Billionaire David Geffen may have settled his legal dispute with the California Coastal Commission, but his neighbors plan to continue fighting against the state's plans for public access to their Malibu beach.
John and Mary Ann Heidt, heirs to the late big-band leader Horace Heidt whose ensemble performed 1930s and 1940s hits including "Gone With the Wind," "The Man With the Mandolin" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas" lost a ruling last month in their appeal to intervene in Geffen's three-year suit against the commission and the California Coastal Conservancy.
In 2002, the state agencies opted to open the beach to the public through a 9-foot-wide easement near Geffen's home. They claimed they had a right to do this under a provision that Geffen, a record producer, signed while obtaining a 1983 permit to improve his Malibu property.
After amending his suit six times, Geffen agreed to settle the dispute last month. As part of the settlement, he handed over the keys to the wooden gate blocking the beach and agreed to pay $300,000 in attorneys' fees to the commission and California Coastal Conservancy. Access for All, a non-profit organization that he also sued, plans to manage the beach once it's made public.
In the meantime, the Heidts have attempted to intervene in Geffen's suit because they own the adjacent property.
"It is right next door," said Dean Dennis, a partner at Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP, who represents the Heidts. "But he's got a large fence all along the side of his house. And on the other side of the access-way, it's open and exposed to the Heidts' front porch."
He said the Heidts, who did not sign the same provision allowing public access to their property, are concerned the beach would not have facilities such as lifeguards, restrooms or parking, and that the state's plans did not involve public hearings.
But Daniel Olivas, deputy attorney general for the California Department of Justice, which represents the commission and conservancy, said that neighbors should not be allowed to step into Malibu beach-access cases.
"No other neighbors have attempted to intervene," he said. "They (the Heidts) attempted to intervene at various points within the litigation at three different times and were not allowed to."
On April 27, a three-judge panel of the 2nd Appellate District ruled in a split opinion against the Heidts, stating that the Heidts "and Geffen have identical interests in preventing members of the public from accessing areas adjacent to their properties. And the Heidts have not claimed that Geffen has failed to pursue any available legal theory in this regard."
Dennis said he plans to seek a re-hearing from the appellate court or possibly file a separate suit against the state agencies.
Three partners at Brown Winfield & Canzoneri Inc. joined Wickwire Gavin LLP's Los Angeles office last month.
Nowland Hong, Michael Simon and Michael Mullins have joined the firm as partners. Hong was an assistant Los Angeles city attorney serving as the chief counsel of the Port of Los Angeles before becoming a private-practice attorney in 1973. Simon has defended the county and city of Los Angeles from contractor claims. Mullins represents public entities in contracts, taxation, franchise agreements and pension plans.
The additions boost the Los Angeles office of Wickwire Gavin to 11. Previously, the firm, which is based in Tysons Corner, Va., only had four partners in its local office. Los Angeles-based Brown Winfield's local office is now staffed with 33 lawyers, including 17 partners.
This and That
Howrey Simon Arnold & White LLP officially changed its name this month to Howrey LLP. The firm was known as Howrey & Simon before merging with Arnold White & Durkee in 2000. The Washington D.C.-based firm has more than 60 lawyers in its Los Angeles office... Irell & Manella LLP hired entertainment lawyer Stephen Saltzman to be a partner in its entertainment transactional group. He joins 12 lawyers who practice entertainment at the Los Angeles firm. Saltzman, a former partner in the entertainment practice group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, represents foreign studios and financial institutions in Hollywood deals. His clients also include Mark Burnett Productions and Paramount Pictures Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan LLP has hired a new chief operating officer of the Santa Monica-based firm. Richard Jones, formerly with Reed Smith LLP, specializes in budgeting, acquisitions and mergers, practice group management and technology programs. He replaced Dana Ellis, who relocated to Cincinnati to become the director of recruiting at Fifth Third Bank.
*Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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