The attorney representing plaintiffs in a case against the county and Archstone Smith Operating Trust — lessee of the Kingswood Garden parcel in Marina del Rey — wants a change of venue because the attorney claims his clients can’t receive a fair trial from Superior Court judges who receive payments from the county, one of the lawsuit defendants.

The suit concerns alleged excessive rent increases and other tenant issues at Kingswood Village.

Attorney Richard Fine wants the Kingswood Village case moved to San Francisco.

Fine represents two Marina del Rey groups — the Coalition to Save the Marina and the Marina Tenants Association — and three individuals in the case against the county, Archstone Smith Operating Trust and Kingswood Village Apartments-Marina del Rey.

Fine says that two judges who received the case did not disqualify themselves from hearing a case where the judges received money from the county, one of the defendants. Fine says he is concerned about whether his clients can receive a fair trial from the judges.

Fine wants the case heard in San Francisco because San Francisco is one of two counties in the state where Superior Court judges don’t receive extra funding from a county.

Fine says the County of Los Angeles pays Los Angeles Superior Court judges approximately $36,000 each per year in excess of state-paid salaries — or 26 percent of their salaries. The attorney alleges it would be impossible to receive a fair hearing with such “conflict of interest.”

Fine claims that his effort to take a lawsuit away from judges who are partially paid by defendants such as counties will affect nearly every citizen in California, since almost every county pays money to judges in its county above their state salaries.

The case doesn’t seek to stop those payments. His clients only seek a “fair trial” before a judge who is not receiving monies from the “other side” during the litigation, Fine said.

Fine said he received a letter Tuesday, August 3rd, from the county auditor-controller, showing county payments between January and July 31st for two judges for “professional development” of $3,612 each, and “flex earnings” of $14,496.58 and $13,107.08 respectively.

Fine claims that the county wants the court to accept that the county is different from other litigants and that paying money to judges does not prejudice these judges when they consider cases where the county is a defendant.

Fine alleges that “the taking of these monies and not disclosing by the Los Angeles Superior Court judges in cases where the county is a party is a violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics Cannons.”

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