BUT AT WHOSE EXPENSE?

by Sharon Rondeau

(Nov. 5, 2015) — On Wednesday evening, a “MOTION for Admission Pro Hac Vice” was filed by Atty. James B. Chanin of Berkeley, CA in the case of Melendres, et al v. Arpaio, et al.

“Pro hac vice” signifies that an attorney is not licensed to practice in the state to which he is applying to work on a specific case but generally has a connection to a licensed attorney in that state.

Melendres was filed in December 2007 and alleged that Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and his deputies discriminated against individuals of Latino origin during traffic stops and immigration patrols.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow has presided over the case since July 2009.

Since that time, major rulings have generally favored the plaintiff class.  During the course of the nearly eight-year suit, plaintiffs’ attorneys Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll LLP withdrew for unspecified reasons.  The plaintiffs are currently represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), MALDEF, and the firm Covington & Burling.

In late August, Joshua David R. Bendor asked to be terminated from the case due to his departure from the ACLU.

Defendants Arpaio, various deputies, and Maricopa County are represented by Jones, Skelton & Hochuli; Iafrate & Associates; Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC; and Walker & Peskind PLLC, among others.

Individual sheriff’s deputies retained their own counsel paid for by taxpayer funds.

County taxpayers will also pay more than originally negotiated for the court-appointed monitor to the sheriff’s office before the end of the contract year in February 2016, as the monitor’s invoices, deemed “reasonable” by the presiding judge, have exceeded the contracted amount for the year.  On Tuesday, The Arizona Republic reported that a vote would be held on Wednesday to “add $1,275,000” to Warshaw’s contract.

Chanin’s expertise lies in the areas of “police misconduct” and “civil rights,” among others.

In 2000, Chanin and two other attorneys filed suit against the City of Oakland, CA for police misconduct which allegedly resulted in constitutional and civil rights violations against members of the community. Eventually, a $10.5 million settlement was reached with the plaintiff class and a monitor appointed to oversee court-ordered changes to the police department’s methods in interacting with the community.

The Oakland monitor, Robert Warshaw, was appointed in January 2010 and remained active in the case through at least October 2014, according to quarterly progress reports.

Warshaw is a partner in Police Performance Solutions LLC and owner of Warshaw & Associates, both of which conduct police-department monitoring.

In 2013, then-retired Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan spoke out about Warshaw’s role in instituting reforms.  On April 25, 2013, The Contra Costa Times reported Jordan to have said during a press conference that “Warshaw will be ‘terrible’ for the city.  To put him in charge is a travesty of justice. I don’t feel that he has the best interests of the Oakland Police Department and the citizens of Oakland. I think he rules by fear and intimidation. That is why no one in the department will speak on the record about what they are experiencing.”

The Times further reported that “U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson stunned city officials Wednesday by elevating Warshaw from monitoring Oakland’s progress in satisfying a decade-old reform drive to overseeing both the reform drive and many facets of the Police Department.”

At approximately the same time, Warshaw was reportedly investigated as a result of allegations of professional misconduct made by then-Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana.  According to the Oakland Tribune on March 26, 2013, a retired judge conducted the probe and placed all information gathered under seal; Henderson then issued a “one-paragraph order” stating that “an investigation into the accusations had not ‘in any way diminished’ his confidence in Robert Warshaw’s ‘professionalism or his ability to perform his duties.'”

The same article reported that Chanin congratulated Warshaw on Henderson’s expression of continued confidence in him when he said, “I feel he’s done a good job, and I haven’t seen anything at any time when the two of them were together that was inappropriate.”

The following year, Warshaw acquired the position of “compliance director” in addition to monitoring after Henderson fired his previously-appointed person to the position, Thomas Frazier.  “When Frazier steps down March 10, his sweeping powers to reform the department and discipline, demote or fire police commanders will transfer to Robert Warshaw, the independent monitor appointed by Henderson to review the force,” reported sfgate.com.

On May 24, 2015, The Post & Email contacted six employees at the City of Oakland and Oakland City Attorney’s office with a FOIA request for “Emails, reports, and any other type of paper or electronic record containing the name ‘Robert Warshaw’ produced during the years 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013” but received no response.

After Snow ruled against Arpaio in October 2013 and ordered the appointment of the monitor, Arpaio’s attorneys appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which largely upheld the ruling but narrowly defined the role of the monitor to correcting constitutional violations.

In January 2014, Warshaw was appointed to monitor the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, having been the choice of both Snow and the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

In late April, Snow ordered all work product produced by an MCSO confidential informant to be turned over not only to the court, but also to Warshaw and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Snow denied two motions to intervene in the case by the informant, Dennis Montgomery.

A motion to intervene by the United States of America, represented by attorneys from the Justice Department, was granted.

Montgomery’s work was said by Arpaio and his chief deputy to be unrelated to the civil contempt charge against Arpaio on which new hearings commenced on April 21.

The Melendres docket indicates that the $35 application fee required for pro hac vice status was paid by Chanin and his status approved on November 4.

As of Thursday morning, Chanin is listed as an attorney for plaintiffs Manuel Nieto, Jr., Somos America, Velia Meraz and Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres.

While taxpayers continue to pay the costs of attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants as well as Warshaw’s generally-six-figure monthly invoices which Snow personally approves, Mike Zullo, who assisted in the Montgomery investigation, has requested representation but reportedly been told by Snow, “If you’re going to have a lawyer, you’re going to have to pay for it yourself.”

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Correction, November 5, 2015, 2:33 p.m. EST:  Earlier on Thursday, The Post & Email reported, quoting from The Arizona Republic, that adding $1,275,000 to Warshaw’s contract was expected by a vote of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.  In a statement received from Maricopa County Public Information Officer Fields Moseley moments ago, he explained:

The contract runs March 1 to February so it does not align with the fiscal year.  The board had approved the original contract amount of $1,725,000 but the budget was always planned for $3,000,000.  They approved the amendment to the contract along with the balance of what was budgeted of $1,275,000 saying, “This amendment is partially necessary because of the expanded role of Maricopa County.  This new contract amount still falls within the budgeted amount for the monitor contract.”  This refers to the fact Maricopa County is still a defendant in the case.