Important Facts to Remember when Considering Senate Bill (SB) 1168 this bill does not impact city charter




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Important Facts to Remember when Considering Senate Bill (SB) 1168

  1. THIS BILL DOES NOT IMPACT CITY CHARTER: The City Attorney handles dual functions under the City Charter. The Charter authorizes the City Attorney to act as the legal representative for the municipal corporation of Los Angeles and its elected officials, officers and departments.

Just as important, the Charter authorizes the City Attorney to represent “the People of the State of California” in prosecuting all misdemeanor crimes that occur within the City limits. SB 1168 merely provides a new tool for the City Attorney to better carry out his authority under this existing Charter authority.
Other important facts to know are that:

    • The grand jury subpoena authority provided under SB 1168 is not granted to the City Attorney, but rather, to the Superior Court.

    • Criminal investigations must be conducted confidentially in order to protect the identities of potential targets and witnesses prior to the filing (or declination) of any cases. Grand juries provide confidentiality. If each time a grand jury needed to be called the matter had to go before City Council or any political or legislative body, that confidentiality might be compromised. That is why grand juries go through the Superior Court and not a political or legislative body.

    • Similarly, as with all grand juries, the Los Angeles grand jury will be subject to the oversight of the Superior Court. The power to subpoena and question witnesses resides with the grand jury – not with the City Attorney. SB 1168 merely grants the City Attorney the ability to use that new grand jury as proscribed under the law.

    • Finally, it should be noted that Section 213 of the Charter provides:

“In addition to the powers and duties prescribed by the Charter, the officers, employees, and boards of the City shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as may be prescribed by the laws of the State of California, or by ordinance, not in conflict with the Charter, or by resolution adopted by the Council, not in conflict with the provisions of the Charter or ordinance.”

Thus, since the Charter grants the City Attorney the exclusive authority to prosecute criminal violations within the City and does not preclude the City Attorney from using any particular enforcement tool provided under state law, the Charter clearly allows the City Attorney to use the subpoena and grand jury authority proposed under SB 1168.



  1. CITY ADMINISTRATIVE SUBPOENAS (AND THUS A CHARTER AMENDMENT) WILL NOT WORK: The Charter provides administrative power of subpoena to most City-elected and Department officers, except the City Attorney. This Charter’s subpoena power is administrative, not criminal in nature. The Charter could be amended to authorize the City Attorney to issue subpoenas for criminal violations of the L.A.M.C, but not for other state criminal violations – and certainly not to persons or entities residing outside the City of Los Angeles.

City Administrative subpoenas will not help the City Attorney on criminal cases and are not proper. City administrative subpoenas are submitted in the name of the “City of Los Angeles.” Criminal prosecutions cannot be filed on behalf of the City. Criminal cases are filed in the name of the “People of the State of California.” Therefore, such administrative subpoenas cannot be used to pursue criminal cases.

    • The purpose of an administrative subpoena is to further the administration of the municipal corporation.

    • The purpose of a criminal subpoena is to assist the prosecutor in his representation of the People in a criminal proceeding.

    • Administrative subpoenas are civil in nature, for use in legislative or auditing functions.

  1. HUGE SAVINGS: This bill will annually save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the City of Los Angeles.

    • These would be real savings for the General Fund that would translate into longer library hours, more pools open in the summer, trees trimmed and pot holes filled.

    • Take for example one recent case, People v. Health Net, Inc. The City Attorney’s Office had to spend $147,899.25 in outside investigative and support costs in able to bring this case to the point where the Office could file charges against Health Net for illegally rescinding the health coverage of many of its customers. 80% of those investigative costs had been avoided had the City Attorney had access to a grand jury (overall a gross savings to the City of $102,979.90). The grand jury time needed to investigate Health Net would have been limited to $6,804.00. The City would have achieved a net savings of $96,179.50 from this case alone.

    • Grand jury subpoenas and testimony are far cheaper than depositions – and are subject to less disruption and costly cancellations/re-scheduling, etc.

    • With the recent loss of City inspection staff due to budget cuts and ERIP, the use of subpoenas and the grand jury will allow the City Attorney to more efficiently and effectively use our remaining staff and resources. For example, rather than having to rely on the depleted DBS inspection staff to inspect every slum lord dwelling or unpermitted operation, the City Attorney can use subpoenas to obtain and verify information in order to more efficiently schedule such inspections or surveillance operations.

  1. IMPORTANT CASES: Without this legislation, cases that have successfully prosecuted in the past, such as patient dumping, mortgage fraud, insurance rescission, in the future, will be significantly more difficult to file, if not impossible. Also, in the past, these cases were not criminally prosecuted and no corporate officers or managers were criminally charged. SB 1168 will allow the City Attorney to more effectively and efficiently investigate and prosecute such matters, and will allow for the criminal prosecution of corporate officers and managers responsible for such violations. Without this legislation, we will be risking the public health and safety of our residents when a fiscally responsible tool for conducting such investigations is readily available to the office.

  1. NO INVESTIGATIONS OF CITY CLIENTS: The proposed grand jury would not, and cannot, be used to investigate any City clients. This includes the Mayor, Council Members and the Controller.

    • The City Attorney’s Office has repeatedly stated that it is prohibited from doing so under State Bar rules due to conflicts. The City Attorney stated on KCRW's public affairs program Which Way LA that he will not risk his Bar membership by investigating his own City clients. (For proof of this see the case where the State Bar censured a previous LA City Attorney, Ira Reiner, for improperly investigating one of his own clients). It is clear and beyond dispute that the focus of SB 1168 and the proposed grand jury is outward – to be used to investigate scofflaws who prey upon the people of Los Angeles.

  1. SB 1168 will protect those less fortunate residents who are regularly preyed upon by criminals engaged in, among other things, mortgage, contractor and consumer fraud, wage theft, the pollution of our environment and natural resources, and labor and workplace safety violations.

The types of serious, complex violations subject to investigation under this proposed grand jury authority include those relating generally to the following:

Specifically, these types of cases would include document-intensive violations, including, among other things:

    • patient dumping;

    • contractor fraud;

    • sale and distribution of adulterated foods (i.e., recent cases filed against Ralphs supermarkets, etc.);

    • mortgage and bank fraud;

    • wage theft;

    • OSHA violations;

    • slumlord and housing violations;

    • unlawful outdoor advertising and signage;

    • tax fraud; and

    • health care fraud (i.e., rescission of coverage, etc.). 

 

These are all very serious violations that demonstrate an utter and complete disregard and disdain for the residents of this City, who are repeatedly victimized by fraudsters, heath care providers, polluters and slum lords. More disturbing is the fact that many of these very serious crimes go unpunished and the suffering of the victims is not redressed because the City Attorney currently lacks the full resources, tools and authority, including the power to convene a grand jury, to adequately investigate and prosecute such criminals.

For example, in May 2009, the Mortgage Asset Research Institute released a survey stating that incidents of mortgage fraud perpetrated by industry professionals continue to be on the rise. The survey highlighted the fact that Los Angeles has the second highest rate of mortgage fraud of any metropolitan area in the nation. As a result, such cases are referred to the Office of the City Attorney, which must make a filing decision within the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors (as compared to the three-year statute of limitations for felony violations).

The use of the proposed grand jury subpoena and testimonial authority will provide a more timely and cost-effective manner in which to investigate such complex violations. Thus, in addition to saving limited City and court resources, the proposed grand jury authority will allow the City Attorney’s Office to more efficiently and timely investigate, assess and, if warranted, prosecute such allegations. 



  1. SUMMARY: It is difficult to understand why anyone would oppose the City Attorney having all the tools necessary to successfully protect victims of sophisticated crimes committed by predators operating both within and outside this City – such as polluters, slumlords, mortgage and health care fraudsters and other sophisticated criminals.

Who would oppose the use of a tool that is effectively used throughout the country by hundreds of prosecution agencies that are 1/10 the size – and have a fraction of the caseload - of the City Attorney’s Office?

Such opposition makes no logical or budgetary sense.

There is no logic to such opposition – We believe it is purely political.

The 4 million residents of this City need the City Attorney’s Office to be successful in protecting them from criminals – and protecting public health, the environment and their pocket books.

The City Attorney’s Office already has authority under the City Charter to prosecute criminal violations.

SB 1168 merely provides a lawful and well-established tool – used by hundreds of other agencies – to investigate and combat sophisticated criminals preying upon our residents in a metropolis of almost 4 million and 485 square miles in size.








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