Divisions


The office is comprised of an Executive Office, 13 Law Divisions and an Administrative Services Bureau.

County Counsel Organization Chart

Executive Office

The Executive Office currently consists of the County Counsel, two Chief Deputy County Counsels, five Senior Assistant County Counsels, two Assistant County Counsels and a Litigation Cost Manager.

 

The Executive Office advises the Board of Supervisors, its members and key staff as well as County Departments. A significant part of its responsibility to advise the Board includes providing counsel to the Board of Supervisors at its weekly meetings.

 

The Executive Office also establishes office policy and coordinates the activities of the various divisions of the Office. It compiles and records formal opinions, Board letters and other significant attorney-client communications originating from the law divisions.

 

The Litigation Cost Manager develops and assists in the implementation of strategies designed to ensure that Los Angeles County receives cost-effective legal representation in litigated matters.  The focus of these strategies is the reduction and control of attorney fees, expert costs, and other litigation expenses.  The strategies and protocols developed by the Litigation Cost Manager, in conjunction with other members of the Office of the County Counsel, are directed toward the achievement of the most favorable litigation results at the most affordable cost.  The Litigation Cost Manager also assists in the promulgation of litigation protocols which are aimed at proper case management, thorough cost/benefit analysis and appropriate budgetary constraints.  The Litigation Cost Manager works with staff, throughout the County, to raise awareness of the exposures related to litigation and appropriate cost-cutting measures pertaining to both specific departments and Countywide concerns.  The Litigation Cost Manager assists in identifying and implementing technologies to enhance the County's ability to capture, track, and analyze litigation costs on a Countywide basis.

 

The Department's Law Library is a branch of the Executive Office.  The law librarian is responsible for maintaining the collection at the Office’s main library in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, as well as three smaller libraries at the World Trade Center, Dependency and Transportation Divisions’ locations.  The law librarian assists the legal staff in performing research activities; provides ready reference assistance; monitors and alerts attorneys to new developments and information sources in their areas of practice; supervises the acquisition of new materials and technology-based research platforms; makes recommendations and administers the law library’s annual budget; performs library related accounting tasks as required for prompt processing and payment of library invoices; supervises the daily work of the library assistant.

Contracts

The Contracts Division provides representation and advice to the Board of Supervisors and County departments in an effort to further the Board's mandates and address the needs of the County as related to its contracting processes, policies and issues. The Division also advises all County departments on Information Technology contracts and provides legal representation and advice to the Los Angeles Community Development Commission ("CDC"), the Los Angeles County Housing Authority ("HA"), and the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Joint Powers Authority ("LA-RICS").

The Division's primary client departments/agencies include the Chief Executive Office, the Internal Services Department and Purchasing Agent, the Chief Information Officer, CDC/HA, and LA-RICS. The primary assignments of the Division include the Information Technology, cable, water, oil and utility franchise, concession and cafeteria, social program, delegated authority and contract city agreements, as well as providing assistance in the development and implementation of the Countywide contracting issues and policies, such as Proposition A, Living Wage, Jury Duty, Small Business Preferences Ordinance, Transitional Employment Ordinance, Countywide Protest Policy/Contract Appeals Board and Debarment Ordinance/Contractor Hearing Board.

The Division also reviews and advises on the administrative services agreements and legal services agreements for the Office of the County Counsel, the Chief Executive Officer's Risk Management contracts, and marketing and intellectual property issues. The Division is responsible for assisting the Department of Human Resources in developing and conducting Countywide contract training classes and participates in the Countywide Contracting Network.  Additionally, the Division assists the Chief Executive Office in the ongoing review of the Countywide Record Retention Schedule.

Assistant County Counsel Manuel Valenzuela is the Division Chief of the Contracts Division.

Dependency

The Dependency Division is the largest by size, and is currently budgeted for 119 attorneys.  It is divided into eight sections, with each section supervised by a Section Head.  The eight sections are composed of three Trial Sections, the Appellate Section, two Outstation Sections, the Warrant and IDC Section, and the North County Section.  The division handles approximately 16,000 dependency cases involving approximately 33,000 children.  The division will also handle approximately 500 appellate matters annually.

 

The primary mission of the Dependency Division is the litigation of dependency cases involving allegations of child abuse and neglect.  The Office of the County Counsel, through this division, represents the Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"). DCFS is the agency charged with initiating petitions under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 requesting the juvenile court to intervene in the lives of children who are alleged to be victims of child abuse.  On average, DCFS will file 30 new petitions each day.  The Dependency Division also supports DCFS in a range of programs and initiatives targeted to improve the dependency system.

 

The Dependency Trial Sections staff 19 dependency trial courts, the mediation courts, and the DCFS Intake and Detention Center, which is responsible for initiating the dependency cases by the filing of a dependency petition.  The dependency trial courts will typically handle over 20 scheduled hearings each day.  The court calendar is supplemented by the initial petition hearings on newly filed cases.  There are three Section Heads and 58 attorneys assigned to the Trial Sections.

 

The Outstation Sections staffs 17 DCFS regional offices.  Attorneys assigned to this Section provide a wide range of advice related to existing and emergent dependency cases and investigations.  This section develops and delivers extensive social worker training programs in dependency law and related issues.  There are two Section Heads who supervise 14 attorneys, and help coordinate the training activities of the four attorneys who have assignments in the regional offices located in the North County.

 

The Warrant and IDC Section handles issues relating to emergency response investigations and reviews petitions for legal sufficiency.  They review approximately 900 new petitions and assist on 220 removal orders, interview orders, and investigative search warrants each month.  The section is staffed by a Section Head and seven lawyers.  The warrant desk operates twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year.  It is staffed by the attorneys assigned to the Warrant and IDC Section, as well as attorneys working in other parts of County Counsel.  This section also handles mediation, legislation, confidentiality and child fatality reviews.  There is a Section Head and 12 attorneys assigned to this section

 

The North County Section services two dependency trial courts, and the DCFS regional offices in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and Lancaster.  The trial court is located in Lancaster and is the busiest dependency trial court both by numbers of hearings and dependent children.  There is a Section Head and nine attorneys assigned to the North County Section.

 

The Dependency Division Appellate Section handles juvenile dependency appellate matters on behalf of DCFS.  This section files responsive briefs and answers to writs filed by parents and children.  The Appellate Section also reviews cases for possible appellate action and will file an affirmative writ in circumstances where DCFS believes the court’s order may place a child at risk or where an appeal would not be feasible due to time considerations. The Appellate Section seeks publication of appellate opinions and works with other counties to seek de-publication of unfavorable published opinions.  There is a Section Head and 15 attorneys assigned to this section.

 

Assistant County Counsel Keith Davis is the Division Chief of the Dependency Division.

General Litigation

The General Litigation Division litigates, supervises, and monitors civil litigation primarily in the areas of auto liability and dangerous condition of public property including roadway design involving the County of Los Angeles and its employees. The General Litigation Division attorneys litigate cases in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. It also defends and enforces judgments against sureties in bail bond forfeiture proceedings conducted in the criminal courts. The Division represents all County departments, including the Department of Public Works, the Sheriff's Department, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Internal Services Department, and the Fire Department.

The General Litigation Division supervises and monitors all County litigation handled by private law firms under contract with the County, through the submission and tracking of Case Evaluation Plans and Case Budgets and through the scheduling, monitoring and documenting of roundtable conferences.

The General Litigation Division processes all government claims presented to the County.   Working within mandated time lines, the Division, on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, works with the involved County Department to investigate and determine whether a claim should be accepted for payment or denied.  The General Litigation Division is also responsible for processing all new lawsuits filed against the County for assignment to the most appropriate Division within the Office of the County Counsel.

Assistant County Counsel Ruben Baeza, Jr. is the Division Chief of the General Litigation Division.

Government Services

The Government Services Division provides advice and representation to the Board of Supervisors and County departments in various areas, including the Brown Act, Tax and other Collection matters, Community Redevelopment Laws, Conflict of Interest Laws and other ethical standards, Elections and Campaign Finance, Property Tax Assessment issues, Public Finance, the Public Records Act, and the Recordation of Documents.  Other specific assignments assigned to the Division are the County Budget, Lobbyist Ordinance, Mass Mailing Rules, Post Government Employment Ordinance, Reward Motions, and State Mandates (SB90).

Principal client departments served by the Division include the Assessor, Assessment Appeals Board, Auditor-Controller, Consumer Affairs, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Treasurer Tax Collector, and in some matters, the Chief Executive Officer and the Executive Office/Clerk of the Board.  For these departments, the Division attorneys provide advice as well as litigation support. Due to the nature of the services provided by these departments, the Division attorneys are required to be well versed in the departments' operations and work closely with those departments to apply the legal principles and requirements to the operational needs.

The Government Services Division also provides counsel to a number of boards and commissions, such as the Business License Appeals Board, Business License Commission, and the Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence.  The Division provides annual training for all new commissioners.

Assistant County Counsel Judy W. Whitehurst is the Division Chief of the Government Services Division.

Health Services

The Health Services Division provides legal support to the Board of Supervisors and the Departments of Health Services, Public Health, Mental Health, and Animal Control, as well as the Coroner's Office and a variety of County commissions and advisory bodies on a wide variety of issues arising out of the services provided by these departments. In addition, the Division supervises the medical malpractice litigation involving the County.

The Health Services Division attorneys function as both general advice and litigation counsel. As advice counsel, the attorneys draft and review a vast number of contracts as well as other transactional matters, handle requests for oral and written opinions, and draft legislation and ordinances. They also function as the General Counsel for the County Hospitals and clinics. As litigation counsel, the attorneys handle a breadth of cases, from the smallest breach of contract case in State court to class actions in federal court.

Among the most significant ongoing projects in which the Division attorneys are currently involved are the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act and the procurement and implementation of an Electronic Health Record for the Department of Health Services.

Because of the nature of the services provided by the represented departments, as well as the litigation that arises from these departments, the Division's attorneys are well versed in the laws related to the financing and operation of health and mental health services, including Medi-Cal and Medi-Care statutory and regulatory compliance, consent and confidentiality, and HIPAA. Due to the expansive programs operated by each of the represented departments, the attorneys are experienced in handling a wide variety of legal, practical, and programmatic issues. Additionally, the Division attorneys work closely with the Public Health Department to provide legal representation to all of its programs, such as Environmental Health, Bioterrorism, and Communicable Diseases.

Assistant County Counsel Sharon Reichmann is the Division Chief of the Health Services Division.

Labor and Employment

The Labor and Employment Division provides all legal support, advice, and representation before State and federal courts and administrative agencies regarding labor relations and personnel matters involving the County and its departments. This includes advice and representation in specialized civil litigation such as civil service matters, employee relations, collective bargaining issues, salary and employee benefit matters, and the five County Savings Plans.

In addition, the Division represents the County in, and supervises litigation of, employment lawsuits brought against the County for damages alleging wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and violation of State and federal wage and hour laws.  The Division also provides support to the County Equity Oversight Panel and advice on issues related to the County's Policy of Equity.

The Division advises all County officers and departments on employment matters arising within the respective departments. In addition, the Division is primary counsel to the Department of Human Resources, the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance, and the Chief Executive Office, Employee Relations Division, on Countywide personnel and employee relations policies and issues. Support for these departments includes the drafting and review of personnel and salary ordinances, and the provision of advice regarding labor arbitrations, unfair labor practices, discrimination complaints and investigations, and other employer/employee relations matters.

The Division is also responsible for obtaining injunctions against unlawful union work actions and for obtaining restraining orders to protect County employees from workplace violence.

Assistant County Counsel Joyce Aiello is the Division Chief of the Labor and Employment Division.

Law Enforcement Services

The Law Enforcement Services Division provides advice and litigation support to the Sheriff's Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Office of the Public Defender, the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, and the Probation Department. Specifically, the Division handles, supervises, and monitors the civil litigation (with the exception of employment, auto liability, and certain premises liability cases) for all of these departments. It also supervises the Pitchess motions assignment, which requires the filing of oppositions to motions that seek the disclosure of confidential peace officer personnel files.

The Division attorneys litigate cases in State and federal Courts, at both the trial and appellate levels. The cases handled and supervised by the Division range from Federal Civil Rights cases against the Sheriff's Department, to legal malpractice cases against the Public Defender. The Division also supervises and monitors County litigation handled by a third-party administrator and private law firms under contract with the County.

The Division also staffs the Sheriff's Legal Advisory Unit that advises the Sheriff's Department on a wide range of issues, ranging from the Sheriff's custodial responsibilities in the County jails to the negotiation, drafting and review of a multitude of contracts with outside vendors.

In addition to handling litigation, the Division serves as in-house counsel to all of its client departments and provides legal advice to the Civil Grand Jury. The Division also advises or participates on numerous County commissions and committees.

Assistant County Counsel Jennifer Lehman is the Division Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.

Probate

The Public Administrator is required by County Charter and the Probate Code to administer the estates of deceased persons who die without a will or known heirs, or when named executors or known heirs are not willing or capable of handling a probate estate or trust matter.  In administering a probate estate, the Public Administrator marshals the decedent's assets, pays off creditors, and distributes what is left to legatees or heirs. Often, there is a search for legatees or heirs.  The probate process ensures that property is not left in uncertain status without a legal owner.  The Probate Code provides for statutory fees to be payable out of the estate to an estate administrator and the administrator's attorney (our office) based on the value of the estate, as well as extraordinary fees for non-standard work performed, as approved by the court.

The Public Guardian acts as the conservator for persons who are not competent to handle their own affairs.  The two fundamental kinds of conservatorships are "probate conservatorships" where a person is incapacitated due to old age, senility, or other infirmity, and "LPS conservatorships" which are due to mental illness.  The Public Guardian may be appointed to make health care and other personal decisions and/or to handle the assets (estate) of a conservatee. Some conservatees have been victims of elder abuse whose assets must be recovered from the abuser.  The Probate Division petitions the court for approval of compensation for services rendered, which is payable from the conservatee's estate.  The Public Guardian may also be ordered by the Probate Court to handle trust matters when there is no one else qualified to act. 

Both the Public Guardian and Public Administrator:

Currently, the Division handles decedent estates for the Public Administrator and conservatorships for the Public Guardian.  It files pleadings and litigates matters in the probate courts including, as examples, petitions for approval of appointments as personal representative or conservator, sales of real property, accountings and distributions.  The Division takes over civil litigation that the decedent or conservatee may have been involved in, and often initiates new litigation relating to ownership of assets.  Cases have involved the intricacies of real property law, bankruptcy, attachments, businesses, unlawful detainers, and intellectual property.

Assistant County Counsel Leah D. Davis is the Division Chief of the Probate Division.

Property

The Property Division provides legal services to the Board of Supervisors, County commissions and County departments with a focus on land use planning and County property transactions. The Division also provides primary advice to the Consolidated Fire Protection District, the Department of Public Works on land development, the Chief Executive Office on environmental contamination matters and to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The Division also includes the County Counsel Code Enforcement Team.

Principal clients served by the Division include the Department of Regional Panning, the Real Estate Division of the Chief Executive Office, the Department of Beaches and Harbors, the Consolidated Fire Protection District, the Land Development Division of the Department of Public Works, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Arts Commission, the Natural History Museum,  and the Office of Affirmative Action Compliance with respect to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Division advises the Board of Supervisors and other officers regarding the acquisition, disposition, leasing, and development of public real property as well as other matters, such as zoning and planning, environmental law issues, hazardous materials issues, ADA accessibility to County facilities, some contracting matters, and the negotiation of franchises, concessions, ground leases and other revenue generating opportunities.

The Division represents its clients in land use and environmental lawsuits as well as other specialized litigation involving property transactions, airport and planning matters, environmental contamination matters, accessibility claims and similar matters.

Assistant County Counsel Elaine M. Lemke is the Division Chief of the Property Division.

Public Works

The Public Works Division handles a broad array of litigation, advisory and transactional matters for County departments and commissions and independent agencies.  The Division’s County clients include the Department of Public Works and its special purpose and assessment districts, the Chief Executive Office Asset Management Branch, and parts of the Internal Services Department and Community Development Commission.

 

The Division litigates eminent domain and inverse condemnation cases on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, an independent public transportation agency, and acts as general counsel to the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, an independent commission charged with reviewing and approving local government changes of organization and reorganization and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, a joint powers authority of which the County is a member agency.

 

The Public Works Division is responsible for all litigation arising from the activities of its County client departments.  The types of litigation include eminent domain and inverse condemnation, property damage allegedly caused by negligence or nuisance, and breach of contract actions arising out of construction projects.  The Division also handles environmental litigation under State and federal law, and challenges to assessments for localized public improvements.

 

The transactional and advisory assignments include advice to the Department of Public Works on construction of buildings and infrastructure, water quality, water rights and water distribution, and the operation of landfills and solid waste management; advice to the Chief Executive Office and various County departments on developing County property including museums and other cultural facilities; advice to the Internal Services Department concerning construction and maintenance activities; advice to the Community Development Commission concerning construction activities; and advice to client departments concerning jurisdictional and operational authority under applicable statutes, the application of federal and State environmental laws, and a broad range of contract issues including public works construction contracts.

Social Services

The Social Services Division serves as general counsel to various County departments, commissions and advisory bodies.  The Division's principal clients include the County departments of Child Support Services, Children and Family Services, Community and Senior Services, and Public Social Services.  The Division also represents the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and advises the Chief Executive Office regarding data sharing projects and First 5 Los Angeles.

In addition, the Division provides legal services to the following commissions and
County-affiliated agencies:

Commission for Children and Families, Commission for Public Social Services, Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse & Neglect, Children's Special Investigations Unit, Los Angeles County Office of Child Care, Child Care Planning Committee, Policy Roundtable for Child Care, Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Los Angeles County Interagency Homeless Council, Homeless Prevention Initiative, Child Support Advisory Board, Domestic Violence Council, Los Angeles County Commission for Older Adults, Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council, Human Relations Commission, Los Angeles County Workforce Investment Board, Native American Indian Commission, Education Coordinating Council, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Los Angeles County Law Library and Altadena Library District.

As general counsel, the Division provides legal advice in support of the programs of each entity.  Division staff advise on a wide range of social services issues and are responsible for preparing legal opinions, reviewing contracts, and drafting and reviewing County ordinances, legislation and agency policies.

The Division's attorneys handle and supervise civil litigation in State and federal court arising out of its client departments.  They also provide advice on administrative hearing matters, including State administrative hearings regarding appeals of funding decisions.

Assistant County Counsel Lianne J. Edmonds is the Division Chief of the Social Services Division.

Transportation

The Transportation Division's sole client is the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA"). The MTA is not a County agency, but rather, a State-created local public entity which contracts with the Los Angeles County Counsel to serve as its General Counsel. By ordinance, the MTA General Counsel is responsible for managing all of the legal affairs of the agency.

The MTA is unique among the nation's transportation agencies because it provides public transit services within the County, and also serves as the transportation planning and funding agency for the County. It is governed by a 13-member Board of Directors comprised of the five Los Angeles County Supervisors, the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and three members appointed by the Mayor, and four city council members or mayors from among the other 87 cities in the County.

The Transportation Division staff provides legal advice to the MTA Board and staff on a variety of transactional and public law issues, including, contract procurements, bid protests, real estate, joint developments, land use, the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, ethics and conflict of interest issues, employment law, workers' compensation, federal and state transportation law issues, disability law affecting transportation, transit facilities and employment, inter-agency agreements, construction law, and immigration law.

The Office of the County Counsel manages all of the MTA’s litigation.  The MTA’s litigation is very diverse, including tort claims related to bus or rail accidents, public law issues, employment and labor disputes, constitutional issues, construction claims, insurance coverage claims, False Claims Act issues, inverse condemnation, unlawful detainers, contract disputes, and environmental litigation.  The Transportation Division maintains supervision and management of significant litigation involving matters of policy concern to the MTA.  The Transportation Division also represents MTA management in labor arbitrations.

Assistant County Counsel Charles M. Safer is the Division Chief of the Transportation Division.

Workers' Compensation

The Workers' Compensation Division represents the County in the defense, litigation and resolution of workers' compensation matters brought before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and the State appellate courts. The Division is also active in legal issues of State-wide importance, representing the County's interests as Amicus Curiae.

The Division's attorneys devote a large portion of their time conducting discovery, cross-examining applicants, medical and technical experts, gathering relevant medical and lay evidence and litigating cases in court. They also  review contracts, assist with negotiations of vendor agreements, analyze legislation and render legal opinions for the Chief Executive Office and other County departments on issues related to Workers' Compensation..

The Division's attorneys regularly advise County Return to Work managers, Risk Management  Managers  and a panel of third-party administrators regarding legal issues arising out of workers' compensation  matters. The Division also drafts the contracts for, supervises and monitors the activities of a large panel of contract law firms retained to represent the County on a significant caseload of workers' compensation matters.

Assistant County Counsel Ralph L. Rosato is the Division Chief of the Workers' Compensation Division.

Administrative Services Bureau

The Administrative Services Bureau under the direction of Administrative Deputy Kirk Tays, advises the County Counsel and the Executive Office on non-legal matters relating to the general administration of the Department.  The Administrative Unit formulates and implements departmental administrative policies, standards, procedures and plans; prepares special studies, surveys, reports, and official correspondence involving departmental goals; coordinates audit responses; assists in the development of departmental strategic plans and Performance Counts (performance reporting); and prepares and updates the Department's Business Continuity Plan for restoring business functions that support critical functions in the event of a widespread disaster.  In addition to the Administrative Unit, the Bureau consists of four organizational components: Financial Management Branch, Human Resources Branch, Information Technology Branch, and the Internal Support Services Branch.


Financial Management Branch 

The Financial Management Branch oversees the preparation and administration of the Department’s operating budget and a separate judgments and damages budget that pays judgment, settlement and litigation costs.  Financial Management is also responsible for preparing expenditure and revenue projections as well as performing all accounting transactions for the Department; providing financial data to respond to the Board of Supervisors, clients and legal divisions; preparing various management reports; and developing billing rates for in-house attorneys. 

Human Resources Branch

The Human Resources Branch administers recruitment and selection of legal and non-legal staff, staff development, classification and compensation studies, employee relations activities and health and safety programs. Human Resources is responsible for developing departmental personnel policies and procedures, affirmative action programs and coordinating community support activities. This branch is also responsible for the Department’s workers’ compensation benefits program; performance management, including performance appraisal and discipline; leave management; and security and emergency preparedness. Additionally, this branch acts as the Department's liaison for payroll services, processes incoming, outgoing and change of status notifications, assists employees with benefit information, and provides and supervises the Department's reception desk personnel in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

Information Technology Branch

The Information Technology Branch implements, maintains, and supports the Department's local area networks, hardware, remote access, and all automated systems and software that serve the office. This includes the Department's integrated information, financial and document management systems.  The Information Technology Branch also researches, promotes and implements new and efficient technologies in support of the Department's business needs.  In addition, the Branch is tasked with the implementation of administrative, operational, and technical safeguards and countermeasures to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction.  This includes managing risks, responding to incidents on a timely manner, recovering from disasters and establishing security policies and safeguards.

Internal Support Services Branch

The Internal Support Services Branch maintains all legal services agreements and amendments for the Department and is also responsible for facilities management, procurement, records retention, mail room, photocopying and supply room services. In addition, this Branch also oversees contract services for daily court filing, service of process, messenger services, document storage, subpoena preparation, and offsite photocopying and duplication. The Internal Support Services Branch is also tasked with overseeing general services including telephone communication, equipment inventory control and audio/visual setups.