A prominent criminal defense attorney who has opposed the Los Angeles Police Department in court and an environmental lawyer, who also is a gay activist and civil liberties advocate, will be named to the department’s civilian governing body by Mayor Richard Riordan.
The appointments, to be formally announced today, come at a critical time for the department. Assuming that the nominees are quickly confirmed by the City Council, defense lawyer Gerald L. Chaleff and environmental litigator Dean Hansell will play key roles in the selection of Los Angeles’ next police chief.
Under the city’s complex charter, the five-member Police Commission recommends three candidates for chief to the mayor. Then the mayor makes his selection, which must be confirmed by the council.
The new chief will replace Willie L. Williams, whose contract was not renewed, and interim Chief Bayan Lewis at a time when the growing department is enjoying declining crime statistics but is still struggling to change its style of policing from military to community-based and to implement a host of reforms suggested by the Christopher Commission in the wake of the 1991 beating of Rodney G. King.
Chaleff, a former public defender, came to national attention in the 1980s while persuading jurors to spare Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono from the gas chamber. He will be named to replace Los Angeles Police Commission President Raymond C. Fisher, who was a deputy general counsel to the Christopher Commission, said Riordan’s press secretary, Noelia Rodriguez.
Fisher was an instrumental figure in the commission’s recent ouster of Williams, but is expected to soon depart for Washington to become the U.S. Department of Justice’s No. 3 lawyer, in charge of the civil, tax, environmental and civil rights divisions.
Hansell, an environmental litigator and antitrust specialist who is a board member of the national Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, will be named to replace Commissioner Art Mattox, a Xerox executive who is the commission’s only openly gay member.
Mattox’s five-year term expires next week but the mayor could ask him to continue to serve until Chaleff and Hansell are confirmed by the City Council, city officials said, or the mayor could ask Mattox to leave and let the Police Commission function with four members. The mayor’s office gave no indication Tuesday of how it would proceed.
City Council confirmation of Chaleff, a former Los Angeles County Bar Assn. president, and Hansell, a former chairman of the county bar’s antitrust section, may not be smooth. City Councilwoman Laura Chick, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said she has concerns about voting for two men who are lawyers.
“I’ve got some misgivings,” she said--not about their qualifications as individuals but because of the lack of diversity that they would bring to the panel.
If Chaleff and Hansell are confirmed, the panel would be composed of four men--a car dealer and three lawyers--and one woman who is also a lawyer. “I have nothing against lawyers, but it’s not a very broad-based makeup,” Chick said.
The council previously has confirmed Riordan’s appointment of Chaleff to the city’s Planning and Telecommunications commissions.
Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority said she was disappointed that Riordan did not heed a lobbying effort geared to persuade him to appoint a second woman to the panel, particularly in light of alleged sexual harassment problems in the LAPD.
A source said Riordan decided not to reappoint Mattox in part because he felt that Mattox was too openly delighted about defying the mayor. Riordan had wanted the panel to name Assistant Chief Bernard Parks to replace Williams on an interim basis, the source said.
Mattox, who was widely perceived as the swing vote on the matter, supported Assistant Chief Bayan Lewis. Lewis was selected in a compromise after he declared that he was not interested in succeeding Williams for more than a few months. Parks is a contender to succeed Williams.
The source claimed that the mayor did not object to Mattox voting independently against Parks--only that Mattox seemed to take too much joy in it.
The appointment would reunite Chaleff with his assistant counsel in the Hillside Strangler case, Katherine Mader, who now works for the Police Commission. She is the department’s first inspector general--a position created at the suggestion of the Christopher Commission to provide more effective civilian oversight of the Police Department’s internal disciplinary system.
Mader left defense work after the Hillside Strangler case and served for years as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.
Chaleff recently dissolved his longtime partnership with Santa Monica attorney Charles English to head a newly established national white-collar criminal defense group for the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. He served as a volunteer lawyer for the Webster Commission, which investigated the LAPD’s dismal initial response to the 1992 riots.
Hansell, a former antitrust lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission, is a partner in the law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. Long active in gay affairs, he was a co-founder and co-president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Los Angeles chapter and is the organization’s national treasurer. He has served as a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolence and of the New Israel Fund, which supports civil liberties and women’s rights causes in Israel.
In one of his cases that attracted news coverage, he represented the environmental organization Greenpeace in a long fight to overturn a Glendale rule that required solicitors for charities from outside the city to be fingerprinted. Greenpeace feared that police would use the fingerprints to target members for surveillance.
Neither Chaleff nor Hansell returned calls seeking comment.
Times staff writer Matt Lait also contributed to this story.