LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A veteran Los Angeles County prosecutor who was awarded $1.5 million after she was denied important jobs in retaliation for complaining about directives set forth after the 2020 election of District Attorney George Gascón is now seeking $1.3 million in attorneys' fees, but the county wants a new trial.
The March 6 Los Angeles Superior Court verdict in favor of plaintiff Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph was the first of nearly 20 such cases that have been filed by prosecutors and are still awaiting trial. The jury split the award at $750,000 each for Randolph's past and future emotional distress.
"This court should exercise its discretion to award attorneys' fees to Randolph in a manner that would best effectuate the purposes of the whistleblower statute," Randolph's attorneys state in their court papers filed Monday.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the county also filed court papers on Monday in support of a retrial.
"There were numerous irregularities, acts of misconduct and errors of law throughout the proceeding that warrant a new trial," the county's lawyers argue in their court papers.
Judge Terry Green wrongfully overruled the county's hearsay and Code of Civil Procedure objections to Randolph's evidence and also erroneously denied the defense's proposed special jury instruction regarding the District Attorney's discretion to appoint high level staffers, the county's attorneys further state in their court papers.
Both Gascon and former District Attorney Jackie Lacey testified during the trial. Filed in October 2021, Randolph's complaint stated that she previously was the head prosecutor in charge of the District Attorney's Office's Juvenile Division, where she supervised about 50 lawyers and 50 civilian workers.
But according to Randolph's suit, upon being sworn into office on Dec. 7, 2020, Gascón released numerous directives, including a policy that, among other things, mandated that Randolph use alternative theories of prosecution that minimized a juvenile's criminal conduct, no matter how violent the offenses.
"In essence, plaintiff was directed not to file strike offenses against juveniles and this directive creates a false and misleading description to the court of the crimes that were actually committed," the suit stated.
If a 16- or 17-year-old juvenile robbed a victim by putting a gun to the victim's head, Randolph could not prosecute the juvenile for robbery because that is a strike offense, the suit stated. Randolph was directed to instead file against the juvenile for a lesser crime such as assault by using force that is likely to cause great bodily injury, according to the suit.
The ability of a prosecutor to file a strike offense such as robbery has a deterrent effect because if the juvenile commits another serious or violent felony as an adult, his or her sentence can be doubled, the suit stated.
The directive also mandated that Randolph could not file any enhancements for egregious violent conduct, according to the suit.
Randolph repeatedly disclosed to her superiors that juvenile petitions made under Gascón's policy were not truthful and that filing such petitions before a court violates the ethical and statutory duties of a prosecutor, the suit stated.
Randolph additionally complained that under Gascón's directive, violent juvenile murderers could not be tried as adults and that Gascón violated the law by refusing to permit the victims' family any input into the decision not to try them as adults, the suit stated.
In February 2021, Randolph was transferred to the parole division, a "dead-end position for a head deputy," and denied transfers to head the District Attorney's branch offices in Torrance and Long Beach Superior Courts even though she was the most qualified applicant for each position, the suit stated.
In their court papers, county attorneys state that the judge repeatedly told the jury he himself was a deputy district attorney before being named to the bench.
"He made numerous unnecessary references to that experience and conveyed to the jury that he had personal and superior knowledge of the inner- workings of the District Attorney's Office," the county's attorneys state in their court papers. "Second, Judge Green made disparaging comments in the presence of the jury regarding the parole division, the very same division that plaintiff complained was a dead-end job."
The county attorneys further argue in their court papers that Green "actively endorsed plaintiff*s litigation theory when he told the jury that there was no such thing as the parole division when he had served as a deputy district attorney, a comment which caused the entire courtroom to gasp."
The county attorneys also have filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, maintaining in their court papers that Randolph failed to establish at trial that she was subjected to an adverse employment action under the state Labor Code.
A hearing on the county's motions is scheduled June 2.