A federal judge slammed defense counsel for San Bernardino County this week in his order compelling the release of years of documents relating to an allegedly bogus criminal prosecution of a developer with whom the county had a land dispute.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A federal judge slammed defense counsel for San Bernardino County this week in his order compelling the release of years of documents relating to an allegedly bogus criminal prosecution of a developer with whom the county had a land dispute.

U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal chided the county last week, ordering it to pay attorney fees relating to its overruled objections to U.S. Magistrate Judge Shashi H. Kewalramani’s May 1 discovery order.

Bernal said in light of “credible allegations’ and evidence supporting the motion to compel documents”, he could not conclude that Kewalramani’s order was made” on clearly erroneous factual findings,” as the county had claimed in its objections.

“County defendants ‘ objections fail to identify a single legal error or erroneous factual determination in the MJ Order ,” Bernal wrote in his June 28 order. “In light of the absence of controlling legal authority or factual error supporting county defendants ‘ objections , the court cannot conclude that these objections were substantially justified or based on a good faith reading of controlling precedent.”

The land developer, Colonies Partners LP and its co-managing partner Jeff Burum, represented by Stephen G. Larson of Larson O’Brien LLP, file d the reported $80 million lawsuit against San Bernardino County and its former District Attorney Michael Ramos in early 2018, alleging conspiracy, retaliation, breach of contract and civil rights violations.

“The former DA has long demonstrated a clear bias against Jeff Burum and the other plaintiffs in this lawsuit,” Larson said in a statement Tuesday. “I am confident that these documents will continue to demonstrate the pattern of deceit , fraud, and misconduct by county officials that has already been revealed, all of which will only further strengthen our case.”

Represented by Charles E. Slyngstad of Burke Williams & Sorensen LLP, the county argued Colonies ‘ request for documents was overly broad, and that Kewalramani should have sustained its earlier objections.

“The order under review is clearly erroneous and contrary to law in holding that plaintiff Colonies Partners … met its burden to establish substantial need to compel disclosure by the county and the DA defendants of every item of ordinary work product and met its burden to establish compelling need to require disclosure of every item of opinion work product in the district attorney’s office, based on only allegations of its firs t amended complaint,” the county’s motion read.

However, Bernal responded that the county’s critique of Kewalramani’s order “was simply incorrect as a matter of reading comprehension. What’s mo re, their objections to the overbreadth of the MJ Order were conclusory and completely lacking i.n citation to the record or controling precedent.”

Responding to a request for comment, Slyngstad said in an email Tuesday, “The county presented the motion for review relating to document discovery to the federal district judge in order to preserve its rights on appeal of the underlying decision by the magistrate judge if that should ever become necessary ,”

The Colonies complaint also names former state attorneys general Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris, as well as County Supervisor Josie Gonzales , former County Counsel Ruth Stringer and several district attorney investigators.

Colonies claims the county and state engaged in a bogus criminal investigation of the company and Burum. The complaint claims the investigation was part of a retaliatory campaign designed to bleed Colonies of millions of dollars spent on litigation and hamstring it from influencing elections. Colonies Partners LP v. County of San Bernardino et al., 18-CV0 0420 (C.D. Cal., filed March 1, 2018).

Burum and three county officials were charged with criminal corruption in 2011 in connection with a $102 million settlement awarded to Colonies in 2006 to resolve a land dispute between Colonies and the county and the flood control district.

Juries acquitted three of the four co-defendants and hung on the fourth.

Ramos, who had been San Bernardino’s district attorney since 2002 , was defeated in a primary election last year by former deputy district attorney and private defense attorney Jason Anderson. Burum and his business affiliates donated $4,400 to Anderson ‘s campaign and $54,000 to a political action committee supporting him. Burum’s brother donated $1,000, according to campaign finance disclosures .

Colonies has until July 8 to submit a declaration concerning the amount of its attorney fees , and the county will have until July 15 to file its response.