A judge granted Los Angeles County’s request for a court order preventing arbitration from moving forward in a law firm’s compensation request for representing L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in his failed attempt to reinstate a fired deputy
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie on Monday granted the county’s request for a preliminary injunction staying arbitration, which began with the selection of a panel in December, until a decision is made on whether Villanueva’s retention of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan LLP created a valid contract between the county and the law firm. The county sued Quinn Emanuel on Nov. 16, asking a judge to find that the firm and the county did not have such an agreement.
“The court finds that plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claim that the fee agreement is void because Sheriff Villanueva lacked statutory authority to enter into it,” Fujie wrote. “As the ability of county officials to enter into contracts for legal services is circumscribed by statute, (Quinn Emanuel) was on notice of the constraints on Sheriff Villanueva’s authority to enter into the fee agreement.”
The judge also denied a motion by Quinn Emanuel to disqualify the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP from representing any party in the case. Quinn Emanuel alleged O’Melveny & Myers, which represents the county in the current litigation, has a conflict of interest.
According to Quinn Emanuel’s court papers, O’Melveny & Myers has put its perceived interests of the county adverse to those of Villanueva and the LASD.
“O’Melveny purports to jointly represent the county, the sheriff and LASD even though the firm is directly adverse to the sheriff and LASD on behalf of the county in the underlying litigation arising from the same facts, circumstances and dispute as this case,” the Quinn Emanuel lawyers argued in their court papers.
The underlying case referred to by the Quinn Emanuel attorneys involves Villanueva’s support of former Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, which angered members of the Board of Supervisors. The county filed a petition in March 2018 seeking to have Mandoyan’s rehiring declared void and Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled in the county’s favor in September 2020.
But in her ruling, Fujie wrote that O’Melveny & Myers did not represent Villanueva and LASD in the Mandoyan matter.
In a recent sworn declaration, Villanueva says he was told by the County Counsel’s Office in a Feb. 28, 2019, letter that he was permitted to seek independent counsel in the Mandoyan case. He retained Quinn Emanuel the next month.
“Although I had not been informed that the Board (of Supervisors) and County Counsel were planning on suing me and LASD, pursuant to the authorization in the Feb. 28 letter I engaged Quinn, Emanuel,” Villanueva says.
The sheriff further said he rejects the alleged claims that his hiring of Quinn, Emanuel was illegal, invalid and unenforceable, reasons the county has given for not paying the firm.
Quinn Emanuel left the case in January 2020 and Stanley Friedman became Villanueva’s new lawyer.
Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign and served as his personal driver, was fired in 2016 following allegations of domestic violence, stalking and harassment of a woman he dated. According to an Office of Inspector General report, the sheriff’s department also found that Mandoyan lied to internal affairs investigators.