Sunday, June 08, 2014

Judge urges trial date for lawsuit over control of Ontario International Airport (KONT), California

At a court hearing last week, lawyers sparred over document demands. The judge told them to prepare for a trial. 

Imagine a sort of Santa’s workshop full of lawyers – 30 of them – working overtime, poring over tens of thousands of documents as evidence in the lawsuit between Los Angeles and Ontario over control of Ontario International Airport.

That was the picture painted by L.A.’s lawyer, Steven S. Rosenthal, in a Riverside courtroom last week as he pleaded with Judge Gloria Trask to cut off Ontario’s requests for more disclosure.

The judge politely declined.

The Inland airport has suffered a 45 percent drop in passengers since 2007, more than almost any other airport in the nation and far more than any other in Southern California, while LAX has been rebuilding its passenger numbers.

Los Angeles World Airports owns and operates LAX and ONT.

Ontario filed a lawsuit last year seeking a return of local control for ONT, alleging L.A. has neglected the Inland airport in favor of LAX.

Trask used a mixture of humor and sternness to suggest the lawyers move the case along.

“I don’t want this case to languish,” she said. “It is not going to go five years.”

When Rosenthal described the 30 attorneys spending more than 8,000 hours culling documents, she said, “That’s frightening.”

When Rosenthal offered to tell her how many pages L.A. expects to produce, she said, “Please don’t. I can imagine.”

She asked the lawyers on both sides to keep the duplication to a minimum, pondering how many pages will end up on her desk.

Governments have a habit of cranking out redundant documentation, stacking new information on top of old documents that have already been produced, she said. (She is so right. The wholesale destruction of forests by wanton copying is frightening.)

Ontario’s lawyer, Andre Cronthall, told Trask he boiled down one filing to eight pages so as not to “waste hundreds of pages of paper.”

“I appreciate it,” the judge replied.

L.A. already has produced nearly 13,000 pages in response to Ontario’s request for evidence. “That’s the tip of the iceberg,” Rosenthal said in court June 5.


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