The September 13 special session of the San Diego City Council included several routine “consent items” on the adoption agenda, including one involving a legal matter.
Item-604 concerned “authority to enter into contract for legal services with Latham & Watkins, LLP related to the fireworks litigation brought by the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), LLC.”
The resolution, approved by city attorney Jan Goldsmith and signed by deputy city attorney Glenn Spitzer, would authorize payment of up to $500,000 to the law firm for legal services. A supporting document showed the city has previously paid the firm $10,620,000 over the years for legal services.
Attorney and local activist Hud Collins angrily blasted the council, saying spending up to $500,000 for an outside law firm was inappropriate, considering the city's precarious finances. “The city attorney's office has adequate lawyers to handle this,” Collins said.
This prompted councilmember David Alvarez to say, “I'm concerned about [Latham & Watkins]. We have had a couple of cases where we were not successful.” Assistant city attorney Mary Jo Lanzafame responded, saying the city has used the law firm “successfully” over many years.
Put to a vote, the council voted 6-2 for continuance to the September 25 council session. Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Sherri Lightner voted no.
The five lawsuits brought by the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation alleged that the city did not comply with the California Environment Quality Act when it issued permits for the La Jolla Cove Fourth of July fireworks show in 2010. That case is now on appeal after the city lost.