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LADWP, act II?
the sentencings of two former city lawyers have been delayed again, and the state bar is maybe working on its biggest investigation yet. today we ask the bar to confirm its investigation.
Over the summer I ran a couple stories questioning wether federal prosecutors were still investigating the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power saga. The lead prosecutor in the case left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in LA, and City Attorney Mike Feuer circulated a letter from that office saying he was no longer a target in the investigation. It seemed like things were wrapping up, but I may have led you astray.
Because recently the long-awaited sentencings of two former city lawyers—Paul Paradis and Thomas Peters—were delayed by a federal judge for the second time. It's been close to a year since they've pleaded guilty. Paradis pleaded guilty to accepting a $2.2-million kickback from a lawyer for DWP ratepayers, and Peters pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting an extortion payment to keep DWP litigation collusion under wraps. They're now scheduled to be sentenced in March and April. That’s a long time not to be sentenced. Meanwhile, reasons for the delay have been redacted and filed under seal by prosecutors. But we know Paradis and Peters are cooperating witnesses in the investigation, and in order for a sentencing to be delayed, it’s gotta be a pretty good reason. So it seems like there is some sensitive stuff going on. Could it be more charges by prosecutors? A ramped up State Bar investigation? According to public court filings, the State Bar is investigating 10 attorneys involved with LADWP. If in fact true, that’s huge, and appears to be one of the largest Bar investigations ever. And it could have something to do with the delays.
Today Knock LA and I are asking the State Bar of California to confirm its investigation of the collusive Los Angeles Department of Water and Power litigation scandal. Since the Bar is trying to re-brand its reputation after not taking action against powerful attorneys like Tom Girardi by now going public with attorney misconduct investigations, we think disclosing the LADWP investigation is definitely in the public’s interest. Our letter:
To the Office of Chief Trial Counsel,
My name is Justin Kloczko. I broke the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power collusive litigation scandal in 2019 while I was a reporter for the Daily Journal. I currently write a newsletter called The Debaser. My audience includes lawyers and journalists, and has been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times and in a Hulu documentary about Tom Girardi. Jon Peltz has also covered this story for Knock LA, a nonprofit journalism project that has provided in-depth coverage of the racist audio recordings of LA city council members and deputy gangs inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
From the inception I have followed court filings in the numerous related cases arising from the LADWP collusive litigation scandal, including, among others, the countless filings in the Jones v. City of LA and the City of LA v. PricewaterhouseCoopers matters, and am aware that the ongoing federal criminal investigation has resulted in attorneys pleading guilty to criminal acts ranging from kickbacks to aiding and abetting extortion. These same filings have indicated that a number of attorneys involved in the LADWP collusive litigation scandal are under State Bar investigation by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel.
Given the Bar’s recent acknowledgement of the bar’s “public protection mission” and “policy of transparency” in litigation filings involving the Los Angeles Times and attorney Tom Girardi, the Bar’s recent disclosure of its investigation into the Armenian Genocide settlement, and the fact that the LADWP collusive litigation scandal is in the public’s interest, I am respectfully requesting the State Bar confirm the fact that the Office of Chief Trial Counsel is investigating attorney misconduct arising out of the LADWP collusive litigation scandal.
The State Bar’s confidentiality requirement may be waived under the following exception pursuant to Section 6068.1(b)(2) of the State Bar Act:
(2) The Chief Trial Counsel or Chair of the State Bar may waive confidentiality, but only when warranted for protection of the public. Under those circumstances, after private notice to the licensee, the Chief Trial Counsel or Chair of the State Bar may issue, if appropriate, one or more public announcements or make information public confirming the fact of an investigation or proceeding, clarifying the procedural aspects and current status, and defending the right of the licensee to a fair hearing.
This standard has been satisfied in matters related to the LADWP collusive litigation scandal as a duty to protect the public exists. Significantly, from the extremely limited information that I have been able to obtain from public filings, it appears that Michael Feuer, the current Los Angeles city attorney; James Clark, the former Los Angeles chief deputy city attorney; attorney Leela Kapur, Feuer’s former chief of staff; Joseph Brajevich, former LADWP general counsel; Richard Tom, the current assistant general counsel for LADWP; Mel Levine, the retired U.S. Congressman and former president of the LADWP board of commissioners, and Cynthia McClain-Hill, the current president of LADWP board of commissioners, are all currently being investigated by the Office of Chief Trial Counsel. If this is, in fact, true, an investigation of this many Los Angeles public officials at one time would amount to an unprecedented investigation by the California State Bar, as I am aware.
Given that all these attorneys either, are, or were at one time, elected officials and/or employed by the city of Los Angeles, and charged with serving the public’s interest, if they are in fact, being investigated, or having engaged in misconduct involving the LADWP collusive litigation scandal, the public clearly deserves to know this information. The public’s right to know and to be protected by the State Bar, is only exacerbated by the fact that some of these attorneys, including City Attorney Feuer, continue to serve in positions of public authority. Indeed, City Attorney Feuer is the chief lawyer for the city of Los Angeles.
That credible evidence of dishonesty, deceit and collusion committed by these attorneys has been uncovered by court-appointed investigators and federal prosecutors tilts the scale in favor of public disclosure by the State Bar of whether the Office of Chief Trial Counsel is, in fact, investigating these or other attorneys in connection with their involvement in the LADWP collusive litigation scandal.
This case is massive, the repercussions of which will be felt for years. The State Bar not only has an opportunity, but an obligation to shine a light on this complex issue that the public has been following for years now, but without any regulatory action. In light of this statute and the recent movement by the State Bar to make public certain cases, such as the Girardi matter and Armenian Genocide settlement, I am respectfully requesting that the Bar confirm if the Office of Chief Trial Counsel, is, in fact, investigating the following 10 attorneys for their involvement in the collusive LADWP litigation scandal, and, if so, whether the case numbers I identified through public records are accurate:
Michael N. Feuer - Case No. 22-O-00978
Thomas H. Peters - Case No. 22-O-00981
Meldon Levine - Case No. 22-O-00987
James P. Clark - Case No. 22-O-00980
Joseph Brajevich - Case No. 22-O-00983
Richard Tom - Case No. 22-O-00985
Deborah Dorny - Case No. 22-O-00986
Maribeth Annaguey - Case No. 22-O-00988
Cynthia McClain-Hill - Case No. 22-O-11302
Leela Kapur - Case No. 22-O-00979
Thank you for considering. We look forward to your response.
Justin Kloczko, The Debaser
Jon Peltz, Knock LA