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Court issues punishing sanctions to local attorney Cory Briggs

Local attorney Cory Briggs has been found by an appellate court to have not followed court orders.
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Local attorney Cory Briggs has been found by an appellate court to have not followed court orders and has been issued punishing sanctions according to inewsource.

Briggs was representing non-profit organization Creed21 (an organization he heads) in court against Wal-Mart. The court said Creed21 “willfully failed to obey” two court orders to produce one of its members.

According to the story, Briggs is accused of trying to recover court costs via his non-profits using big company funds.

“Attorneys for Wal-Mart alleged CREED-21 ‘was a shell corporation that Briggs used to recover attorney fees from large corporations.’ Lawyers who have faced Briggs in the past have echoed Wal-Mart’s concerns. The city of San Diego, in one case, argued the nonprofits existed to employ the Briggs Law Corp.”

This isn't the first time Briggs has faced criticisms for questionable business practices.  

"Briggs is well-known throughout Southern California for filing hundreds of environmental or open-government lawsuits against local cities, agencies and developers.

Although he has a reputation as a champion of the little guy and a transparency advocate, some of Briggs’ most litigious clients are nonprofits created and controlled almost entirely by his firm – the Briggs Law Corp."

San Diego Attorney Charles Bird says the court's decision to hand down "terminating sanctions" on Briggs sets a precedent, “This case is a piece of evidence that’s going to get cited in other cases,” said Bird “by people who think that Cory doesn’t really have clients.”

Another well-known case involving Briggs involved him and the City of San Diego in which The Briggs Law Corp consistently "blocked any attempt” by the city to discover client information, according to court documents.

San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG), a nonprofit controlled and paid for by Briggs, sued the city of San Diego in a five-year-long case that challenged the renewal of the city’sTourism Marketing District, which collects money from motels and hotels for initiatives that will attract visitors to the city.

During the case, the city and the marketing district tried to discover whether Briggs’ client, SDOG, “had any member who had paid, or was obligated to pay,” the assessment the lawsuit challenged.

Briggs' office, according to the report said they couldn't respond to the request because "His paralegal’s grandmother’s had to undergo emergency surgery, his associate’s aunt passed away, and his parents’ house “exploded, caught fire, and was rendered uninhabitable – all simultaneously.”

Eventually, the Tourism Marketing District won the case against the SDOC, but the SDOC said they couldn't pay the court ordered monetary damages because the non-profit had no money. 

Going further, inewsource delved more into Briggs and his non-profits finding that he had sent a letter to the mayor and city council of Rohnert Park in Northern California urging them to "not to approve a community facilities district, which can impose special taxes, 'on behalf of my clients.'"

California Voter-Taxpayer Protection Organization and California Taxpayers Action Network were the clients mentioned in the letter, both non-profits headed by Briggs. 

The question of Briggs' legal practices may be a moot point now that the Wal-Mart and Creed21 case has been terminated of which Briggs appealed and lost. 

The 4th District ruled, in an unpublished opinion, that the lower court’s sanction “did not constitute an arbitrary or capricious action” based on Briggs and his co-counsel’s “entire record of the discovery abuses.”

However, several organizations wanted the opinion published, saying the published opinion could curb other Briggs lawsuits in the future. The appeals court eventually changed its mind. 

An attorney for Gresham Savage Nolan & Tilden, a Southern California environmental and land-use law firm, also urged publication to clarify California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) law. 

“We have seen numerous CEQA actions filed for what we suspect are anti-competitive or ‘for profit’, economic interests,” the lawyer wrote. “However, CEQA is not intended to serve as a medium for these types of lawsuits.”

For three years inewsource investigated Briggs and eventually found themselves in a lawsuit with SDOG, Briggs' non-profit. 

inewsource won the case at the Superior Court. SDOG appealed and lost again at the appellate court level, with a three-judge panel agreeing that the lawsuit was an attempt to curtail free speech rights.

The case is pending before the state Supreme Court.

You can read the full article at inewsource by clicking HERE