Escondido school officials let an elementary student get kidnapped and taken across the border.
A Chula Vista high school discriminated against female athletes.
A Fallbrook IT director accused of hacking into emails was fired for following orders.
These are just a few of the claims San Diego County public schools have had to defend against in court in recent years. The cases resulted in sky-high legal bills.
And they share another commonality: The man who collected those legal bills is prolific attorney Dan Shinoff.
Shinoff, a partner at law firm Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, has managed to corner the school legal market in town for decades. Of the $38.7 million in total legal work doled out by a county schools group since July 1993, the firm has done $28.6 million of it – or a whopping 74 percent.
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I can't figure out how the shine is coming off Shinoff. It was due to slime and he still has as much as ever.
@anniej You bring up some very good points. Once decisions have been reached and settlements have been made, if nothing has been declared confidential, those terms should be part of the public record, and as such, made public.
When Sweetwater's Title IX lawsuit was underway, it did seem to drag on--but finally, when the decision was pronounced, it was a relief. (The school district had to pay up as the school in question did not support the girls' softball team in the manner that they supported the boys' baseball team). That decision was no surprise, in fact, it seemed odd that the district would even fight a lawsuit like that that "any first year law student could tell them they would lose". But yet--and yet--appeals were filed...and it dragged on and on and on. Prime example of someone milking the system. How much money was spent? Needlessly?
I would like to say that this law firm has never had the best interests of the schools in mind.
I currently live in Manhattan, NY but spent 32 years teaching in Poway Unified. I saw plenty from 1978-2010.
There are two issues it seems to me: If parents would stop suing the district over every perceived micro-aggression (everyone in class got a free pencil but my son didn't=lawsuit) the districts wouldn't have to have large law firms on retainer. Secondly, the districts themselves (like PUSD) do a lot of decision making in the proverbial cigar, smoke filled back rooms. They like to keep their dealings in the dark and they tell themselves they are working in the best interests of the kids and parents. They are not.
How many people can say (with any sense of certainty) that they know what their school boards are up to?
I agree that schools keep voters in the dark. Of course, they couldn't do this without the support of the teachers unions. Poway is ground zero for collusion between teachers and school officials. (The billion-dollar CAB bond deal is proof of this.) Voters have very little access to information about what is really going on in schools. But how many voters actually want to know what goes on in those back rooms?
It is great to behold the chipping away of the massive construct of Shinoff et al--this institutionalization of the diversion of public educational funds needs to end.
Again, imagine the good these funds would have done the students.
Those complicit need also to be brought forward for questioning.
@Bill Smith I am most definitely not a Shinoff-hater. Twenty years ago I would have called him a professional friend; we spent hours and hours working together in defense of he same client. But I have a problem today with any lawyer who shifts emphasis from finding a fair resolution to victory at all costs, especially if those costs are paid by others and a significant share of them go to the lawyer. The idea that the firm helped interview the JPA personnel who would send cases to the firm and approve billing reeks of self-dealing. Dan's handling of school district defense is no different than other lawyers' defense of other public entities defended by the firm, and in that respect I think the article is too limited and should include other partners. I think their ethics are flawed - not necessarily because of violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct - although I've watched their lawyers (not Shinoff) solicit testimony they knew their client would disagree with.
What I find MOST INTERESTING about this story is the fact that I am a Sweetwater taxpayer and I am learning the amount paid out in a FREAKING ON LINE NEWSPAPAER. I am quits sick of being told 'that is a Closed Session legal item and therefore can not be discussed
Excellent reporting Ashly. Thank you for looking into these issues that have troubled parents and teachers for quite some time.
I'd specifically like to know how much of our tax money my kids' Poway Unified School District has wasted filing lawsuits and using attorneys to create and escalate actions against students, parents and teachers that dare to raise concerns, file a complaint, point out incompetence and abuse of power, or ask for services for their children?
Your article is very well written Ms. McGlone. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to finding and exposing the truth about Mr. Shinoff and his law firm. The amount of money that Mr. Shinoff has taken from school districts is appalling. It is obvious this man cares solely about lining his pockets and the pockets of his firm, without regard to the children he is robbing. The money for activities, programs, supplies, etc, that could have been provided for or used by the children in the districts Dan Shinoff represents, instead went into his pocket and should be considered criminal. Dan Shinoff should be disgusted by his own greed and taxpayers should be disgusted by Mr. Shinoff's lack of moral fiber as he uses public finances, allocated for the education of children.
I am curious, why are you making this personal, Kathy S?
We know that Mr. Collins has his supporters, despite years of truly egregious behavior and decision-making. You are entitled to support Mr. Collins, but you need to understand that a great many people do not support Mr. Collins and those who have, for all intents and purposes, held Poway USD in a strangle-hold for years.
Face facts, that time is drawing to a close, and attacking those who are trying to get at the truth will only put you further into the forefront of the losing side. Are you opposed to truth being made public?
It might be time for you to realize the wrongs that have taken place at the hands of Mr. Collins, Mr. Shinoff, and all those who have been "in cahoots".
The public is aware, and to quote an old saying, "We are not amused". Yes, Mr. Garnier has been shut out--but that to me looks like the attempt of a corrupt few to maintain their power. Simple as that.
I spent more than 20 years working defense of civil liability claims, including public entity defense like Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz. Before the firm shifted almost entirely to public entity defense, I enjoyed working with their attorneys. They were calm, practical, and like many San Diego firms they put civility in civil law. But with their business shift they became hired pit bulls; on the offensive in every defense. Those suing their clients were subjected to meriless objections, and meritless defenses mixed with the practical and realistic. A partner at the firm told a judge that she had no idea what the basis of a lawsuit was, even though a half hour earlier we had discussed it. They solicit evidence contradicted by their client, not because they believe it to be true but because it's more mud on the wall. Many of the cases they won were evidence of systemic problems in local public entities. (E.g., Miramar College, for many years, didn't have a sex harassment investigation protocol; no one even knew what to do with a complaint.)
In my opinion, they represent the very worst of lawyers - a profession I have loved almost every day for 30 years. I only wish this article went beyond the JPA and Shinoff to note that it includes most of their public entity clients and two generations of lawyers they hired and trained.