California Lawyers Union Sues to Void State Use of Outside Firms

According to a complaint filed Wednesday by the union representing prosecutors, the California Department of Civil Rights violated state contract law when it outsourced legal services for two high-profile discrimination lawsuits.

The union — California attorneys, administrative justice judges and hearing officers in state employment relationships — said the civil liberties division wrongly charged Olivier & Schreiber LLP and Outten & Golden LLP to handle workplace discrimination cases against video game companies Activision Blizzard Inc. and Riot Games when the department should have relied on its own attorneys.

Activision makes the popular World of Warcraft game.

The State Personnel Board agreed with the Department’s decision to approve these contracts and upheld that decision after the union appealed. The board erred in its decision, the union said in its complaint filed in a Sacramento state court.

“CASE and its members have been irreparably harmed by the Board’s decision to authorize the outsourcing of legal work that could and should be performed by CASE members, who are ordinary California Public Service Attorneys,” the statement said Claim.

The Civil Rights Department, then known as the Department of Fair Housing and Employment, sued Riot Games in 2020 on behalf of female employees who said they suffered sexual harassment, unequal pay, and other forms of gender bias. Three years later, the agency pursued Activision for similar allegations.

The agency hired the two firms because public sector attorneys faced potential conflicts of interest in each of the video game company’s lawsuits, according to the Civil Rights Authority.

Attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General, which provides attorneys to the Department of Civil Rights, had been representing the state correctional agency in a court hearing before the Department of Fair Employment at the time of Riot Games’ intervention.

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In the Activision case, prosecutors faced potential conflict because of their previous work with the Federal Commission on Equal Opportunity.

Neither the State Staff Council nor the two law firms could be reached for comment on Thursday. Fahizah Alim, deputy communications director for the civil rights department, said the department could comment after reviewing the lawsuit.

The case is California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment vs. California State Personnel Board, Cal. Great. Ct., 34-2022-80004047, 11/9/22.