LOS ANGELES – A judge Friday took under submission whether one private law firm and the County Counsel’s Office have conflicts of interest in a legal dispute over the firing of a deputy who lost his job over domestic violence allegations.
Steven G. Madison, a lawyer for Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the LASD, argued that the private firm of Miller Barondess LLP, and the County Counsel’s office cannot be impartial in the case involving former Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan and should therefore be disqualified. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he wanted to study the issues further and did not say when he would rule on the motion.
The judge also set trial of the Mandoyan case for April 24.
In his court papers, Madison said the County Counsel’s office previously advised and represented the LASD and the sheriff in connection with the Mandoyan matter and currently is keeping the Board of Supervisors up to date on the case.
Meanwhile, the same attorneys from Miller Barondess who are opposing Villanueva and the LASD in the Mandoyan case are representing the sheriff’s department in litigation related to the validity of deputy disciplinary guidelines, an area where Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors have disagreements, according to Madison’s court papers.
Louis “Skip” Miller, a partner in the Miller Barondess firm, said the County Counsel’s office has had no recent involvement in the Mandoyan case.
Most of the hearing focused on the sheriff’s push for disqualification of the County Counsel’s office. Beckloff did make a ruling on a second private law firm, finding that O’Melveny & Myers can continue representing the county.
Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign, was fired in 2016 following allegations of domestic violence, stalking and harassment of a woman he dated. According to an Office of Inspector General report released earlier this year, the sheriff’s department also found that Mandoyan lied to Internal Affairs investigators.
Villanueva’s decision to rehire Mandoyan late last year outraged members of the Board of Supervisors, who filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the action. Beckloff in March, however, declined the county’s request for a temporary restraining order voiding Mandoyan’s rehiring.
In August, Beckloff granted a preliminary injunction, ordering Mandoyan to give up all county property in his possession, including any Sheriff’s Department-issued uniforms, badges and weapons.
Mandoyan also was ordered to stop holding himself out as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff. The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until the trial next year.
Villanueva has repeatedly defended bringing Mandoyan back to the department, questioning the allegations against the deputy and accusing the county’s Civil Service Commission of ignoring evidence that could have cleared Mandoyan of wrongdoing.
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