Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Supervisors Approve $15,000 Payment for Deputy P.D.’s State Bar Defense
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday unanimously approved a request by Acting Public Defender Kelly Emling that up to $15,000 be spent on the defense in the State Bar Court of a deputy in her office who failed to show up for a hearing.
A spokesperson for Supervisor Hilda Solis, who chairs the board, said the funding—which, according to the board agenda, will come from unspent funds in the public defender’s current budget—was one of a number of consent items that the board approved without discussion.
In her request to the board, Emling explained that the State Bar action arises from an unpublished Court of Appeal opinion upholding monetary sanctions of $1,500 imposed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter and referring the matter for possible discipline. That opinion names the deputy as Delia Metoyer.
Emling told the board that the deputy asked for a continuance of a felony jury trial to attend a scheduled medical appointment, which the judge denied on the ground that the trial would be brief enough for the appointment to be rescheduled.
Emling explained that:
“[S]ubsequently, the Deputy Public Defender reported the continuance denial to his/her Head Deputy Public Defender (Supervisor). The Supervisor relieved the Deputy Public Defender taking him/her out of trial rotation and reassigned his/her cases in response to the immediate health needs of the Deputy Public Defender. The Deputy Public Defender was referred to and consulted with the County Employee Assistance Program. The Supervisor informed the trial judge of the circumstances regarding his/her absence from appearing before the court. Subsequently, the trial judge ordered an ex-parte in-camera contempt/sanctions hearing…regarding the absence of the Deputy Public Defender and allegation that the Deputy Public Defender abandoned the client. Therefore, I believe that the County should provide for the defense of this Deputy Public Defender, as it appears that the Deputy Public Defender acted in good faith relying on the representations of his/her Supervisor, without actual malice, and in the apparent interests of the County of Los Angeles.”
In the July 27, 2016 Court of Appeal opinion, Presiding Justice Norman Epstein wrote for this district’s Div. Four that the attorney became emotional when the continuance was denied and the judge decided to put the dialogue on the record, but first excused her to use the restroom, but she did not return.
The presiding justice wrote:
“Appellant gives no satisfactory explanation for failing to inform the court of her distress, or failing to return to the courtroom. She states in her declaration that when she asked to use the restroom, ‘I believed Judge Hunter could see that I was crying. I believed she was allowing me time to clean up and compose myself. I was unaware of any time limits on my efforts to compose myself. I was not ordered to return to court within a specific period of time after being permitted to use the restroom to compose myself.’ Appellant’s claim about ‘time limits’ fails to explain, or even acknowledge her conduct. She did not simply take a long time in the restroom; she left the restroom, failed to return to the courtroom, and failed to notify the court that she was doing so. She had the ability to make a telephone call from the restroom, as shown by her call to her supervisor. She could have called the court and explained her inability to return at that time, but did not do so.”
In its notice of disciplinary charges, the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel has charged Metoyer with three ethical violations—client abandonment, failure to abide by a court order, and failure to report sanctions in excess of $1,000 to the State Bar within 30 days.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company