L.A. city attorney candidates clash in debate on KCRW

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The three main candidates for Los Angeles city attorney mixed it up on KCRW’s ‘Which Way, L.A.?’ public radio program Monday.

Incumbent City Atty. Carmen Trutanich faced two of his challengers on the March 5 primary ballot, former lawmaker Mike Feuer and private lawyer Greg Smith.

Feuer once again found himself on the defensive over Trutanich’s constant hammering over the former councilman and state assemblyman’s lack of courtroom experience. But that doesn’t mean he is not well prepared to represent the city in court, Feuer insisted, saying his eight-year tenure as head of a legal aid organization and his years as a lawmaker gave him broad experience for the city attorney job.

“Voters aren’t electing a city attorney” to go into court and try cases, Feuer said.


Host Warren Olney’s first question to Trutanich was whether he really wanted the city attorney job again or whether he viewed it as some sort of consolation prize for losing the race for district attorney last year.

Trutanich said he’s accomplished a lot in the city attorney post and wanted to continue.

“I ran for D.A. for all the right reasons,” Trutanich said. “I thought I could do a good job…. It turned out to be a mistake … on almost every level.” He then listed some of his successes — weaning the city off expensive outside attorneys, saving $285 million in reduced judgment and settlement amounts and keeping the office productive during steep budget cuts.

Olney asked how Smith, who has spent 25 years representing police officers and firefighters in discrimination and whistle-blower lawsuits against the city, could switch sides as city attorney and defend the very government he has done battle with.

Smith said his opposition in court had taught him the city department’s strengths and weaknesses.

“The best defense lawyers are people who were prosecutors before,” Smith said.

The fourth candidate on the ballot, private attorney Noel Weiss, was not included. He has not reported raising money to put on a viable campaign.

The program was to air at 7 p.m. over 89.9 FM.


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