Saturday June 05, 2004

Verdict's appeal might take twice as long as trial
With planned appeals from both sides, there seems to be no end in sight to the case.

By Darleene Barrientos

GLENDALE - It took more than a year to reach a verdict after a sexual-harassment lawsuit was filed against the Glendale Police Department. Getting a decision on an appeal of that verdict could take twice as long.

Officers Katie Frieders, Renae Kerner, Jamie Franke and Carla Haupt, and Community Service Officer Linda Daidone, filed the original lawsuit in 2001. It alleged that they were subjected to sexual harassment by their supervisors, then punished and retaliated against when they rejected romantic advances. Haupt's complaint was dismissed; Daidone settled her claims with the city before the case went to trial in early 2003.

The trial began Feb. 5 of that year, but because several jurors called in sick with the flu, a mistrial was declared two weeks later. Starting over the next day, plaintiffs' and defendants' attorneys spent more than three months questioning dozens of witnesses. Thejury deliberated for 15 days after closing statements in mid-May. The multimillion-dollar verdict was announced June 2, 2003. Defense attorneys filed a brief in April of this year, protesting the judge's decision to not award attorney fees to the defendants. Nothing has thus far been filed to appeal the verdict, which earns 7% annual interest as it moves through the appellate process.

Since the verdict was announced, plaintiffs' and the defense lawyers have made several motions.

  • Judge David A. Workman awarded $1.1 million in attorney fees to the plaintiffs, which the city will pay. Plaintiffs' lawyer Brad Gage later tried to have that amount raised to $4.1 million, according to court officials. Workman denied that motion.
  • The city was successful in reducing Franke's more than $1.3-million award by $181,600. Franke's award was discounted to essentially reflect what it will be worth in five years.
  • Defense lawyers unsuccessfully moved for a new trial. The lawyers claimed a new trial was necessary because of alleged juror misconduct, jury miscalculations of the judgments, and improperly filed claims by the plaintiffs.
  • Gage also made other unsuccessful motions. Workman denied his request that his clients' awards be raised to relieve them of their increased tax responsibility. Another unsuccessful motion was to add another $150,000 because the jury found that Kerner's Peace Officers Bill of Rights had been violated.
  • The Los Angeles law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP is handling the city's appeal of the verdict. That appeal will focus on issues that defense attorneys Irma Rodriguez Moisa and Sergio Bent objected to throughout the trial, including the judge's decision to allow evidence that was beyond the statute of limitations and permit testimony from witnesses who said they had heard the plaintiffs were being harassed, but did not have firsthand knowledge of such acts.
  • Gage hired Woodland Hills law firm Benedon & Serlin to help him appeal the attorney's fee award granted by the judge. Because the number of hours defense lawyers devoted to the case was not equal to the time the plaintiffs spent on the case, Gage believes he and his co-counselors deserve more than the $1.1 million they were awarded. Gage also plans to appeal the trial judge's decision to not grant penalties for the violation of Kerner's Peace Officers Bill of Rights and to not relieve his clients of their increased tax responsibility.
  • After the city submits the court reporter's transcripts, the Court of Appeals will issue a schedule for briefs in the verdict appeal. The city will submit an opening brief, and Gage will submit a reply brief. The appellate court also will schedule a day for the lawyers to argue their sides. After that hearing, the court has 90 days to rule.

With all the planned appeals from both defense and plaintiffs' lawyers, there seems to be no end to the case in sight.

"We don't even have a briefing schedule yet. We are probably, at a minimum, six months away from any decision from the Court of Appeals," City Atty. Scott Howard said.

"I really couldn't say [how much longer the case will take], because there are still options [such as settlement] that are out there."