Ross Mirkarimi has joined the ranks of celebrities with the latest addition to his legal team.
High-profile Los Angeles attorney Shepard Kopp, who previously represented celebrities Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, has signed on to help defend the suspended sheriff in his bid to overturn his ouster by Mayor Ed Lee.
Kopp — the son of Quentin Kopp, a retired San Mateo County judge, former state senator and San Francisco supervisor — said Monday that he was hired by Mirkarimi to assist attorney David Waggoner on Mirkarimi’s court challenge to his suspension, and on his hearing before the Ethics Commission on official misconduct charges. Both hearings are scheduled to take place later this month.
Kopp cited his interest in politics, and his belief that the mayor “is abusing his power to remove public officials” as his reasons for working to help represent Mirkarimi. He would not say whether he approached Mirkarimi or vice-versa, or if he was doing the work pro bono.
“We’ve been talking over the last couple of weeks, and just made the decision recently that I should come on board,” Kopp told The San Francisco Examiner in a phone interview. “I just think that there is a tremendous miscarriage of justice that is in the works here, and I don’t like it.”
“I think that the law is clear” about what official misconduct means, Kopp said. “Primarily it has to mean conduct that occurs when you’re in office.”
Mirkarimi has pleaded guilty to false imprisonment in connection with a domestic violence incident against his wife on New Year’s Eve, about a week before he was sworn in as sheriff. Lee suspended him without pay on March 21.
Kopp, a former associate of attorney Mark Geragos, represented Jackson in a 2003 case in Santa Barbara County in which the singer was accused of lewd acts on a child; Gibson in his infamous 2006 DUI case when the actor was accused of making an anti-Semitic rant; and Ryder on her 2001 shoplifting case. He helped represent Scott Peterson, of Modesto, who was later convicted of the 2002 slaying of his wife, Laci, and unborn child.
Kopp also represented San Jose brothers Kulbir and Amritpal Dhaliwal, who were mauled by an escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo in 2007, in their lawsuit against The City that resulted in a settlement.
Last August, Kopp won an acquittal for a Los Angeles superior court judge who had been accused of felony bribery for allegedly offering money to a campaign rival to drop out of a 2008 election for the judge’s seat.
LA-based lawyer Shepard Kopp has played a role in many famous cases.
- Michael Jackson in child molestation case
- Stanley Howse, aka “Flesh-N-Bone” of the band Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony on a three-strikes case
- Comedian/actor Russell Brand for alleged battery on a paparazzi photographer
- Scott Peterson in double-murder case
- Hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs
- Rappers Nate Dogg and Loon
- Winona Ryder in shoplifiting case
Source: Law Offices of Shepard Kopp
Attorneys for The City on Monday disputed Ross Mirkarimi’s claim that he should be reinstated as sheriff because his misconduct occurred before he assumed office, arguing that if that were the case, he could have been robbing banks or mugging old ladies pre-inauguration with impunity.
Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor false imprisonment of his wife during a New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident and was suspended by the mayor without pay on March 21. Mirkarimi’s attorneys have challenged the suspension, arguing mainly that Mirkarimi wasn’t inaugurated until Jan. 8 and thus can’t be held accountable for official misconduct under the city charter.
The City Attorney’s Office responded Monday in a 33-page court filing that there was “no legal authority whatsoever” for Mirkarimi’s “novel proposition that the oath of office wiped his slate clean of alleged misconduct that had happened just days (not even weeks) earlier.”
That would constitute a period of “complete immunity” for public officials, such as the sheriff-elect, “to commit any kind of reprehensible act” between their election and oath of office, attorneys for The City said.
“Public officials could rob banks, steal cars, or mug old ladies, and no one, not even the voters, could do anything about it,” they wrote.
The filing also covered several other arguments Mirkarimi’s team made in its court filing.
A hearing before a superior court judge is scheduled for April 20.
A separate hearing on Mirkarimi’s official misconduct charge is set to begin at the Ethics Commission on April 23, after which the Board of Supervisors could ultimately decide to permanently remove him.
Correction: This article was corrected on April 11, 2012. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Shepard Kopp represented Mel Gibson in a DUI case. Kopp was just a commentator on the case.