Lawyers sometimes encounter strange, and occasionally belligerent clients; it just comes with the territory. But Mayor Bob Filner clearly takes the cake, as we witnessed in his unhinged confrontation with City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.
Long story short: Filner revealed his demands in his hotel-tax squabble to the media; Goldsmith learned about these demands from the media, rather than Filner; so Goldsmith shared his thoughts on the legality of that demand with the media. And, Filner reacted by interrupting Goldsmith’s press conference with a temper tantrum.
Filner: “It would have been nice, Mr. Goldsmith, to have a memo. It would have been nice to have advice. I am your client. That’s privileged communication. You not only have been unprofessional but unethical in this press conference. And I resent it greatly that you’re giving your advice through the press.”
Goldsmith responded that Filner should have consulted him if he wanted his advice. Filner’s response, in a nutshell? I don’t have to tell you squat.
So, Filner wants Goldsmith to offer him advice, but Filner refuses to consult Goldsmith. In the words of Jerry McGuire: Help me help you! Even the greatest lawyers cannot assist uncooperative clients. Filner disseminates his plans to the media, so why is he surprised when Goldsmith responds to the media?
Furthermore, Filner has a poor understanding of the City Attorney’s obligations to him. Filner’s accusation that Goldsmith was disseminating “privileged communication” to the media is absurd. Not quite sure how Goldsmith could have conceivably divulged a confidential communication when—by Filner’s own admission—there was no communication between them. Quite ironic, then, that Filner took the opportunity to berate Goldsmith’s assistant with incessant rants of “Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney? Are you an attorney?” Go figure that Filner proceeded to rewrite the California Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys during the press conference.
Filner manifests what we can only assume is a lack of confidence in his own leadership by provoking bizarre confrontations with other municipal leaders. Goldsmith is a well-respected City Attorney, but Filner has repeatedly targeted him in an apparent attempt to show everyone who’s running the show. Filner’s behavior is terribly undignified, and San Diegans deserve better.
But, hey—this is Bob’s Town; the rest of us just live here.
Ryan T. Darby practices civil law in San Diego. He loves his clients, primarily because he would never represent someone like Bob Filner.