When the city of Davis hired McGregor Scott of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to be its investigator, the Vanguard soon learned that David Spencer, an attorney at Orrick, is working with the Yolo County DA’s office to get trial experience by prosecuting cases while on the payroll with Orrick.
Given that the DA’s office is prosecuting the five co-defendants in the Picnic Day case with felonies, it seemed like a potential conflict of interest for the same firm to have McGregor Scott as the supposedly independent investigator at the same time that David Spencer was prosecuting cases for the Yolo County District Attorney’s office.
The Enterprise asked the question as to whether this constituted a conflict of interest. Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven told the paper that “the attorney has not performed any work on the Picnic Day assault case and is not expected to have any involvement in the matter before his assignment there ends in about two weeks.
“The District Attorney has no role in the administrative investigation for which the city of Davis retained Mr. Scott,” Mr. Raven said. “From our position I do not see that there would be any conflict.”
But let’s think about this for a second. If you have a co-defendant case, you cannot have the same office or firm represent multiple clients without a specific waiver. Why is that? Because sometimes co-defendants have the same interests, but other times, those interests may conflict and therefore they need independent attorneys to represent the individual needs.
In Yolo County, we have a separate panel of six felony attorneys who represent individuals who cannot afford an attorney and yet present a conflict for the public defender’s office.
Was there a clear conflict here? It is not clear. As Mr. Raven specified, Mr. Spencer was not working on the Picnic Day case directly – nevertheless, the appearance seemed at least questionable.
The Vanguard has now learned that Mr. Spencer’s time with the DA’s office will be ending on Friday of this week. So, less than a week after the question was raised, someone made the call to pull the plug on the work experience project.
Coincidence? Probably not. It may be that both sides felt it better to have not even the possible appearance of a conflict of interest.
Given what happened with Mr. Scott’s predecessor, John McGinness, the city probably was pretty eager to avoid even appearances of a conflict of interest.
We will wait to see what Mr. Scott comes up with, in an incident that has already drawn quite a bit of contention and controversy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting