Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Ipsen Is Fired From Post of Deputy District Attorney
By ROGER M. GRACE, Editor
Steven J. Ipsen, former president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, has been fired as a county prosecutor, the MetNews has learned.
It was reported here May 16 that Ipsen had been served with a “notice of intent to discharge.” Since then, it has been ascertained, a pre-termination Skelly hearing was conducted with Ipsen failing to refute the allegations of misconduct.
“Mr. Ipsen no longer works for the District Attorney’s Office,” Sandi Gibbons, director of Communications for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, said yesterday.
The office has declined to specify what the charges are, or even confirm that Ipsen was fired. Should Ipsen request a Civil Service hearing, however, the allegations will become public.
“As to the Civil Service hearing, I have not been retained,” Ipsen’s attorney, Eugene M. Salute, said in an e-mail yesterday. “At this time, I have no opinion on whether he will request a hearing.”
Ipsen, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law, was admitted to the State Bar in 1986, and that year joined the District Attorney’s Office.
In 2002, he was elected to a three-year term on the State Bar Board of Governors, defeating a deputy Los Angeles city attorney, Matthew St. George, now a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner.
Ipsen in 2004 recruited multiple candidates to run against two sitting Los Angeles Superior Court judges, David Wesley (now assistant presiding judge) and Dan Oki (presently vying with Judge Carolyn Kuhl for post of 2013-15 assistant presiding judge). Wesley and Oki both prevailed in the 2004 primary election.
A 2005 California Supreme Court opinion took Ipsen to task, saying he had “intentionally and without good faith justification” irreconcilably argued in the separate trials of two murder defendants that each had been the triggerman.
Ipsen served nine terms as president of the ADDA, which he was instrumental in turning into a certified union in 2008.
Opponent of Cooley
The former prosecutor was frequently at loggerheads with the district attorney, Steve Cooley, whom he unsuccessfully challenged in the primary election four years ago, garnering 15.5 percent of the vote to Cooley’s 64.9 percent (with a third candidate, Albert Robles, securing 19.6 percent). Ipsen set up a campaign to run for district attorney this year but did not file his final papers.
That rendered moot the bid by the MetNews to obtain a writ ordering the disclosure of his performance evaluations and disciplinary records. Ipsen, who had been opposing the writ petition prior to his dismissal from the action, moved for an order to the District Attorney’s Office to pay $25,000, the amount owed to Salute for legal representation in the case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones on June 13 denied the motion, rejecting the contention that Ipsen was entitled to be provided with independent counsel.
(Jones on March 23 did order disclosure of records relating to another candidate who declined to authorize their release, Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers—who, it turned out, had incurred no discipline and had favorable performance evaluations.)
Ipsen and former ADDA president Hyatt Seligman are suing Cooley in U.S. District Court for alleged anti-union activities, with trial set for Dec. 6.
County Commission Decision
A hearing officer for the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission (“ERCOM”), Thomas Kerrigan, on Nov. 10, 2010 found that Cooley was responsible for “continuing acts committed to destroy a labor union and damage the careers of senior deputies,” and his report was subsequently adopted by the commission, along with his suggested remedies. Those remedies centered on the undoing of transfers of deputies claiming retaliation for their union activities.
It has since been unveiled that Ipsen and others in the ADDA had engaged in ex parte communications with ERCOM’s executive director, Paul Causey, who relayed their concerns to the hearing officer. Causey in one instance advised Kerrigan—his former law partner, whom he appointed as hearing officer in the matter—to deny a continuance sought by the District Attorney’s Office, based on what Ipsen had told him, and admonishing Kerrigan that the true reason not be put on the record; Kerrigan complied.
The District Attorney’s Office is seeking a writ overturning the commission’s decision. Motions are slated to be heard by Jones on Aug. 15, with a trial setting conference before her scheduled for Oct. 31.
Ipsen has not responded to requests for comment. Salute said, with respect to the firing:
“I am sorry but I cannot comment on any client confidence on matters that I am presently handling.”
Seligman, in an e-mail sent in response to a solicitation of his views, said of Ipsen’s firing:
“It is a terrible precedent. The decision is clearly tainted by Mr. Cooley’s personal vendetta against Mr. Ipsen and the union as demonstrated by Mr. Cooley’s own admissions made in his personal testimony before ERCOM and in his depositions in the pending Federal lawsuit. I am confident Mr. Ipsen will ultimately be vindicated.”
Cooley said in a March 22, 2010 interview with the MetNews:
“I’m anti-Ipsen and anyone who does not maintain the high standards of this office in his personal life or professional activities.”
In the petition for a writ of mandate to overturn Kerrigan’s decision, filed Sept. 19, 2011, former Court of Appeal Justice Elwood Lui, now of Jones Day, wrote:
“District Attorney Cooley and Mr. Ipsen have had a contentious relationship for years—even long before ADDA was certified as a union. That animus has nothing to do with ADDA or its desire to unionize or its status as a union thereafter. That animus instead has everything to do with Mr. Ipsen personally—District Attorney Cooley simply does not like Mr. Ipsen.”
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company