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Andrew Guilford and Michael P. Brown Are Two Angry Men

[Moxley Confidential] Federal judge and plaintiffs' lawyer battle in county government retiree benefits case

I attended the showdown hearing and saw a peeved judge and an equally peeved lawyer. Guilford did not accept responsibility for any delays. He admitted he found Brown "superb in oral argument," but he was troubled by the lawyer's attitude and conduct: filing an avalanche of unnecessary papers; sending an obnoxious email to his clerk; and calling the county's retained lawyers, including Jennifer L. Nock, "third rate" and their arguments "idiotic."

The suggestion that likely unnerved the judge the most, however, was casting him as a snotty elitist. "In my years as a judge, no case of the hundreds of cases I have had has had a bigger impact on me than this case," Guilford said. "I take the claims made by the plaintiff in this case extremely seriously. . . . I feel impelled to state that my great-grandfather came to this country as a janitor. . . . My father was a bus mechanic. . . . From personal experience, I am very aware of the challenges of people like my father to provide for their families, to provide insurance. . . . I want to make that clear. . . . I swore to uphold the law, and I'm doing my best here to uphold the law."

Guilford declined to recuse himself; his colleague, James V. Selna, backed the decision. "Even if [Guilford's] remarks evidenced annoyance, dissatisfaction or even anger, it is clear that those remarks were directed to counsel and the innuendo that the judge was uncaring and callous," Selna declared. "A reasonable person would not conclude [Guilford] was biased [in the case]."

Bob Aul

Details

On June 6, Guilford formally ended the lawsuit, declaring that the plaintiffs "recover nothing." But the war might not be over. Upset that death has depleted the class-action pool by 4,000 people during five years of litigation, a relentless Brown is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to quickly overturn Guilford's ruling.

This article appeared in print as "Two Angry Men: Federal judge and plaintiffs’ lawyer battle in county government retiree benefits case."

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