SAN FRANCISCO - 12/11/2018 (PRESS RELEASE JET)
The City of San Francisco’s trial tricks are as dirty as they come, despite the mission of public prosecutors as upheld by the US Supreme Court:
“The State’s Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done… But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.” (Berger v. United States)
In spite of this call to justice, the City’s strategy for City of San Francisco v. Kihagi was indeed foul: overwhelm Anne Kihagi with discovery and ensure that she could never complete it.
In most cases, courts fairly give each side enough time to prepare – this was not the case here. The court slashed Ms. Kihagi’s trial preparation time by four months, despite previously recognizing the case as “complex” with dozens of witnesses.
Why would the City request truncated preparation for a “complex” case? To make Ms. Kihagi’s preparation impossible. What’s worse, Ms. Kihagi learned in May 2016 that she would be going to trial that October – a mere five months later.
This compressed preparation and discovery time – and the small defense team’s inability to complete thousands of requests – prejudiced the entire trial. Judge Bradstreet and City Attorneys constantly referenced the defense’s incomplete responses to discovery, labeling Ms. Kihagi and her counsel as uncooperative.
Yet here’s the kind of discovery the Court of Appeal focused on:
They stated Ms. Kihagi failed to respond with “her full name…as it appeared on her birth certificate.”
Ms. Kihagi, an African immigrant, had never seen her birth certificate – yet this was repeated constantly. What bearing did a birth certificate have on this case? She did, however, give her name as it appears on her license and passport. While this would typically suffice, nothing Ms. Kihagi could do would be enough for the courts.
The Court of Appeal also continually asserted that the defense “delayed noticing any depositions of their own. As of mid-September 2016, they had willfully failed to comply with at least 10 court orders.”
This oversimplification fails to acknowledge that the City’s Victoria Weatherford was preparing orders almost daily, trying to end the case, for nearly nineteen days. Once an order was prepared, it was almost always rubber stumped by the referee and often without even a consult with Kihagi’s attorneys. The courts also ignored that Ms. Kihagi’s solo attorney was traveling to be with her dying father in Asia, something they had known beforehand but mercilessly used to their advantage. By the time she returned, the ensuing period of mid-August and through mid-September, the City had created mountains of discovery orders under the hands of a referee.
The City still contended that they were disadvantaged; though, by the time they filed their case, they used countless resources to acquire almost 25,000 documents. Tenants provided their communications with Ms. Kihagi. The Building Department provided all her permits. The Housing Department supplied any complaint ever filed by her tenants. The tax recorder provided each company file that Ms. Kihagi used, and the State of California provided formation documents for each company affiliated with Ms. Kihagi.
Maddeningly, the Court of Appeal claimed the City was further disadvantaged by Ms. Kihagi’s “fail[ure] to allow site inspections on September 26,” calling it “intentional noncompliance.”
Yet in March 2015, the City arranged visits with tenants, bombarding Ms. Kihagi’s buildings with a team of eight officials and two armed police officers. They therefore had visited all her properties. Further, during trial, only on ONE occasion had Ms. Kihagi’s attorney denied access, as he had the right to seek legal clarification of the demand as it would affect Ms. Kihagi’s tenants and there was no warrant. Once the issue was clarified, he immediately re-invited the City – and the City refused.
And when the court denied Ms. Kihagi additional trial time on September 19th, her attorney quit; he had been promised that all parties would be given more preparation time. None of this mattered to Judge Bradstreet, however, and Ms. Kihagi was left without time or representation until October 4th – with the end-of-month trial quickly approaching.
Despite her lack of attorney, Ms. Kihagi appeared for a scheduled inspection on September 22nd – the City did not show up. Poor Ms. Kihagi was trying to find a new attorney, as companies must be represented by a lawyer in court, all while the City complained and insisted she was not participating in discovery.
When Ms. Kihagi’s new counsel arrived on October 4th, they immediately invited the City to inspect the buildings. The City again refused multiple invitations, exposing their true intent – not to conduct inspections, but to continue purporting they were denied access. The Court of Appeal failed to acknowledge both the City’s refusals and the vicious double standard they upheld.
As the Supreme court stated, the City Attorney “is not at liberty to strike foul [blows].” In San Francisco, however, the City can play as dirty as it likes and still be rewarded.
For more information on Anna Kihagi and West 18 Properties, visithttp://annekihagisf.com/
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