A judge Monday delayed until later this month a decision on Los Angeles County’s request for a court order preventing arbitration from moving forward in a law firm’s compensation request for representing L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in his failed attempt to reinstate a fired deputy, saying she wanted to rule on a related matter at the same time.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie issued a tentative ruling Friday granting Los Angeles County’s request for a preliminary injunction staying arbitration, which began with the selection of a panel in December, until a decision is made on whether Villanueva’s retention of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan LLP created a valid contract between the county and the law firm.
But after hearing arguments Monday, the judge postponed a final ruling until Feb. 28, when she will also consider a motion by Quinn Emanuel to disqualify the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP from representing any party in the case on grounds the firm allegedly has a conflict of interest. The firm represents the county in the current litigation.
The judge also placed a stay on any arbitration billings pending her final ruling on the preliminary injunction. According to Quinn Emanuel’s court papers, O’Melveny & Myers has put its perceived interests of the county adverse to those of Villanueva and the LASD.
“O’Melveny purports to jointly represent the county, the sheriff and LASD even though the firm is directly adverse to the sheriff and LASD on behalf of the county in the underlying litigation arising from the same facts, circumstances and dispute as this case,” the Quinn Emanuel lawyers state in their court papers.
The underlying case referred to be the Quinn Emanuel attorneys involves Villanueva’s support of former Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, which angered members of the Board of Supervisors. The county filed a petition in March 2018 seeking to have Mandoyan’s rehiring declared void and Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff ruled in the county’s favor in September 2020.
The county brought the current complaint on Nov. 16, asking a judge to find that the firm did not have a contract with the county for its representation of Villanueva.
In a recent sworn declaration, Villanueva says he was told by the County Counsel’s Office in a Feb. 28, 2019, letter that he was permitted to seek independent counsel in the Mandoyan case. He retained Quinn Emanuel the next month.
“Although I had not been informed that the Board (of Supervisors) and County Counsel were planning on suing me and LASD, pursuant to the authorization in the Feb. 28 letter I engaged Quinn, Emanuel,” Villanueva says.
The sheriff further said he rejects the alleged claims that his hiring of Quinn, Emanuel was illegal, invalid and unenforceable, reasons the county has given for not paying the firm.
Quinn Emanuel left the case in January 2020 and Stanley Friedman became Villanueva’s new lawyer.
Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign and served as his personal driver, 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, the sheriff’s department also found that Mandoyan lied to internal affairs investigators.