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New L.A. city attorney ends private practice, removes himself from two cases

July 2, 2009 |  7:00 am

Trutanich Carmen Trutanich spent two decades in private practice before being elected Los Angeles city attorney in May, and during the campaign his opponent, two-term City Councilman Jack Weiss, made an issue of the fact that Trutanich had two pending cases that involved the city. Weiss said they might pose a conflict of interest.

On Wednesday, Trutanich said he had recused himself “immediately” from the case against one of those clients, Warren E&P Refinery, which was charged with eight criminal counts related to oil spills in 2007. “I don’t know where that sits in the process; I just walked away,” he said. Trutanich added that “a lot of to-do was made about Warren [during the campaign], but to be honest with you, it was a nothing case.”

Trutanich said he would also recuse himself from the second case -– a cost recovery suit against the now-closed San Pedro Boat Works, whose owners were charged by federal prosecutors with illegally storing hazardous waste and discharging sewage into Los Angeles Harbor.

“I’m not going to be involved in the decision-making on that, and I’ll let the people in this office, our ethics department in this office, steer that case to wherever it needs to go,” Trutanich said.

His chief deputy, William W. Carter, said that last week when Trutanich was officially sworn in (Wednesday's City Hall inauguration was ceremonial), the new city attorney and Carter were “walled off” from those two cases. “We have no communication, we have no idea, we have no understanding, no involvement in either the Warren case or the San Pedro Boat Works case,” Carter said, adding they have been assigned to another Trutanich deputy, Curt Livesay.

Trutanich said that in recent weeks he tried to wrap up all of his outstanding cases at his former law firm, Trutanich-Michel. “I got rid of my practice; I don’t have a practice,” Trutanich said during a news  conference.

He said his agreement with his former partner, the prominent 2nd Amendment attorney C.D. “Chuck” Michel, was private. The law firm has changed its name to Michel & Associates.

-- Maeve Reston

Photo: Carmen Trutanich was inaugurated publicly as city attorney at City Hall on Wednesday. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times