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Officer's suit against city drags on

Judge says attorneys' squabbles are providing him 'endless amusement.'

September 18, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

A federal judge on Thursday scolded attorneys representing the city and a former Burbank police officer who continue to disagree on what evidence can be included in a case involving allegations of discrimination and retaliatory firing.

U.S. District Judge George Wu acknowledged that the attorneys were having a hard time getting along, and that their behavior brought him “endless amusement,” but he imposed a deadline for the parties to settle the matter.

Wu ordered Solomon Gresen, the attorney representing former Police Officer Elfego Rodriguez, to request the results of investigations made into the Burbank Police Department by Monday. Those files, Gresen said, could involve emails from the city attorney’s office about his client and a 2007 Porto’s Bakery robbery.

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The judge also required city attorneys to respond by Wednesday. Wu would then make a decision as to what documents will be turned over to Gresen on Sept. 29.

Rodriguez allegedly used excessive force against a robbery suspect, but he claims in his federal lawsuit that his involvement in the investigation was limited to serving a search warrant.

Rodriguez filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on June 8, alleging, among other concerns, “discriminatory and retaliatory discharge from employment.”

Court documents show Rodriguez was terminated in June 2010.

The lawsuit names the city of Burbank, former Police Chief Tim Stehr and Chief Assistant City Atty. Juli Scott, who Rodriguez claims conspired against him for filing a lawsuit in 2009 at the state level alleging race-based harassment and retaliation.

The Police Department discouraged minority officers from complaining or reporting misconduct, according to the current lawsuit.

Carol Humiston, senior assistant city attorney for Burbank, dismissed the allegations against Scott.

Attorneys representing Burbank have filed a motion asking the federal court to either dismiss or hold off until a final decision is made in the lawsuit at the state level.

Rodriguez is appealing a judge’s decision in 2010 to drop him from that case. The judge at the time ruled that Rodriguez failed to “present admissible evidence sufficient to raise a triable issue of material fact as to whether defendant [the city of Burbank] acted with a discriminatory purpose.”

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