A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge this week denied the city's request for a new trial in the case of former deputy police chief William Taylor, who was awarded nearly $1.3 million for claims that he was demoted and retaliated against for complaining about problems in the department and refusing to fire minority officers.
Attorneys for the city of Burbank had cited several claims, including juror misconduct, in seeking a new trial, but on Thursday, Superior Court Judge John Segal denied the request.
“The case was won fairly, and I don't believe a court of appeals would disturb the verdict either,” Smith said.
A jury voted 9 to 3 in Taylor's favor on March 19.
Taylor and nine other officers were terminated in June 2010 for alleged misconduct.
In arguing for a new trial, Ronald Frank, a defense attorney with Burke, Williams & Sorensen, claimed the city was unaware that some on the jury had criminal histories, which could have affected their judgment in deliberations.
Frank argued that one juror had in the past been brought into a court in shackles, an experience that could have affected the juror's perception of law enforcement.
At a hearing on the motion Wednesday, he contended that the city “should have had the opportunity to know that two of the jurors had criminal records” because it could have resulted in a hung jury.
But Segal didn't buy it.
“You don't know that,” he said in court. “You don't know who would have replaced them.”
As to any juror misconduct, attorney Christopher Brizzolara, who also represents Taylor, said in court that prospective jurors were not asked if they had been arrested or convicted of a crime, only about whether they held positive or negative feelings about law enforcement.
Both jurors pleaded no contest to undisclosed, low-level infractions or misdemeanors and paid fines of $100 and $90, according to court documents, Brizzolara said.
The city has 30 days to go to appeal the ruling.
In the meantime, Smith said he plans to file a motion compelling the city to pay for his attorney fees, which, he added, total “close to $1 million, if not more.”
City Atty. Amy Albano could not be reached for comment, but a representative said her office had not yet received an order from the court on the motion.
Burbank has spent about $1.04 million on legal fees in the Taylor case through March 31, according to information posted on the city's website.
“They have papered us to death,” Smith said, adding that he estimates the cost to be $12,000 to $14,000 just on the work he did in fighting the city's motion for a new trial.
He called the Taylor case “over-litigated.”
It is unclear whether the city will continue fighting the judgment.
In the meantime, 7% interest accrues annually on the $1.3-million judgment until it is paid out to Taylor.