Cory Briggs, the attorney who helped end the political career of Bob Filner, wants to stop a lot of other things in San Diego, too.
Like an expansion of the city’s Convention Center. And a half-dozen new neighborhood libraries and refurbished fire stations. And even a Jack in the Box drive-thru in North Park. All told, Briggs’ lawsuits are tying up more than $2 billion in projects across San Diego. No one paralyzes City Hall’s ability to do anything more than him, City Councilman Scott Sherman said.
“People are just scared to death Cory Briggs is going to sue over something,” Sherman said.
In fact, Briggs instills the same fear in politicians and developers all across Southern California. No attorney sues under the state’s main environmental quality law more than him.
These lawsuits all tend to follow a formula: A local City Council approves a big-box development, like a Wal-Mart. A nonprofit with a watchdoggy name sues, with Briggs as its attorney. The developer settles the case and pays Briggs for his trouble. It’s often unclear who is against the project other than Briggs himself.
To Briggs, a 45-year-old who grew up in San Bernardino County, this relentless string of court cases has made countless developments in California better for the environment. Solar panels gleam from the roofs of Wal-Marts and hundreds of new trees have been planted because of his lawsuits.
Support Independent Journalism Today
I am hearing a lot of grumbling from so-called capitalists...everything B is doing is legal and within the law. So whoever says it's extortion- you are way out of line. I agree- if the projects were so great, the developers would not be settling. Period. They try to squeeze development onto every square inch to maximize their profits without much sensitivity to the environment rules/regs and neighborhoods.
CEQA lawsuits- It's a competitive market; he's good at what he does. I wish I could have that house overlooking the Pacific too. :)
If you all wanna get rid of Cory get rid of CREED21 his phony non-prof that files all these bogus lawsuits. He works for housing developers especially "affordable housing" developers. Get rid of all the bogus AH requirements and no one will pay him to file these bogus suits
How about totaling how much money he has made in the last decade as the ultimate CEQA ambulance chaser and job killer? The Convention Center expansion would be a good place to start. How many thousands of jobs were envisioned during construction and then in operation? Then, for the long term, how much income will be lost to the city from not having the expanded center and the ability to grow our convention business? The ripple effect is substantial, with lost hotel and restaurant jobs, service industry jobs, sales taxes and occupancy taxes to the city, to name a few. And if he is so concerned about environmental issues, he should encourage the development of more facilities that support tourism -- a clean industry with significant benefits to the region. As a native San Diegan, I find it incredibly sad that our system allows such a destructive, negative force to prosper at the expense of so many others.
How much money will Brigg$ extort from the city for this effort? If he is such a wonderful guardian of the taxpaying citizens of the city he should not be extorting the city for legal expenses. I'm not sorry to see this financing scheme go down in flames, but I am outraged to see that this guy is making his fortune through legalized extortion.
@DanielPJett: Still arriving late to the party, Jett? :-) How are you doing? Let's catch up soon.
@corybriggs I was merely trying to google a local business ('Philner'), & this popped up in my feed! I don't subscribe to the local SD rags.
@DanielPJett: Neither do I. :-)
if these developers were sure of their success in court, they would not settle. sounds like someone is doing something wrong, no?
I can imagine Cory Briggs has taken up some good causes over the years but it appears he doesn't need a good cause to file a suit. From what I have heard I would believe he knows how to manufacture a group to act as a client convincing those who are looking to be convinced that a cause exists when there is money to be made. Not illegal but not entirely ethical in my opinion. I am unlucky enough to deal with environmental regulations that were probably for the most part developed with good intentions but evolved into ridiculous obstacle courses that do nothing but waste time, paper and resources with very little or no benefit. A lot of these obstacle courses were developed due to similar lawsuits and supported by individuals or groups with good intentions but no working knowledge of the issues.
After reading all the redundant comments below, I think it's fair to say, "Thank you to Cory Briggs!" I was not a follower of Mr. Briggs in the Bob Filner ouster, but, all of a sudden I am. If Mr. Briggs is working to sustain our environment and hold big corporations responsible, then I applaud him. Keep up the good work, Mr. Briggs! Hold our feet to the fire in the name of making this planet safer and better for future generations! If you make some money doing it for the good of the planet, do it! Plenty of others are making billions as they destroy the planet bit by bit!
@CasualBrasuell More evidence that too much planning happens outside the reach of planners and broad stakeholders
Enough idle bickering, people. Cory Briggs: Please detail the environmental/sustainable practices and infrastructure you implement in your own home. Now.
Some local politicians, political appointees and some real estate developers hate Mr. Briggs because he keeps them honest and makes them comply with the law, things they are not naturally inclined to be or do.
San Diego needs more attorneys with the courage and honesty of Cory Briggs.
Really? Please scroll down and read my earlier comment detailing our experience with Mr. Briggs.
How can one individual hold an entire city like San Diego hostage? Surely there has to be a way to decommission a public enemy like this one. Thinking of all the good works that this guy has derailed brings tears to my eyes.
What would New York or Chicago do to a guy like this?
@Jim Jones If Briggs helped the community craft a climate change plan, then Briggs helped the community. That's what you asked for, something that Briggs did for the community.
Mr. Jones: I'm befuddled by your challenge to, "point out a specific instance of Briggs doing something good for our community as a whole." I had the impression that Tea Party folks like yourself are proponents of small government, opponents of government facilitated corruption, and generally of the belief that increases in government programs and services should go to a vote. It appears from the following that is much of what Mr. Briggs is involved in. As well, there is a specific example of returning funds to the public coffers that were apparently purloined through corruption.
The Southwestern case would not have ended as it did, and the district would have received nothing, without SDOG's lawsuit. At least one member of the district's board has said so publicly. In fact, the settlement will not only net the district nearly $540k, but it resulted in contractors dropping their own suits against the district for far more--with no more money paid out to the contractors by the district.
A legal settlement with a Briggs-affiliated nonprofit made a Wal-Mart in San Bernardino use more solar energy and recycle its fixtures and cardboard. Another settlement required a Dr. Pepper bottling plant in Victorville to rely on renewable energy to power the facility. A third forced a Target in Murrieta to plant 500 trees to offset greenhouse gases it produced.
A "nuisance law suit generator?" One person's nuisance is another person's vital issue. I'm guessing you're not an environmentalist considering the party line you are always parroting.
@Jim Jones Are you prepared to provide proof that the cost of climate change is exactly zero?
What part are you disagreeing with?
Your unnamed sources are mistaken. The total to be returned to the district is $642k roughly, with $100k going to my firm. The settlement hd to be approved by a judge, who concluded that it was reasonable. As I understand it, all money must be used to pay back the bonds from which the funds originally came.
Civil lawsuits do not usually punish, and this one did not. If you do not like the consequences for the bribers, you should talk to the DA's office.
@Jim Jones You claimed that "Climate change plans are just another burden on the taxpayer". In order to prove that statement, you must provide proof that the cost of mitigating climate change is greater than the cost of climate change. Are you prepared to defend your statement?
@Jim Jones Just another burden on the taxpayer like clean air rules, clean water rules, handling society's wastes. Yea, just burdens, no real benefits.
We filed our suits after the criminal charges were filed, and my office and the DA's office never even spoke about the case.
You should also read the indictments and pleas: nobody was required to repay a penny to the district. That call was made 100% without my input.
The taxpayers will get more than $540k back as a result of the civil suit.
My opinion of the San Diego judges before whom I appear is actully quite high. That's one of the reasons I am happy to take my client's cases to a court of law rather than the court of public opinion.
@Jim Jones @Cory Briggs The people who were bribed were gone long before the settlement was proposed/approved. I have no information about any current Southwestern trustee having accepted a bribe. The ones I know are clean.
What (realistic) alternative do you think should have been pursued? Happy to do better the next time....
@Jim Jones @Geoff Page Although you prefaced this with "Derek" it appears this was directed to me. How are plans to mitigate climate change any different from the clean air and clean water regulations and efforts over the years that have produced real results? And, if anyone had asked to be shown how the clean air and clean water regulations provided any benefits in the first few years after they went into effect, they would have been deemed a little slow.
It took a long time to mess up the air and water and it has taken a long time to make improvements. It will take a long time to measure the effects of these climate efforts, I wouldn't expect to have to explain that to anyone as mature - in years - as you are. But, for people who only care about their own life spans, the lack of an immediate gain is reason enough not to try.
Thanks for making clear that you really do not know what you're talking about. On behalf of unions? You mean the beneficiaries of the San Diego and Anaheim convention center expansions that my clients and I are fighting? Yeah, I'm definitely lock-step with them.
Waiting for the criminal case to end? You apparently don't know what the statute of limitations is.
If you have problems with the criminal penalties, call the DA; my clients and I will join you on the call. If you have problems with the rules governing taxpayer/citizen suits and the limited relief they afford the public, call your legislators; again, my clients and I will join you on the call. But if you have problems with accepting something substantial for certain (both money returned and other monetary claims against the district put to rest) rather than litigating for years just hoping to recover everything--if you don't think a bird in the hand beats two in the bush--then feel free to hire a lawyer and pick up the tab yourself. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but second-guessing by people who don't know all the facts and have no skin in the game is hard to take seriously.
@Jim Jones I think you should spend more time reading and less time typing. No person with a measurable IQ who does not live in a cave can deny that man has had an effect on climate. As for your last paragraph, I'm guessing you're never the first one to get up and dance. And, using your logic, I guess voting is a waste of time too. Things are accomplished by little steps all the time.
And don't talk about politicians. The ones who need to appeal to a base that believes in climate change will do so just as readily as the ones who need to appeal to the base you are part of will say climate change is a myth.
Where do you get your statistics that the followers tend to be young? You constantly throw out "information" as facts that you never support. Let me guess "sloppy thinkers" indoctrinated by right-wing media bias.
Whose time is wasted by little steps? If it isn't yours, why be critical. Every construction project I have ever been a part of consisted of a series of hundreds or thousands of little steps, that's how progress is made. What resources are being wasted, how about some actual specifics for a change?
Why is it people like you are always suspicious that someone's motive is always money. Oh, right, I've already provided you a quote on that one.
@Cory Briggs I like the part where Jim Jomes says Cory Briggs is supported by labor unions, and then Cory Briggs points out the fact that union workers would benefit from the convention center plans he is fighting.
@Jim Jones Ouch, that hurt, I've been marginalized by someone on the margin. What "past experience" are you referring to Mr. Jones? Are you saying that belief in global warming is only some kind of blind faith and has no scientific support. Wrong again. And, don't attribute any "apocalyptic, end of the world beliefs" to me because I've never said anything remotely like that. What I do believe is that climate change will bring about some serious changes we will all have to deal with.
Ask the people of the Maldives what they think.
Here is a link to a very reasonable opinion piece you should look at. I realize it comes from the dreaded LA Times but hold your nose and give it a read.
My favorite part was:
"If climate change isn't man-made, does that mean there's no reason to try to counter its effects? Noah's flood wasn't man-made, but he still spent the money (or at least the timber) to build an ark."
@Jim Jones Here is another opinion piece about the issue that is very reasonable, unfortunately also in the LA Times, but it speaks to what the politicians are doing with the issue:
@Jim Jones It seems the only example you can come up with of Briggs being harmful is when he acts as a watchdog to ensure the law gets enforced.
@Jim Jones "On top of the $215,000 in attorney’s fees he pocketed in the case, the settlement also required Chino to develop a plan to address climate change. Briggs helped put that plan together."
Your turn. Point out a specific instance of Briggs doing something harmful for the community. Acting as a watchdog doesn't count.
@Jim Jones how does a Wal-Mart benefit a community?
@Jim Jones "Climate change plans are just another burden on the taxpayer, they benefit small special interests and politicians that pander to the foolish at a cost to and impact to the greater good."
___________ are just another burden on the taxpayer, they benefit small special interests and politicians that pander to the foolish at a cost to and impact to the greater good.
you could insert just about any business into the blank...
Excellent piece Liam....
Unfortunately to many of the major developers in this city are like the historic plague of locusts. It takes someone like Cory Briggs to represent the best interests of the general public against those who care less about sustainability and are all for taking the money and running.
@Jim Jones Perhaps you should take the time to actually read the article you are commenting on, Mr. Jones, the answer is in there.
I don't think Liam was trying to make the case that the world is better off because of the work I've done. As the title/sub-title make clear, it is a story about how I make (part of) my living. I did not choose the topic or solicit the piece. I participated because, in my experience, doing so results in fewer mistakes--which matters given how easily people are willing to believe what they read in the press.
That said, I know of no case in which my firm accepted money to drop a public-interest case. I hear that claim a lot, and I think it's just an easy way for those who dislike me and/or what I do to be dismissive. But I admit that I smile when I hear my opponents parrot that line because it usually means they haven't done their homework; in my line of work, it is usually helpful to face misinformed opponents.
Here's the bottom line for San Diego: my firm wins more often than it loses (my record is better under Goldsmith than it was under Aguirre), frequently there is a settlement by which the city agrees to do X or stop doing Y, and in most cases involving developers or businesses the city pays nothing to my firm for attorney fees because the other defendants must indemnify the city.
The other thing folks should note is that, 90 percent of the time, my firm must tell the city what it's doing wrong before suing; not doing so is usually fatal. The problem with our city is that the leaders dismiss the message because of the messenger, and more often than not the judge agrees with my client. I am happy to hear constructive criticism, but the deaf politicians also deserve to hear from taxpayers concerned about legal costs that could easily be avoided. If politicians were spending their own money, they would opt for ad hominem attacks less frequently.
You haven't answered my question regarding the $142,810 in settlements made payable for the benefit of your cousin, Karin Langwasser, rather than to your "clients" SDOG and CREED. Please explain.
I am not planning to do so. Your facts are wrong. Pull the court file if you want to know what happened.
@Cory Briggs I have copies of the checks. Document #5700724531 San Diegans for Open Government: Payment of Judgement for Attorney fees relating to Tijuana River and Smuggler's Gulch Maintenance Project. Court judgement is in file. $1o7,100.00 check #0001267797 Payable to Briggs Law Corp Trust Account FBO Karin Langwasser. Whatever did your cousin have to do with that?
Go read the court papers. Ask the city to explain. When you do research, it is good to trace all the facts and not just pick the ones that suit your preconceived hypothesis.