Anaheim Won’t Seek Mistrial in Stadium Suit
The City of Anaheim will not request a mistrial in a $100-million lawsuit filed by the California Angels against the city, the Los Angeles Rams and a developer, city officials said Thursday.
That was all any of the parties would say after a gag order was imposed by Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank D. Domenichini.
After meeting with attorneys privately Thursday, Domenichini said he needed to take proceedings under advisement and suspended the trial until May 6.
He also sealed court transcripts from the day’s meeting. The court-ordered restraint forbids the parties from discussing the case.
Attorneys would not say whether the matters before the judge include a request for a mistrial. On Wednesday, attorneys for both the city and the Rams said that they were considering such a request because of a possible conflict of interest concerning the courtroom clerk.
The clerk, Marshall F. Norris, has received the endorsement of Gene Autry, owner of the Angels and former “Singing Cowboy,” in his campaign for county clerk.
Although attorneys from all parties originally approved the endorsement, those representing the Rams and the city Wednesday questioned the propriety of an invitation for a fund-raiser bearing a picture of Autry and Norris.
Fear Effect on Trial
The attorneys said their clients feared that controversy about the invitation and other alleged improprieties could affect the trial.
On Wednesday, Alfred E. Augustini, an attorney for Anaheim Stadium Associates, said his clients were leaning toward requesting a mistrial. Anaheim Stadium Associates is a joint venture between the Boston-based development company of Cabot, Cabot & Forbes and a trust for the heirs of the late Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom.
At the time, Augustini said, “This is just too important a matter to have hypothetical considerations. . . . You keep the courtroom out of politics and out of all that stuff. Now I’m not sure it could ever be erased without some tracks of that erasure showing.”
The non-jury trial has continued for more than four months and cost the litigants millions of dollars. It involves the city’s promise to the Los Angeles Rams that a high-rise complex would be built on part of the Anaheim Stadium parking lot. The Angels complained that they never authorized the development, which would take surface parking spots away from baseball fans.
On Dec. 8, 1983, the Angels filed suit, saying the city violated its lease.
A motion before Judge Domenichini asks whether information in newspaper articles may be accepted as factual evidence, Norris said.
A second involves whether to allow Angels official Arthur E. (Red) Patterson as the ball club’s expert witness.
The Angels originally designated Buzzie Bavasi, former Angels executive vice president and general manager, as their expert witness. When Bavasi became ill, the Angels said Patterson would replace him on the stand.
Attorneys for the city and the Rams protested, especially when the Angels said they wanted to keep Patterson as their expert witness although Bavasi’s health improved.
Michael D. Rubin, an attorney for Anaheim, said the switch leaves him too little time to do his homework. “Maybe it was understandable when Buzzie was ill. But, come on now, now he’s well. . . . Where are the rules of the game?”