It’s still Trutanich

The Times endorsed Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich as the best of five candidates for Los Angeles city attorney in the March election, and we back him in the May 19 runoff. Trutanich would bring a fresh perspective to City Hall, along with the experience to deal with crime, the backbone to defend the city against lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, and an understanding of the many wearying assaults on neighborhoods that this office is best equipped to combat, from graffiti to dumping to illegal billboards.

The office of city attorney is a bit of an oddity. The clients may be the people of Los Angeles and their city, but the legal advice goes to the mayor, the City Council and every department manager and employee. The city attorney is a civil litigator, but also a criminal prosecutor (although only of misdemeanors); a lawyer with a code of professional ethics, but also a politician with ambitions and alliances; a public figure, but an office manager.

The runoff between Trutanich and Councilman Jack Weiss could have been an opportunity for the candidates to express their competing visions for how this unusual office could be reinvigorated and better serve Los Angeles, but instead it has been a run-of-the-mill political brawl laced with invective and personal attack.

Weiss, for example, has tried to drum up shock over the fact that Trutanich’s clients include criminal defendants. But Trutanich’s experience as a criminal defense lawyer is one of the things that makes him the standout candidate. His defense career provides insight into the importance of constitutional protections and of including a measure of wisdom and humanity in prosecution. He is well positioned to protect the city against violent crime without resorting to tired tough-on-crime bromides, demonizing youth or dismissing all gang members as beyond redemption.


Trutanich has represented alleged polluters, and that’s a good thing: The city of Los Angeles is one of the nation’s biggest polluters, and taxpayers need someone who knows his way through the regulatory process to ensure that cleanups can move forward while penalties remain manageable. But he also was a groundbreaking environmental prosecutor, building up experience and know-how that would serve the city well in its aspirations to become cleaner and greener.

Weiss is smart and capable. Yet the best argument for him from many supporters -- that he would blossom in the post in a way he did not on the City Council -- is based more on hope than evidence. Trutanich has the experience, and he represents the change the city needs. He’d make the better city attorney.