Update | Stephanie Rivera | A judge has denied a motion brought forth by lawyers representing a fired Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officer to disqualify the deputy city attorney involved in his case on what they considered were legal and ethical grounds, according to court documents.
Gregory W. Smith, Daniel Ochoa’s attorney, said that Deputy City Attorney Haleh Jenkins should be removed from the defense team because Jenkins allegedly spoke to three other LBPD clients of his and advised them not to answer questions related to the Ochoa case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana ruled in favor of the city, agreeing that the city attorney’s office is the sole legal representative of the city and its employees, including the LBPD, and could therefore contact officers.
In addition, city attorneys denounced Smith’s claims “regarding Jenkin’s purported threats of insubordination” based on the fact that the office has no control to discipline or punish any employee.
PREVIOUSLY: Lawyers for Fired LBPD Officer Say Deputy City Attorney Should be Disqualified
05/2/15 11:12 PM | Keeley Smith | Lawyers for a former Long Beach Police Department officer who maintains he was fired for forming the Latino Officers Association said Friday that they believe a deputy city attorney should be disqualified from the case on legal and ethical grounds.
The attorney in question rejected the argument, and said the plaintiff’s lawyers were misinterpreting the law and committing misconduct.
Daniel Ochoa, who was fired by the LBPD in May 2011, brought a suit against the city in March 2012, alleging that members of the Long Beach Police Officers Association were against the founding of the Latino Officers Association. He said they saw the group as a rival organization and referred to it as a “Mexican Mafia.”
The city claimed Ochoa was fired for departmental policy and regulation violations, including a delayed response to a citizen’s call for assistance, engaging in disruptive conduct and drunk driving.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana took the issue under submission.
Gregory W. Smith, Ochoa’s attorney, said that Deputy City Attorney Haleh Jenkins should be removed from the defense team. He alleges Jenkins spoke to three other LBPD clients of his and advised them not to answer questions related to the Ochoa case.
“These are people I need to talk to and they won’t talk to me because they’re fearful of retaliation,” Smith said, stating he should be allowed to talk freely with his clients.
Jenkins said the City Charter permits her to act as a lawyer to all Long Beach City employees, that Smith brought up his concerns close to trial, ignored a letter she sent him explaining her reasoning, and that all of Ochoa’s attorneys were incorrectly comparing laws governing corporations to those pertaining to cities.
“If he wants to impugn my character, he should have had the law and evidence to back it up,” Jenkins said.
City News Service contributed to this report.