OAKLAND (BCN) – Oakland City Attorney John Russo’s bid to get an injunction against alleged members of the Norteños gang hit a speed bump Friday when a judge delayed making a ruling on a key procedural issue in the case until Feb. 3.
Russo filed suit against about 40 reputed Norteños members on Oct. 13, claiming that they have been terrorizing Oakland’s Fruitvale district.
If the injunction is granted, it would bar Norteños members from hanging out with one another, loitering and possessing guns in a 450-block area.
Violations of the injunction would be considered contempt of court and face a criminal misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman held a hearing Friday on Russo’s motion to bar the Oakland law firm Siegel & Yee from representing Norteños gang members who are named in the city’s suit.
Russo alleges that the law firm has a conflict of interest because City Councilwoman Jane Brunner is a member of the firm and it also represents Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
Attorneys Michael Siegel and Jose Luis Fuentes, who are members of the Siegel & Yee firm, said today that the firm has dropped out of the case and Norteños members are now represented by a newly-formed nonprofit group called Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, or CURYJ.
Siegel and Fuentes both belong to the new group but are still in the law firm. Fuentes said the firm has set up “firewalls” to prevent any confidential information from getting to other members, such as Brunner.
But Freedman said in a tentative ruling earlier this week that there’s no evidence that CURYJ “is an organization recognized by the State Bar or serves any purpose other than as a vehicle for Siegel and Fuentes to accomplish an ‘end run’” around conflict of interest rules.
Freedman said Friday that he doesn’t think it’s a conflict of interest for the law firm to represent Quan but he said Brunner’s involvement as both a member of the law firm and a member of the City Council is “problematic.”
Freedman said he wants to have briefs filed with additional information about the status of CURYJ before he rules on whether there is a conflict of interest.
A hearing on the merits of the city attorney’s bid to get an injunction against alleged Norteños members is still scheduled for Feb. 16 but Freedman said the hearing may be postponed if all the preliminary procedural issues in the case aren’t resolved by then.
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