faith in responding to a previous motion by the union to prevent Cooley from discriminating or retaliating against union members. He alleged that the county misrepresented facts when it asserted that names of ADDA members were not known to Cooley’s management.
The proposed amended complaint contends Burke unlawfully obtained a list of union members from the county’s Employee Relations Commission, which has been inquiring into alleged violations of the county’s Employee Relations Ordinance for the past year. He also claimed that Burke admitted to distributing the list to administration officials.
Wilson last month dismissed Monforton’s allegations as “inflammatory and inaccurate,” denying that there was any evidence that the current membership list of the union was known to anyone in management at the District Attorney’s Office.
He said the list to which the ADDA was referring was “a list of people who about two years ago voted to certify the ADDA as a union” which was inadvertently produced by ERCOM pursuant to a Public Records Act request by an individual who did not think the union was representing his interests.
The case is One Unnamed Deputy District Attorney v. County of Los Angeles, 09-7931.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company