City attorney Jan Goldsmith and the attorneys working for him are doing their best to try and dig out the thorn in their side whose name is Cory Briggs.
Briggs is an environmental lawyer who has become well known in San Diego and nearby counties for filing multiple lawsuits against massive development projects, inadequate environmental review, and assessment districts. Voice of San Diego scribe Liam Dillon recently published a series of articles on Briggs.
Critics — and there are many in or around city hall — say Briggs is nothing more than an environmental ambulance-chaser, lining his pockets in the name of environmental advocacy. The criticism has now found its way to the city attorney's office.
In a May 30 filing in a case over illegal assessments, an investigator for Goldsmith accuses Briggs of embellishing the nonprofits he runs, making it appear as if there are others besides him behind the lawsuits.
In a declaration, investigator Sally Down attempts to debunk Briggs’s nonprofits and those who had provided depositions in the lawsuit challenging the legality of special tax districts.
“[T]he articles of incorporation and 2008 bylaws for [San Diegans for Open Government] state that the purpose of [the group] is to advocate and educate for 'responsible environmental development'...my investigation of the corporate documents reveals that [San Diegans for Open Government] reputedly has no members."
Down then takes aim at one of Briggs’s other nonprofits, CREED-21.
"...according to the City Treasurers records, CREED-21 does not have a valid business license with the City at this time," said Down in her declaration. She then said that upon discovering this, Briggs filed the application after the fact. The address on the application: 1501 India Street #103, a Fed Ex Shipping Store located in Little Italy.
"CREED-21 has only submitted partial fees and has not yet filed their non-profit status documents. The partial fees submitted for CREED-21 were paid via a credit card belonging to Keri Taylor, a paralegal employed by the Briggs Law Corporation."
Down dug deeper, revealing that the "agent of service" for CREED-21 is "Karin Langwasser, who I am informed and believe is Cory Briggs' first cousin."
The information from Down is meant to detract from Briggs’s claims that he acts solely by direction of the nonprofits he represents.
The allegations have set the stage for a showdown in court. Days after the declaration was filed, Briggs fired back with a protective order against the city, asking that no more investigation take place and that no additional members be identified.
"Plaintiff seeks a motion for protective order out of an abundance of caution to protect the constitutionally protected privacy rights of its members," reads the order. "To be clear, Plaintiff is seeking only to protect the identities of members that have not already been publicly disclosed. Certainly members who have voluntarily allowed for their identities to be public have waived their right to keep their identities and affiliation with Plaintiff private. However, the privacy rights of members who have not publicly disclosed their identities remain intact….
"The City ends its opposition with a rant that an organization that advocates for the open conduct of the people’s business and the public’s 'right to know' should not be able to shield the identity of its members. The argument is childish — the litigation equivalent of 'it’s just not fair!'"
The two sides will state their case at a hearing on Friday, June 6, in front of judge Ronald Prager.