LAUSD takes away 14 cases from law firm after remarks on lawsuit

Stock photo: khz - Fotolia/Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Unified School District is reassigning 14 lawsuits it is fighting to different outside counsel, taking them away from the firm it has worked with for many years because the district has severed ties with one of the firm's partners over controversial remarks he made to KPCC.

Last Friday, L.A. Unified said W. Keith Wyatt would no longer represent it in any legal cases in the wake of KPCC's report on the district's controversial defense in a civil lawsuit stemming from a sexual abuse case. Wyatt had discussed with KPCC how he had argued in court that a 14-year-old girl was mature enough to consent to sex with her 28-year-old teacher. He came under considerable fire for also arguing that "making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that's a much more dangerous decision than to decide, 'Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.'"

When LAUSD said it would cut its ties with Wyatt, it said it would maintain its relationship with his firm, Ivie, McNeill & Wyatt, which was representing the district in 18 cases.

On Tuesday, LAUSD spokesman Sean Rossall told KPCC that Wyatt had been counsel on all 18 cases. His firm will continue representing the school district in four of the cases, but Wyatt will no longer be handling them, Rossall explained. The remaining 14 cases "are being reassigned to other firms," he said.

There has also been fallout in Sacramento from KPCC's report. State Senator Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) said that he intends to introduce legislation to ensure that lawyers will not be able to argue in civil cases that a minor is mature enough to consent to sex with an adult.

KPCC's story highlighted a conflict in California law: while the age of consent is firmly set at 18 in criminal cases, at least two appellate court rulings have found that in civil cases, it is possible to argue that a minor can consent to sex with an adult. 

This story was updated after Sean Rossall clarified his earlier remarks about how many cases Keith Wyatt had been handling for LAUSD.