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Prosecutor to Pay Fees of Fighting Her Lawsuit

Court: Judge says deputy D.A. owes the county $111,562 spent contesting her charge that a sexual harassment claim led to retaliation. Her complaint was dismissed.

July 23, 2002|KENNETH REICH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Superior Court judge ordered a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Monday to reimburse the county for $111,562 in attorney's fees incurred in defending against a suit she filed after making a sexual harassment complaint against a colleague.

Denise Moehlman had accused the district attorney's office of retaliating against her after her complaint. Judge Robert Parkin ruled that her lawsuit was frivolous and ordered her to repay legal costs.

Parkin had dismissed the lawsuit Jan. 25, after hearing several days of testimony, saying that the district attorney's office and several officials within the office were immune from such a suit.

Moehlman, a deputy district attorney for 14 years, has appealed the dismissal. She said she also would appeal Monday's ruling on the fees. She said its effect would be to discourage the filing of sexual harassment complaints within the office.

Donna D. Melby, an outside counsel representing the district attorney's office, originally billed $159,000 in attorney's fees.

In a recent letter to Moehlman, Melby suggested that the demand for the fees would be put off for eight months if Moehlman agreed to resign as a deputy district attorney.

Both the judge and Melby said Monday that a settlement could still be reached, and Moehlman said after the hearing that it had been suggested to her privately that the fees might be dropped altogether if she agreed to quit. She said she has no intention of quitting.

Moehlman has claimed that after she complained nearly a decade ago about a colleague she was given poor performance ratings.

She said she had previously received outstanding ratings. The complaint said that the colleague, who is no longer with the office, had exposed himself to her.

Moehlman has not been promoted since 1995 and has said that most deputies with her length of service have moved up.

She also has contended that others in the office who complained about sexual harassment have suffered retaliation, while no substantive action has been taken on their complaints.

Steven Sowders, head deputy district attorney for employee relations, said Monday that he had no comment on the Moehlman case, other than to agree with the judge's decisions.

Moehlman is assigned to the Airport Branch Courthouse, where she performs a variety of tasks.

Parkin said Monday that, in his view, Moehlman had "made a sham of the proceedings" in the trial of her lawsuit and had wasted the time of high officials, including the former district attorney, Gil Garcetti.

Moehlman summoned Garcetti to testify but never called him to the witness stand.

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