center. There were a number of business
tenants and art galleries that were there
that we needed to acquire their properties
and relocate their businesses.
One of the tenants was a gentleman
named Tom Patchett, who was the
original co-creator of the TV show ALF.
He’s a very outgoing and charismatic
gentleman, but he made a very, very
significant claim for his art business—I
think well over $10 million to relocate him.
I handled the property acquisition, and
dealing with the valuation components.
We ended up filing a number of legal
issues motions and trying to exclude all
of his valuation experts. We dealt with
all that, and ultimately got a successful
decision from the court. A big victory for
Q: How is valuation ultimately
A: Both sides will typically hire a number of
experts—a real estate appraiser, a planning
expert, a parking expert—and attorneys
figure out ways to make their own expert
look good and take down the other side’s
expert; then they try to negotiate a deal. If
they can’t, you go to trial.
Q: How often do you go to trial?
A: Probably 95 percent of litigation
matters settle. With eminent domain, you
potentially have a greater percentage of
matters that go to trial because liability is
not an issue. You’re strictly dealing with
valuation components. Is it worth this or
this, or is it worth somewhere in between?
Q: Who determines: judge or jury?
A: Usually a jury will determine
compensation. From the agency side, it’s a
tough position to be in, because there is a
dislike of eminent domain. You’re already
starting at a disadvantage.
Q: How do you overcome that
A: I try to be sensitive to the issues. I
Q: Interesting. Has anyone on the other
emphasize that we need infrastructure
improvements. People are sitting in traffic
every single day. It’s a nightmare. Nobody
likes to deal with that, and it’s essentially
impossible to get these projects going
without using eminent domain. I try to
portray the picture that the reason we’ve
made it this far and a jury’s determining
something isn’t because the public agency’s
being unreasonable; it’s usually because the
property owner is becoming too greedy. At
the end of the day—and you can’t necessarily
say this—but you, the jury, these are your tax
dollars, these are your public monies that are
being spent. We’re trying to spend that wisely.
side ever asked for a change of venue
because the jury has an economic
interest in the outcome?
A: It happens very rarely. There are a few
exceptions that would allow you to kick it
to a different venue. Usually not. I mean,
from the other side of the perspective,
if you’re the property owner, you are a
citizen, you are a taxpayer, and you are
essentially one among your peers. You
want the people to be able to relate to
you and understand you.
Q: What generally happens in these
cases? Which figure does the jury pick?
A: A typical result when you’re dealing with
complex valuation issues is the jury throws
their hands in the air and splits the baby.
Is this stuff boring you yet? I’ve looked at
some of your other interviews and I’m like,
“Oh man, I’m going to be boring.” And I
know you’re a movie critic, too. I’m thinking,
“Oh God, the last five movies I’ve seen have
been kids movies.”
Q: Actually, now that you bring up kids
movies, I’m curious: Isn’t Up, the Pixar
movie about the old man and his house ...
Q: You’re the villain in that.
A: We’re the big bad government.
Q: Have your kids seen the movie? “This
is what daddy does.”
A: I’m going to portray it in a much better
light. Daddy is the one who’s helping build
these exciting new transportation projects
so you don’t sit in bumper-to-bumper
traffic when you want to go to Disneyland.
Q: You’re 34, and a young-looking 34.
Has that ever been a hindrance?
A: All the time. And I don’t blame people.
If I was hiring an attorney to handle a big
case or something really important to me,
I’d want somebody that has years and
years of experience, and has the gray hairs.
Q: How do you overcome it?
A: In years past, I would try to formulate
and sell a team around me, and make
sure that if I’m [meeting a potential client],
I bring a colleague along so there’s at
least more of a comfort factor. There’s
somebody with me that has the gray hair,
the years of experience. Now I’m more
comfortable in my own skin, I guess. I have
the experience now; I think my reputation
speaks for itself.
Q: What drew you to the law?
A: My father was an attorney. He did
plaintiff’s personal injury work. I worked
at his law firm growing up: doing little
stuff like filing and storage down in the
basement. Then [in law school] I started
handling discovery for him and updating
all his practice guides. It just drew me in.
Q: Did he give you any advice about
going into law?
A: Yes: “Don’t do it.”
A: He was a solo practitioner but he had a
relatively decent-sized office to support. I
think it was a lot of stress and pressure on
him. But now he’s a full-time mediator at
Judicate West, and he completely loves it.
Q: When do they cut the ribbon for Expo
A: Sometime in the next year.
Q: Will you be there?
A: I will. I don’t know if I fall into the
technical category of the millennial or not,
but I think more and more people are going
to be looking for transit options other than
cars. I’m all for it if I can make it work in a
way that saves me time.
This interview has been edited and condensed.