Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors, No. B053611

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtHINZ; KLEIN, P.J., and DANIELSON
Citation232 Cal.App.3d 1432,284 Cal.Rptr. 154
PartiesEmma CASTRO, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date02 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. B053611

Page 154

284 Cal.Rptr. 154
232 Cal.App.3d 1432
Emma CASTRO, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. B053611.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 3, California.
Aug. 2, 1991.

[232 Cal.App.3d 1433] Dan Stormer, Los Angeles, for plaintiffs and appellants.

[232 Cal.App.3d 1434] Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, Alvin S. Kaufer and John Ossiff, Los Angeles, for defendants and respondents.

HINZ, Associate Justice.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction against a public, non-profit corporation created to provide legal services in dependency court. Plaintiffs claimed that representation of multiple parties with potentially adverse interests created a conflict of interest within the corporation and among its attorneys. Finding, as did the trial court, no merit to these claims, we affirm the denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.

On April 25, 1990, plaintiffs Emma Castro and Elaine Rosen (individually and as taxpayers), and the Juvenile Courts Bar Association, on behalf of itself and its membership, filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ("the Board") and its five members, DeWitt Clinton (Los Angeles County Counsel), Richard Dixon (Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Officer), Dependency Court Legal Services, Inc. ("DCLS"), and Alan Oberstein (Director of DCLS).

The petition and complaint challenged the Board's formation and funding of DCLS, a corporation, and alleged five causes of action: demand for due process (42 U.S.C., § 1983); demand for due process (Cal.Const., article I, § 7); declaratory and injunctive relief (Code Civ.Proc., § 526, subd. (1)); writ of mandamus (Code Civ.Proc., §§ 128, 1085; Welf. & Inst. Code, § 317); and demand for compliance with public bidding of contract. On April 25, 1990, the trial court granted plaintiffs' ex parte application for an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction and writ of mandamus should not issue.

On May 22, 1990, however, the trial court denied a preliminary injunction, making five findings. First, Welfare and Institutions Code ("W & I") section 317 requires the Board to provide counsel to each indigent party affected by a dependency proceeding. Second, the Board may legally contract with a corporation to provide such services, and the contract between the Board and DCLS is not illegal. Third, plaintiffs are not within the class of persons protected by W & I section 317, which finding, [232 Cal.App.3d 1435] fourth, precludesrelief on their first, second, fourth, or fifth causes of action, and precludes injunctive relief. Fifth, plaintiffs have not proven that performance of the agreement between the Board and DCLS will cause representation of conflicting interests by any attorney or any other violation of the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct. The State Bar Act provides remedies if violations occur. The agreement between the Board and DCLS does not require any violations, and does not, for instance, prohibit DCLS from entering into subcontracts with separate corporations or firms for representation of conflicting interests. Nor does it prohibit DCLS from requiring those entities to maintain the physical separation, name distinction, and other attributes necessary to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

On June 1, 1990, plaintiffs' first amended complaint added a sixth cause of action for violation of Business and Professions Code section 17200. DCLS cross-complained for declaratory relief on July 13, 1990.

On August 16, 1990, the trial court again denied plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. It found that because facts supporting plaintiffs' motion were entirely hypothetical, the case did not present an actual controversy within Code of Civil Procedure section 1060. Furthermore, the alleged instances of representation of conflicting interests were neither significant nor likely to recur, and therefore did not support the injunctive relief requested.

On October 3, 1990, plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal from the August 16, 1990 denial of a preliminary injunction.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Whether a preliminary injunction shall be granted rests largely in the trial court's discretion. The appellate court will not reverse the trial court's ruling unless a manifest abuse of discretion has occurred. (Jones v. California Interscholastic Federation (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 751, 756, 243 Cal.Rptr. 271.) The trial court should evaluate two related factors: first, the likelihood that plaintiff will prevail on the merits at trial, and second, the interim harm the plaintiff will likely sustain if the injunction were denied compared to the harm the defendant will likely suffer if the preliminary injunction were issued. (People ex rel. Gillespie v. Neu (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 1066, 1072, 257 Cal.Rptr. 778.)

FACTS

The facts submitted before the trial court by plaintiffs in their first amended complaint and in later papers are as follows. W & I [232 Cal.App.3d 1436] section 317 requires that in dependency court proceedings, the superior court must appoint counsel for one or both parents if they cannot afford private counsel, and for the minor child if the child's position differs from that taken by the Department of Children Services. The superior court traditionally appointed such counsel from a panel of independent attorneys.

To save money, in 1989 the County formed DCLS to represent all parties at dependency proceedings, and replaced the panel system. Under the agreement, the DCLS corporation must represent as many as three separate parties in a dependency proceeding, even if they have conflicting interests. Under its operating rules, DCLS has three divisions, each with a section head acting as attorney of record for that division and reporting to an assistant director who in turn reports to the executive director.

DCLS began hiring attorneys and accepting cases April 23, 1990. The executive director approves hiring of attorneys. Because the rules give corporate officers and directors the ability to review the performance of staff attorneys, the executive director and deputy director will help train and will control day-to-day decisions of staff attorneys and section heads.

The first amended complaint alleged several ethical problems. First, the dependency court does not have jurisdiction unless there is a dependent or neglected child, and brings adults into the proceedings only if the dependency court can claim jurisdiction because of the adult's relationship with the child. The DCLS--a single law firm--would represent children and adults in the same action.

Second, this could result in one section of the same law firm representing the child, another section representing one parent, and a third section representing a second parent.

Third, the sections share office space, administration, funding, law library, computer litigation system, form and brief banks, and personnel policies.

Fourth, the executive director has ultimate authority for hiring and firing attorneys, and for approving or disapproving performance evaluations.

Fifth, although the attorney of record in each case will be the division or team leader, that person reports to and is under the authority of the executive director.

Sixth, persons have been hired who have information about on-going or reopened cases, some of which will be brought into the office.

[232 Cal.App.3d 1437] Seventh, opposing attorneys and their support staff will have access to confidential case files even for those persons who may have their cases re-opened.

Plaintiffs' June 23, 1990, supplementary documentation re: preliminary injunction alleged that defendants were accepting appointments of multiple parties in the same proceeding whether or not a conflict exists between those parties. The executive director was responsible for hiring and firing, work hours, procedures for resolving conflict of interest problems, reviewing individual attorneys, decisions establishing administrative policies and for pay scales, decisions concerning hiring heads of individual groups and how much money will be allotted to individual groups, and for training standards. Group heads share information about the groups' needs, attorney evaluations, and problems, and cooperate in hiring and maintaining quality within the groups. Group heads participate in hiring staff for other groups, and may discuss case strategies and policies with the executive director.

The facts submitted by defendants to the trial court in response to the first amended complaint and in opposition to plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction are as follows. DCLS, a non-profit, public benefit corporation, contracted with Los Angeles County in January 1990 to provide legal representation in dependency court proceedings when the court determines that the parties require independent representation but cannot afford counsel.

DCLS has an administrative unit and three separate groups which it describes as "three separate law firms, except that they all receive funding through the administrative unit and the administrative unit handles certain common administrative functions, unrelated to providing legal representation." The contract requires DCLS to ensure that the three groups are of comparable quality.

Plaintiffs Castro and Rosen are members of a panel of attorneys who, pursuant to court appointment, have hitherto represented parties in dependency court. Plaintiff Juvenile Courts Bar Association is an association of attorneys who have represented parties in dependency court proceedings. If DCLS provides contracted legal services, they will be in lieu of services plaintiffs would have otherwise provided.

DCLS contended that if its separate groups each represented an adverse party in the same case, no conflict of...

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20 practice notes
  • In re Charlisse C., No. B194568.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 23, 2007
    ...of interest in concurrent representations approved by the Courts of Appeal in Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 1435-1445, 284 Cal. Rptr. 154 (Castro ) and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986 , 991-1002, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867 (Christian)......
  • City & County of S.F. v. Cobra Solutions, No. A103479.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 10, 2004
    ...offices . . . have been permitted." (Id. at p. 998, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867; accord, Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 [Dependency Court Legal Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization created by Los Angeles County, may properly represen......
  • In re Zamer G., No. B194885.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 10, 2007
    ...its decision that the Center violated the ethical safeguards set forth in Castro v. Los Angeles County Bal. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 1435-1445, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 (Castro), and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986, 991-1002, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867. (See Charlisse, supr......
  • In re CHARLISSE C., No. S152822.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 30, 2008
    ...no improper disclosure of confidential information, the juvenile court, citing Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 ( Castro ) and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867 ( Christian ), found that an erosion ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • In re Charlisse C., No. B194568.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 23, 2007
    ...of interest in concurrent representations approved by the Courts of Appeal in Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 1435-1445, 284 Cal. Rptr. 154 (Castro ) and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986 , 991-1002, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867 (Christian)......
  • City & County of S.F. v. Cobra Solutions, No. A103479.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 10, 2004
    ...offices . . . have been permitted." (Id. at p. 998, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867; accord, Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 [Dependency Court Legal Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization created by Los Angeles County, may properly represen......
  • In re Zamer G., No. B194885.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 10, 2007
    ...its decision that the Center violated the ethical safeguards set forth in Castro v. Los Angeles County Bal. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 1435-1445, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 (Castro), and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986, 991-1002, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867. (See Charlisse, supr......
  • In re CHARLISSE C., No. S152822.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • October 30, 2008
    ...no improper disclosure of confidential information, the juvenile court, citing Castro v. Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1432, 284 Cal.Rptr. 154 ( Castro ) and People v. Christian (1996) 41 Cal.App.4th 986, 48 Cal.Rptr.2d 867 ( Christian ), found that an erosion ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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