Orange County DA Raids Upland Office Of Lackie Dammeier McGill

(October 10) In an operation rife with far reaching implications, the Orange County District Attorney’s office, assisted by Orange County Sheriff’s Department detectives and officers, served a search warrant at the Upland law office of the now-dissolving law firm of Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir.
Investigators carted off scores of boxes full of documents and other materials after descending upon the Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir Building, located at 367 N 2nd Avenue in Upland.
Officers and district attorney’s office investigators and personnel were observed at the offices mid-morning on October 10. Despite the open display of law enforcement activity in San Bernardino County, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was tight-lipped with regard to the operation.
“We are not confirming that activity took place or that we are involved in it,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, the chief of staff to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir employed several attorneys who had formerly served as police officers and the firm specialized in representing police officers and their unions in labor related actions, contract negotiations, disciplinary actions, firings, reinstatements and criminal defense.
The firm had established a reputation for fierce representation of its clients, who often obtained favorable outcomes in their respective legal and procedural matters.
Last year, however, things began to unwind for the firm, culminating ultimately in a decision in August to disband it.
As tense contract negotiations were proceeding in 2012 between the city of Costa Mesa and the Costa Mesa Police Association, the Lackie Dammeier firm, which represented the union, advised members to step up pressure on the city’s elected leadership. Shortly thereafter, a private investigator under retainer by Lackie Dammeier, Christopher Lanzillo, began tailing members of the Costa Mesa City Council. On August 22, 2012, Lanzillo followed Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer to a bar, Skosh Monahan’s, owned by another city councilman, Gary Monahan. Lanzillo followed Righeimer after he left Skosh Monahan’s as the mayor drove home, and en route called 911 to report Righeimer was drunk and driving erratically. When police came to Righeimer’s home, they found that he appeared sober but subjected him to a field sobriety test, which he passed. Righeimer subsequently produced a time and date-stamped credit card receipt for two Diet Cokes he had consumed while at Skosh Monahan’s. Information then emerged that the police association had also been seeking, at Lackie Dammeier’s suggestion, to entrap Monahan and another council member, Steve Mensinger.
Soon thereafter, the Costa Mesa Police Association ended its relationship with Lackie Dammeier but not before other Orange County municipal officials, including city council members from Buena Park, Fullerton and Irvine, came forward to tell how the Upland-based firm and its clients engaged in efforts to harass them as they headed into elections and contract negotiations with their cities’ police unions, which were represented by Lackie Dammeier.
So brazen was the law firm in its pro-police union strategies that it posted on its website a political activity playbook that advised police unions on how to intimidate and twist the arms of politicians and lobby the public in a way that associates police pay raises with higher levels of public safety. In the brouhaha that ensued, Lackie Dammeier removed that posting.
While the firm represented hundreds of associations and officers from around California, its major client was the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a statewide legal defense fund for law enforcement officers. Over the last several years, Lackie Dammeier had won several notable cases for the organization, known by its acronym PORAC, and was considered the organization’s most potent legal tool.
But in August of this year, PORAC, which has 99,000 members culled from the ranks of law enforcement agencies up and down the state, informed its members that improprieties were found in Lackie Dammeier’s billing practices. The firm, PORAC said, had  charged 4,200 hours in one year for a single attorney, averaging 11.5 hours per day for every day of the year.
Shortly thereafter, PORAC dropped Lackie Dammeier as one of its legal representatives. Within two weeks of that development, the firm announced that it was dissolving, although its attorneys continued to work on the cases it was handling. Several of the firm’s lawyers signed on to work with other firms. In the meantime, the firm remained active, and continued to function out of the 367 N 2nd Avenue location.
While no official explanation of the purpose of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s raid was forthcoming, it is widely believed the search was an outgrowth of the firm’s activity on behalf of the Costa Mesa Police Association and other police unions. The district attorney’s office has previously obtained search warrants and subpoenas to further its investigation into the tactics used against Costa Mesa politicians.
The raid of the Lackie Dammeier office by a law enforcement agency is of special sensitivity, given that attorney-client privilege extends to all range of legal documents and communications between lawyers and those who hire them and that many of the cases handled by the firm pertain to criminal charges, potential criminal charges or disputes between the firm’s clients and law enforcement agencies and their managements.
When she was reached by the Sentinel while investigators were still at the law office, law firm partner Sakunthala  Ethirveerasingam, who goes by the professional name of Saku Ethir, said, “We just don’t have any comment right now.”

2 thoughts on “Orange County DA Raids Upland Office Of Lackie Dammeier McGill

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