A California judge has ruled to allow a group of lawyers with connections to Oakland City Hall to represent alleged Nortenos gang members who are facing a city lawsuit that seeks to prevent them from hanging out in the city's Fruitvale neighborhood.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo had filed a suit against 40 alleged members of the dangerous Nortenos gang on Oct. 13, claiming that they were terrorizing the city's largely Hispanic Fruitvale district.
Russo is seeking a gang injunction that would prohibit the alleged gang members from hanging out with one another, loitering and possessing guns in a 450-block area.
He has also asked Alameda County Judge Robert Freedman to prevent the lawyers Jose Luis Fuentes and Michael Seigel from the firm of Siegel and Yee from representing the alleged gang members as he saw it as a potential conflict in interest.
The reason is because firm partner Jane Brunner is a councilwoman of the city and Michael's father and head of the firm Dan Siegel is an unpaid adviser to Mayor Jean Quan.
However, on Feb. 3, Freedman allowed the two lawyers to represent the alleged gang members, saying he is confident that firewalls have been set up that will keep Michael Siegel and Fuentes from sharing information about the case with Brunner and Quan.
Siegel said the judge's ruling is important as it means that the people named in the suit can contest the facts against them and have adequate representation.
We feel vindicated by the judge's comments and he seems to be satisfied that we will abide by professional rules of conduct, he told the media.
However the prosecutors are disappointed with the decision.
We don't think it's fair to the public to have a firm on the case with an employee who is a lively advocate and active decision maker on the Council, deputy city attorney Rocio Fierro said.
According to city spokesman Alex Katz, Nortenos gang members have past criminal records for assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, domestic violence, including domestic violence against pregnant women, illegal drug sales, possession of assault weapons and arson.
A hearing on the injunction has been scheduled for Feb. 16.