San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith Refuses Closure Of Medical Marijuana Dispensary Cases, Sends Misleading Letter To Litigants, Mayor And City Council
By Terrie Best, San Diego ASA Court Support Coordinator
San Diego - City Attorney Jan Goldsmith dashed off a letter to litigants in medical marijuana dispensary cases indicating he is not answerable to his client the Mayor and manufacturing mistruths, in what appears an attempt to make the procedure the punishment in twelve medical marijuana dispensary zoning cases.
Last week in a dramatic move, newly elected San Diego Mayor, Bob Filner presumably put an end to the investigation and persecution of medical cannabis dispensaries by the city's Neighborhood Code Compliance. Additionally, Mayor Filner directed the City Attorney, Jan Goldsmith to drop twelve pending civil suits against medical cannabis dispensary operators for zoning code violations. These suits relied heavily on testimony from code enforcement officers and, by his own admission, without this testimony Goldsmith has no standing to pursue the cases.
The Mayor requested the civil cases not move forward in further harassment of the named dispensary operators because he chooses to move in a positive direction and put forth a zoning ordinance for the operation of dispensaries.
With no available testimony from the code compliance team and the City Attorney's own client, the Mayor, no longer wanting to pursue litigation, it would seem the bottom has dropped out of Goldsmith's twelve civil suits.
However, in a letter signed by Goldsmith, copied to the Mayor and City Council and provided by a respondent in one of Goldsmith's cases, the City Attorney has created his own terms and indicates he will only consider dropping the cases "without prejudice." Meaning at anytime Goldsmith could reopen the cases and resume what has been a nightmare for the twelve victims of these code violation suits.
One respondent, Dexter Padilla, who in May of 2012, had his criminal case dismissed in the interest of justice, says he knows the Mayor intended for his ordeal to be over. He feels the Mayor directed full resolution of these cases, not a settlement which is no settlement at all and could expose Dexter and the others to future litigation from Goldsmith.
More curious and troubling, is the language in Goldsmith's letter which bizarrely suggests Dexter has shunned the settlement because "he is not willing to waive fees and costs," a statement Dexter never made. By this Goldsmith statement to Dexter:
"A dismissal without prejudice without having to pay our costs and with waiver of your costs is what you get. If the Mayor wants to do otherwise, you are welcome to reach a separate agreement with him on this. Our office will not be a party to the City paying costs or fees."
The City Attorney misleads the carbon copied recipients by insinuating Dexter is quibbling over fees when in actuality Dexter simply requests a true end to his case as was intended by the Mayor. The statement also suggests the respondents are free to take the unethical action of approaching the City's client, the Mayor, for a "separate agreement" thus further harassing litigants and indicating Goldsmith's disregard for the Mayor's request.
The attorneys for respondents in this case and all cases are prohibited from contacting opposing clients directly. Since permission has now been given to contact the Mayor it is unclear whether Goldsmith will actually facilitate this or if counsel for the respondents will take this route on their own.
To complicate matters for Dexter, months ago, when he found there were multiple false affidavits and declarations filed by Deputy City Attorney Gabriella Brannan in his zoning violation case, he was forced to file a cross-complaint to protect himself and have his day in court to disprove the falsehoods in the declarations.
In multiple attempts, Dexter's Attorney, Mark Wuerfel, requested information essential to settling the cross-complaint against the City Attorney's Office, such as the identity of each trial attorney for each cross-defendant. The law prohibits attorneys who are a party to a suit from representing each other. Shot back from the City Attorney was this dismissive statement:
"Mr. Wuerfel's letter is chock full of wild and untrue accusations, including allegations that declarations were submitted in violation of perjury laws."
By refusing to name the trial attorneys for the cross-defendants or acknowledge Dexter's cross-complaint as a civil action in court, and preferring to dismiss it as "wild accusations," Goldsmith is preventing any settlement in the cross-complaint at all.
Goldsmith's refusal to offer a full resolution in the twelve cases at the Mayor's request suggests he believes the Mayor is not the client. Which begs the question, who is Goldsmith answerable to? We are seeing tactics similar to those of District Attorney and failed mayoral candidate, Bonnie Dumanis which seek only to punish medical cannabis patients, departing from justice and the law to do so.
Dexter Padilla, and likely the other eleven other respondents wish to settle their individual cases and move on as the Mayor has directed take place. Dexter is not quibbling about fees, but closure. Goldsmith's office remains an obstacle to that closure. Albeit one without standing, as his star witness, the Neighborhood Code Enforcement team will no longer be available to him and he does not have the support of the Mayor.