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L.A. police union criticizes law firm's 'tactics' after DUI call

DUI 911

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

A Los Angeles law enforcement association is denouncing the tactics of a law firm that does business with the private investigator who placed a 911 call that resulted in a Costa Mesa councilman being pulled over on suspicion of DUI.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League said the “hardball tactics” used by the law firm, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill, are corrosive and can damage the public’s trust in police agencies.

The law firm does work for dozens of police departments in Southern California, and -– until the 911 DUI call -– worked with the Costa Mesa police. The department has since broken ties with the firm.

The 911 call was placed by a private investigator, Chris Lanzillo, who told police he saw a man stumbling out of a Newport Boulevard tavern and drive off in an SUV.

Police later pulled over Councilman Jim Righeimer and, after administering a field sobriety test, determined he was sober. The councilman said he was drinking a Diet Pepsi at the bar, which is owned by one of his council colleagues.

Righeimer, who has championed pension reform in the Orange County city and has been critical of public unions, claims he was set up in an effort to stifle his political agenda.

The private investigator has denied the accusation and the law firm said it has no connection to the 911 call.

But, the firm now finds itself the center of attention and the Orange County District Attorney’s office has assigned investigators to look into the matter.

In addition to the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the law firm has been criticized for its tactics by the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, Santa Ana Police Officers Assn. and the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff’s Assn.

“The LAPPL is not affiliated with this law firm and does not subscribe to the hardball tactics that the law firm promotes in their 'playbook,'” the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement.

The Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs said it never used the firm but denounced it two years ago when it appeared it was engaging in "ethically questionable behavior."

A partner from Lackie, Dammeier & McGill did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday, but the firm has previously defended its negotiating tactics as legal, ethical and necessary to protect the needs of police officers.

"When our clients are treated unfairly or unlawfully, yes, we are aggressive, within the limits of the law, to vindicate our client's position," Dieter Dammeier said in a statement Tuesday.

"We will not apologize for 'aggressively' protecting those that put their lives on the line every day protecting all of us. We will continue to fight for our clients using every available legal tool at our disposal."

High-profile cases represented by Lackie, Dammeier & McGill lawyers include that of a UC Davis police officer who was filmed pepper spraying students protesting on the campus, according to the State Bar of California and the firm's website. One of the former Fullerton police officers who faces charges in the beating death of a homeless man, Kelly Thomas, is also represented by a lawyer from the firm, according to public court records.

[For The Record 9/4/12 3:40 P.M.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Assn. of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs had previously used the law firm of Lackie, Dammeier & McGill.]

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-- Lauren Williams

Photo: Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer and his wife at a press conference. Credit: Daily Pilot.

 

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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