Last spring, City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto told the Buzz she was ending the city’s longtime, and very popular, Neighborhood Prosecutor program, which helped connect community-based prosecutors from the City Attorney’s office to neighbors who needed assistance with things like party houses, abandoned buildings, and more. At the time, Feldstein Soto told the Buzz that the move didn’t mean she was cutting the close ties between her office and communities that need its assistance, but simply restructuring the way the City Attorney’s office uses its prosecutorial staff and connects with the community at a grass-roots level.
At the time, there was no directly analogous replacement program, but on October 3, Feldstein Soto announced the launch of a new legal division of the City Attorney’s office – the Community Law Corps – which will now handle the kinds of issues that were formerly handled by the Neighborhood Prosecutors.
According to the initial announcement, and similar to the old Neighborhood Prosecutor program, “The CLC will serve as the first point of contact for community stakeholders to the City Attorney’s office and help bring our legal resources to bear to collaborate with Council Offices, city departments, government agencies and law enforcement partners to identify and resolve challenging legal issues faced by many Los Angeles neighborhoods, such as blighted properties and chronic nuisance activity.”
But there are also some significant differences in the new program.
For example, Feldstein Soto said last spring that one problem with the old Neighborhood Prosecutor program, as well-liked and much-used as it was, was that it required city prosecutors to do things like attend community meetings, handle initial phone calls and research, and many other tasks that were being done well before a decision could be made about whether or not to prosecute specific cases.
Also, she said, that pre-prosecution work took the prosecutors’ time away from trying cases in courtrooms, at a time when city courts were severely backed up, without enough prosecutors to try all the cases assigned to them.
And further, Feldstein Soto said, it also meant that the few prosecutors who were assigned to courtrooms were so over-burdened that they couldn’t take sick days or other necessary time off for work/life balance.
So she said needed to rearrange the duties of her whole prosecutorial staff to make the system run more smoothly. And that means that instead of using prosecuting attorneys for grass roots intake and research, as the Neighborhood Prosecutor program did, the Community Law Corps will use both “attorneys and legal professionals with years of experience in civil and criminal law” to take “preventative and proactive measures to address a variety of issues that affect neighborhoods and establishes partnerships to resolve problems that enforcement, alone, cannot adequately address.”
The new team, supervised by Assistant City Attorney Tamar Galatzan, will collaborate with “community members, city departments, outside government agencies and law enforcement partners” to identify and resolve neighborhood legal issues, and to identify “emerging concerns” and work with City Hall to address them. It will also “manage a variety of legal matters and…work with lawyers throughout Feldstein Soto’s office by redirecting complaints to the appropriate unit in the City Attorney’s Office or law enforcement,” and it will “work to connect residents with city departments to address their concerns and provide contact information for local legal aid organizations and other service providers” if that turns out to be a better fit for the specific issue.
In the CLC announcement, Feldstein Soto said, “The Community Law Corps sits at the nexus of our neighborhoods, City Hall, and the laws we enforce, and goes beyond the courtroom to get things done…This team of attorneys, community resource specialists, and other legal professionals will help our residents navigate city departments, build partnerships, find resources and improve the quality of life for all who live, work or pass our City—the heartbeat of everything we aim to do in public service.”
So while the specific Neighborhood Prosecutors are no more, there is still a way to bring the resources of the City Attorney’s office to bear on individual neighborhood nuisances. As Feldstein Soto told the Buzz last spring, “We are working very hard on quality of life issues,” but instead of one Neighborhood Prosecutor stretched thin on a specific neighborhood issue, the new system should help coordinate her staff to respond collectively, as an office, “with every tool in our toolbox.”
And at least one neighbor who has already engaged with the Community Law Corps is quite happy so far. Sam Uretsky, who led neighborhood efforts to close down a notorious party house at 310 N. Lucerne Blvd. in 2020 and 2021, is now working with another group of neighbors, the North Plymouth Coalition, on another party house at 300 N. Plymouth Blvd. He told the Buzz today that the group began working with Gabrielle Taylor, a deputy city attorney with the CLC, in September…and that she’s been very helpful from the moment Feldstein Soto assigned her to the case. In fact, Uretsky said, Taylor has has been “very take-charge, smart, and get-things-done,” and has provided the same level of information and responsiveness that neighbors used to receive from their neighborhood prosecutor. So “if this is how things are going to roll out with this [new program],” Uretsky said, “I think people are going to be happy.”
If you’d like to connect with the new Community Law Corp, there are two ways to do so – either email a description of the issue to att.communitylawcorps@lacity.