Measure O Lawyers Battle Over Payment


Opponents in November’s tobacco money election battle squared off again in court Monday, this time over who should pay outstanding legal bills.

But the theatrics were low key as attorneys on both sides of the Measure O initiative argued that the other side should pay for legal work done prior to the measure’s resounding defeat.

Measure O sought to shift control of $260 million in tobacco settlement money from county supervisors to a handful of private hospitals, including the initiative’s sponsor, Community Memorial Hospital of Ventura. It was rejected by 67% of the vote.


The two sides appeared in court last summer, when they clashed over the wording of an analysis of the initiative for the sample ballot. They also disagreed on words used to argue each side’s position in the booklet.

Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh issued three rulings ordering some of the ballot wording changed.

Attorney Fred Woocher, who represents a grass-roots coalition that opposed Measure O, said Monday he deserves to be paid for his work on the case because his clients did not stand to benefit financially from the outcome, while Community Memorial Hospital did.

Woocher also argued that he has a right under state law to recoup costs from his opponent, about $35,000, because he was successful in the preelection litigation.

James Parrinello, attorney for the Ventura hospital, told the judge that some of the word changes were in his client’s favor, so he should be reimbursed for $36,900 in costs by Woocher.

“Both sides came away from those rulings feeling like they won and lost some,” Parrinello said. “Our view is that no sides won. We think both sides should be entitled to fees.”


Walsh took the case under submission, and attorneys expect a ruling within a few weeks.