the state bar has been investigating mike feuer and other DWP figures for over two years

at least that's what it said it's been doing. but nothing's come of it. now the investigation is on hold.

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to know more about the State Bar of California, which licenses and polices attorneys. These days people are fed up with it more than usual because of its inaction regarding our boy Tom Girardi. It’s the biggest bar in the country, and yikes, is it even real?

The other day I got a call from a blocked number, and it was a man who identified himself as a supervising bar attorney. I did not call him, he called me. And he told me to stop calling bar employees. I told him no. The People are counting on me.

Anyway, I did find what I was looking for. And I have it on good authority that the State Bar has been investigating Mike Feuer, the serious professional running for mayor, and other figures tied to the DWP debacle, for two years now. This is according to sources and multiple state bar letters I’ve obtained. You can view the bar letters here.

A State Bar letter dated May 9, 2019 reads:

“Your complaint against attorney Michael Nelson Feuer has been reviewed and forwarded to the Enforcement Unit for further investigation and prosecution, if warranted.”

An investigation was opened prior to the federal government’s spicy raid on Feuer’s city attorney office and the Department of Water and Power during the summer of 2019. The FBI was looking into whether or not the $67 million billing settlement between DWP customers and the city was collusive and defrauded customers.

But the bar investigation has been put on hold until the resolution of a related court case, according to a more recent letter. The case in question is a lawsuit the city dropped against consulting firm PwC almost…two years ago.

“Although the case is currently under investigation, by the State Bar, the case remains abated. This means the case has been placed on a temporary hold," according to a letter from this May drafted by bar senior trial counsel.

Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox, who is running a hilarious city controller campaign to clean up the city’s coffers while also whitewashing city malfeasance, did not respond when I asked him for comment about the investigation.

The bar usually does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation as a blanket policy. In an email, the bar said, drumroll: “We cannot confirm or deny whether we have received complaints about a particular attorney or whether we are investigating an attorney for potential misconduct,” said Teresa Ruano, a spokesperson.

Feuer’s office has caught flack for how it’s handled the DWP lawsuit. Attorneys his office hired to litigate the matter have resigned and pleaded the Fifth after it came out they represented both sides of the lawsuit. And the plaintiff at the center of it is a black man whom city officials referred to as the “White Knight.” The aim was to favorably settle a series of high-profile lawsuits and seek damages from PwC in order to make a public relations mess for the city go away. During his own deposition related to the matter, Feuer testified that he had little or no memory of the billing cases, which were the biggest cases to come across his desk as city attorney, and that he largely delegated his duties to his staff.

As a professional campaigner who’s been running for mayor for almost a year and a half, and with maybe over another year to go, Feuer wants to be really prepared. He loves running for things. But you get the sense he is just giving you market-tested views instead of telling you how he really feels. Last week the LA Times wrote about how boring and homogenous the field of mayoral candidates is. Until yesterday, the field of candidates consisted of two cops: Feuer and Joe Buscaino. Then yesterday Rep. Karen Bass told KPCC that she is seriously considering running.

The bar letters also referenced investigations into Feuer’s former right hand man at the city attorney’s office, Jim Clark, and Paul Kiesel, the private Beverly Hills attorney whom Feuer hired to litigate the billing fiasco. Kiesel has maintained his conduct was at the direction of officials at the city attorney’s office, while Feuer’s office said Kiesel and his co-counsel, Paul Paradis, subverted Feuer’s office and acted unethically. Kiesel declined comment on the record. Clark’s attorney did not return a phone call.

A recent court-appointed report into DWP found that 10 lawyers involved in the intertwining litigation violated ethical rules against “dishonesty, deceit, and collusion.” Many have also been found to have violated their ethical duties to plaintiff Antwon Jones and the court in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct. Feuer was found to have not known about the collusion, but the report found his staff did know about it, and then tried to cover it up. The most recent bar letter I obtained predates the release of the report. The State Bar said it will review the report, according to the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

The State Bar handles disciplinary actions involving attorneys and can strip them of their law license. Not all complaints result in investigations. They first must pass a preliminary hurdle, which is what happened here. Investigations seem to take around six months to a year to complete. It’s also very possible that more than one person has filed a complaint regarding DWP, so an investigation could consist of consolidated complaints or there could be more out there. If an investigation results in disciplinary action, it’s then made public.

The revelations of a bar DWP investigation comes at a time when the State Bar is catching heat for not investigating Girardi, even though he’s been sued a lot over the years and multiple bar complaints have been filed against him. The bar said recently that it is taking “significant steps to strengthen the discipline system” by forming a committee to look into the Girardi situation lol. It is currently projecting $206 million in revenues and $194.7 million in expenses for 2021. In court, the LA Times is seeking to unseal the bar’s Girardi records.

But who really knows what happens inside the bar. Some people I talk to complain that it’s a revolving door of government attorneys lost in a bureaucratic maze, who don’t know who is actually in charge or who they should email. The Feuer-DWP case has cycled through a number of different bar investigators. And people told me the bar has been too timid and/or unequipped to go after someone like Girardi, or really anyone working in big law or government. The bar is only going after Girardi now because he’ll be dead soon. And of course, because public opinion has now turned against him, the bar maybe knows it’s safe to go after him. It’s all too little, too late, I guess. But we’ll see if these investigations have any teeth. If you work for the bar or have any institutional knowledge about how it operates, please do get in touch.

P.S. Thanks for indulging me over the past month with the Girardi stories. This is all an experiment, but one thing I am trying to do here is make a space for journalism to be both serious and funny at the same time. Those two things do not have to be separate. For one, objective journalism is not real. News starts with an opinion—and my God do reporters have opinions—so even how they decide what to cover and what sort of angle to take is very much subjective. But that doesn’t mean reporters can’t be fair. And fairness is absolutely important.

Instead of the detached third-person narrative of establishment journalism, the writers and journalists I’ve gravitated towards in my life have been very up front about their point of view. They are transparent about their biases, but they want you to trust them. This is also how the news used to be, before higher education institutionalized it and big business commodified it. I would rather have that than the deceptive “Fair & Balanced” approach of say, Fox News, or NPR’s strategy of trying to disappear its biases by managing to be snarky and boring.

Newsrooms refer to stories as “copy,” and no one is really putting out live copy anymore. But we’ve returned to the wild west of early aughts blogging, and that’s more exciting and ultimately a good thing for journalism, which has been doing absolutely terrible for decades now. Some journalists believe in nothing, and will write whatever you tell them. Remember it is so-called “straight” journalism that got us into some of the worst scenarios of all time: Iraq, Afghanistan, The Great Recession, Donald Trump, Russiagate, etc. But that journalism was never really straight in the first place. Let’s stop pretending.

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