Costa Mesa hires high-profile attorney to defend against sober-living lawsuits


An experienced litigator will defend the city of Costa Mesa against ongoing lawsuits from sober-living operators.

Jennifer Keller, of Irvine-based Keller/Anderle LLP, has tried more than 150 cases to jury verdict on various complex civil and criminal subject matters, including business, intellectual property, insurance and white-collar crime, according to a news release.

“I look forward to representing the city of Costa Mesa against untrue accusations that it has treated certain sober living homes unfairly,” Keller said in a statement. “The opposite is true, and the city looks forward to being vindicated by a jury.”


She will work on a contract basis. Her hourly rate is $925.

Keller will defend challenges to the city’s sober-living ordinances, which are designed to address the over-concentration of such homes in some neighborhoods.

Residents contend the homes are problematic and change neighborhood character, though such complaints can get complicated because sober-living home residents are generally drug and/or alcohol addicts in recovery protected by federal and state disability and fair housing laws.

“By hiring Jennifer Keller, we hope that sends a message that we will vigorously defend our sober-living ordinances and our neighborhoods from nuisance issues related to rehab homes,” Mayor Sandy Genis said in a statement. “Our ordinance is fair and strikes a balance between the rights of residents and those who are recovering from addiction to enjoy our residential neighborhoods.”

Keller’s work includes representing MGA Entertainment against toy maker Mattel, which was ordered to pay her client $85 million in theft damages and $85 million in punitive damages, according to a news release.

She recently represented Standard & Poor’s in the United States v. the McGraw Hill Cos., settling for more than $1 billion.

“She’s one of the finest trial attorneys in Orange County,” said Councilman John Stephens, an attorney. “I know her, and she’ll do a great job. I approached her about the job, and she’s very enthusiastic about representing the city.”

Keller is a past president of the Orange County Bar Assn. and a member of the Chapman University board of trustees. She graduated from UC Berkeley and UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Twitter: @BradleyZint