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Bradley will have to pay legal bills

Greg Risling

Capping off a political trifecta in El Dorado County, a Superior Court judge recently denied Supervisor Sam Bradley the right to recoup his legal fees in a case against District Attorney Gary Lacy.

Disappointed with the judge’s decision, Bradley’s attorney, Larry Ring said his client will file an appeal with a district court this week. It could be six to eight months before a decision is rendered.

In Judge Winslow Christian’s order, he said that a significant benefit to the public could not be found, a major condition for awarding attorney fees – some $47,000 – to Bradley.

“Here no benefit of any kind was conferred on the general public,” Christian said in the court order. “The only effect of Bradley’s suit was to actuate a procedure that was, in light of the multiple incurable defects in the ‘accusation,’ predestined to futility.”

Ring countered that the public’s interests were served.

“The court had to find if there was public benefit from this case,” Ring said, “and there was, because we didn’t know at the time we went to court with Lacy who the accusation was against.”

The history between Bradley, Lacy and Supervisor Mark Nielsen is long and sordid. When a grand jury filed a list of accusations against an unnamed supervisor in 1994, Lacy refused to serve the papers against the official. Bradley took Lacy to court and eventually won in appellate court. The state’s Attorney General got involved and tried to block the decision, but in a simple statement the California Supreme Court last July denied his request to dismiss the case.

Lacy had no other choice than to file the accusation, which named Nielsen as the alleged culprit. The grand jury accused Nielsen of violating three sections of the government code, most notably the state’s opening meeting law, the Brown Act.

Bradley’s stance wasn’t helped by two events that came on the heels of his victory. First, Nielsen in September was vindicated of the grand jury accusations by a visiting judge. The judge said the claims were faulty because the documents were unsigned, undated and didn’t list the interviewed witnesses.

Secondly, a recall petition against Nielsen sputtered. Recall proponents needed 3,366 signatures in the supervisor’s district. Although more than 4,000 names were received, nearly 30 percent were disqualified.

Nielsen, free of blame, wrote some remarks about the Bradley case on Tuesday.

“Judge Christian’s order is the final nail in the coffin of the fraudulent ‘accusation’ produced by the politicized 1994-95 grand jury,” Nielsen wrote. “Sam Bradley had no financial obligation to his lawyers at all in this matter. Judge Christian’s decision is a happy ending to a sorry saga.”

Ring likens the legal predicament to the old quandary of the chicken and the egg. Which comes first?

“We never looked at the substance of Nielsen case,” he said. “We dealt with the process of Lacy taking off one hat and wearing another. In denying the motion, the judge is using hindsight to make his decision.”


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