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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Los Angeles County, CA March 5, 2013 Election
Smart Voter

Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich
Answers Questions

Candidate for
City Attorney; City of Los Angeles


The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and asked of all candidates for this office.
Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

Questions & Answers

1. What is the single most important issue facing the City Attorney’s Office today, and how would you deal with it?

The city attorney's office must maintain the record of winning for Los Angeles that has been the hallmark of my tenure and has greatly enhanced the office's reputation and its morale.

Our success has not come easily because of the severe budget pressures. Little did I realize upon taking this office in July, 2009 that I would soon lose 125 attorneys and 60 support staff. But instead of whining I went to work - and now the office does more with less. Under my direction, we sharply cut the office's use of expensive outside attorneys and initiated a program to obtain free legal help - worth about $2 million a year - from a battery of selfless private attorneys.

I anticipate that our budget issues will be less demanding in the future, and that I can use the next four years to deepen our commitment to crime prevention, including fighting gun violence, protecting the city's most vulnerable populations (children/women/the homeless/poor immigrants), protecting the environment and ensuring that youthful offenders have additional opportunities to straighten out their lives.

2. The City Attorney’s Office has various roles – prosecution of misdemeanor offenses, legal guidance for City departments and Council, and defense attorney when the City is sued. How would you prioritize these roles? How can all of these roles be fulfilled given the current budget situation?

It is quite a balancing act and we have mastered it during a period of severe belt-tightening that slashed our manpower but not our will power to succeed.

Under the legal canon of ethics, an attorney's first obligation is to his clients;when his clients are sued he must be there to represent them. The City Attorney has multiple clients: the city's official family and Los Angeles citizens. The biggest demand on our resources is meeting our obligations to the official family. The city of Los Angeles is sued thousands of times per year; in big and small cases, we've done a bang-up job protecting the city and its taxpayers. We have successfully defended Los Angeles in 134 of 147 lawsuits, saving the city from being forced to pay out $284 million in last-demand civil liability claims. We also advise our clients daily, including all the city agencies and elected officials, and prepare hundreds of ordinances, regulations, contracts, etc. for them. Since July 2009, my office has drafted and submitted more than 200 ordinances and reports yearly that were requested by the city council alone; in effect we produced, with 175 fewer employees, more than the previous administration.

My office also files on average about 50,000 criminal cases (not including citations) per year that are referred to us by the LAPD (which sends about 75 percent of its criminal cases to us for prosecution). And we win the lion's share of these cases. It is a formidable achievement.

But my office also has taken on legal initiatives of choice, not necessity. These choices exemplify our discretionary priorities and my office's committment to our "bigger client," the residents of Los Angeles. A few examples: we chose to sue two big banks that contributed to blight in working class neighborhoods by foreclosing on homes and then letting these properties become eyesores and hangouts for drug-dealing and other lawless behavior; my office elected to sue a financial institution that we allege improperly invested almost a $100 million in city pension fund monies in risky ventures that lost money, costing taxpayers to pick up the tab; and my office chose to use an innovative and powerful legal tool to make it illegal for known drug-dealers to even set foot on Skid-Row where they prey on the unfortunate Skid-Row residents, many of whom are trying to kick their addictions at local rehab clinics.

3. What are the main areas in which you would proactively seek to enforce existing ordinances?

The City Attorney's office under my management is strongly committed to a proactive approach to legal problems.

I have proposed, for example, that the city adopt a system to require city agencies to pay a price if they are the target of successful lawsuits stemming from their mistakes. This plan - which met with considerable resistance at City Hall - would push City Hall to be more careful in managing its risks and avoiding lawsuits. Unfortunately, it has not been adopted.

My office is currently engaged in several projects aimed at preventing crime. The most notable one is our program of identifying persons who seek to illegally acquire firearms despite their ineligibility to possess such weapons. I have great hopes for this program and others like it aimed at curbing the tragedy of gun violence.

I can also proudly point to my office's partnership with various public and non-profit organizations to steer gang members (and those on the cusp of becoming gang members) and struggling military veterans of all ages into alternative sentencing programs that seek to counsel, train and rehabilitate non-violent offenders identified as ready to straighten out their lives.

Bottom-line: I do not believe we can simply punish and incarcerate our way out of all of our criminal justice problems.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League. 

Read the answers from all candidates (who have responded).

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Created from information supplied by the candidate: January 7, 2013 15:44
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