Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Judge Wright Certifies ADDA Suit Against Cooley as Class Action
Jurist, After Reconsidering, Finalizes Tentative Ruling With Caveat
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II of the Central District of California has certified a class of prosecutors who allegedly suffered violation of their privacy rights and discrimination after disclosure of their desire to unionize was made to Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley and his administration.
Counsel for the prosecutors’ union, Matthew Monforton, said yesterday he was “pleased that the 540 prosecutors whose privacy rights were violated by Steve Cooley and his management team will get their day in court.”
The order, issued Monday, was identical to Wright’s earlier tentative decision granting certification, except that it added language cautioning decertification could occur in the future “[s]hould facts later emerge which so require.”
Cooley Attorney ‘Disappointed’
Brian Hershman of Jones Day, who argued on behalf of the defendants at a hearing on the certification issue on Friday, remarked that he was “disappointed with the court’s ruling,” and “we believe in discovery it will confirm that it is not an appropriate class for the reasons that we raised at the hearing.”
He added that “we believe that in the end these causes of action have no merit, and we look forward to litigating the merits.”
The order certified a class “of Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys in Grades I through IV who signed ‘union cards’ between December 2007 and February 2008 indicating their desire to unionize.”
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys—which bills itself as the largest prosecutors union in the country—asserted that these individuals were subjected to a variety of constitutional violations when Assistant Head Deputy Peter Burke disclosed a list of their names to Cooley’s senior management.
At the hearing, Hershman had argued that analysis of the alleged wrongs required an individualized inquiry for each class member since some individuals may not have acted in private manner in voting or have been concerned with the Cooley administration learning how he or she had voted.
Wright, however, found the union “rightly argue[d] that both the legal theories and factual allegations” underlying the class-based claims “apply with equal force to the entire proposed class” since it was “a single incident which allegedly caused similar harm to similarly situated deputy district attorneys.”
He noted that each class member’s individual situation “might not be entirely irrelevant” but to the extent that a factual inquiry may be required, “it would actually appear that, because the prospective class members are so similarly situated, class-wide treatment is not only warranted, but advisable.”
The original complaint in the lawsuit was filed in October 2008 by the ADDA and an unnamed member against Cooley, Chief Deputy District Attorney John Spillane, Bureau Director John Zajec, and Assistant District Attorneys Curtis Hazell and Jacquelyn Lacey, asserting seven causes of action based on the defendants’ alleged attempts to quash the fledging union.
In April 2010, the complaint was amended to add the class-based claims arising from the “unlawful disclosure” to Cooley and management officials of a list identifying the class members and from Cooley’s subsequent use of that list to “intimidate, harass and slander union supporters.” The amended complaint also added Burke and other members of Cooley’s management team as defendants.
The case is One Unnamed Deputy District Attorney v. County of Los Angeles, 09-7931.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company