Defending Hogin


    In the interest of fair play and accuracy, Michael Schwerin’s letter regarding City Attorney Christi Hogin in the Aug. 13 edition of the Surfside News requires a reply.

    In the first place, an “in-house” attorney, particularly a city attorney, cannot be judged on her win-loss record alone. The city attorney does not have the luxury of choosing her cases or clients. Her job is to advise and defend the City Council’s decisions regardless of the legal or policy reasons. Council decisions may be predicated on politically popular policies, but may make bad law. The city attorney must deal with the existing law and the facts, warts and all. It so happens that Christi Hogin has an excellent 11 wins and one loss record in cases she has handled “in-house.”

    As to the cases Mr. Schwerin claims were lost by Christi Hogin:

    1. The Banyan matter, which pertained to property outside the city of Malibu and involved three lawsuits. One, handled by Christi Hogin, she won. The other two were handled by Richards, Watson and Gershon, one of the pre-eminent law firms in Los Angeles specializing in representing cities and other municipalities. One was successful and the other not.

    2. The Lunita Pacific matter involved a 38-unit condominium. It is important to know that the property owner had a vesting map from the County of Los Angeles prior to Malibu Cityhood which was a key in the unsuccessful attempts by the city (once again represented by Richards, Watson and Gershon), and the Broadbeach Homeowners Association to invalidate the condo subdivision. Notwithstanding the court’s decision, the city attorney negotiated a settlement proposal with the property owner that provided for six to eight single-family houses on one-plus-acre lots in lieu of the 38 condos. After a public hearing, the council, under pressure from an adjacent property owners, rejected the settlement proposal. The 38 condos are now under construction.

    3. As to the Trancas Town matter, also handled by Richards, Watson and Gershon, the city lost its attempt to prevent a15 single-family residences plus 52 condo subdivision. Nevertheless, the city attorney negotiated a settlement proposal providing for 35 single-family houses on a minimum of one-acre lots in lieu of the 15 single-family houses and 52 condos. On Feb. 28, 1994, the council rejected this proposal. Thereafter in 1996, the city attorney submitted to the council a settlement proposal for a single-family subdivision of no less than one-acre lots plus dedicated ballfields to the city. The council has yet to reply to this proposal.

    4. Regarding the mobile home matter, also handled by Richard, Watson and Gershon, the settlements negotiated by the city attorney secured rent control to the mobile home park residents. Nothwithstanding the city attorney’s advice to the council that a “rollback” of rents to a December1984 and CPI level was legally vulnerable, (the park owners had indicated they would not file a lawsuit if the rollback were not enacted), the council adopted the rollback resolution. Ultimately, the court found the rollback was inappropriate and the city paid damages of approximately $2 million. This may have been money the community was prepared to spend to assist the mobile home residents but to blame the city attorney for bad advice is wrong and contrary to the record.

    A. David Kagon