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Deputy prosecutors sue L.A. County over alleged union retaliation

Lawsuit alleges the county and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley punished deputy district attorneys for unionizing last year, in some cases transferring veteran prosecutors to low-level assignments.

November 02, 2009|Robert Faturechi

A union representing deputy district attorneys filed a lawsuit last week against Los Angeles County and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley alleging the department's senior managers retaliated against employees for unionizing last year.

The complaint accuses Los Angeles County's top law enforcer of using "19th century thuggery commonly employed against union organizers," including punitive work transfers.

The Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, which began representing about 1,000 Los Angeles County prosecutors in March 2008, is currently in the midst of contract negotiations with the district attorney's office and the county.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that managers transferred senior union officials to juvenile courts -- usually reserved for attorneys starting their careers -- to lengthen their commutes from home. The union alleges managers called the retaliatory practice "freeway therapy."

The complaint also accuses the department of helping cook up evidence that a heterosexual union board member took part "in homosexual conduct."

Response to the suit from Cooley and county counsel was not available Friday.

Marc Debbaudt, a deputy district attorney and union vice president, alleged he was transferred to juvenile courts after 19 years in the department because he is an active member of the union.

"I'm not being punished because I've not done my job or I'm slacking," he said.

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robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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