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Attorney James Segall-Gutierrez

Paul Wellman (file)

Attorney James Segall-Gutierrez


Spunky Lawyer Makes a Splash

Lawyer to the Oppressed Goes into Combat for Gang Injunctees


Saturday, August 9, 2014
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“Civil rights attorney to Fiesta partier!” said attorney Jaime Segall-Gutierrez as he took off and folded his sport coat, hanging it in the rear window of his Honda Civic. Segall-Gutierrez was leaving a courtroom at 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning, and confetti had already sprinkled the streets as eager parade watchers lined their lawn chairs along State Street. The sidewalk was already hot.

Referred to as “thunder dog” by his uncle, Segall-Gutierrez, 46, is a bold and distinctive character among classic lawyers. A drawn image of a mask and the phrase “Luchador del Pueblo” — Warrior People — appears on his business card. He earned his degree from New College of California School of Law in the mid-1990s and has been a self-described “people’s lawyer” ever since.

He is most memorable in Santa Barbara for his press conference at City Hall in January where he filed a complaint against the city and its police department, claiming the chief had defamed his six clients who had been named as gang members, gang associates, or drug customers during the Operation Falling Dawn media event held late last year. (The city rejected the complaint, and City Attorney Ariel Calonne said in May the police chief is protected from civil liability when performing an official duty. Segall-Gutierrez has a couple months to file a lawsuit in state court.)

Also in January, Segall-Gutierrez filed a claim against the city and its police department for the death of Brian Tacadena, the 48-year-old man who was shot and killed by a police officer on Labor Day weekend last year. The city also denied that claim.

Recruited by PODER, Segall-Gutierrez continues to pop up every so often and just recently was appointed as an associate member to the board of Palabra, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth. As the Fiesta celebration geared up last Friday morning, we made our way to Joe’s Café, where spirited patrons made the joint feel more like 10 p.m. than 10 a.m. We landed one of the only open tables and talked about his background, his work with the United Farm Workers, and what he dubbed “creative lawyering.”

How did you get into practicing law? I didn’t finish high school. I was living in Agoura Hills in Malibu. I didn’t do well in school. I dealt with a lot of racism. I dropped out halfway through 10th grade. When I was 17, I joined the United Farm Workers. A lot people need to understand that the farmworkers movement is about more than labor and agriculture. There’s a lot of overlap with politics and race and civil rights.

My passion for fighting against police brutality stems from my activism from the Brown Berets and United Farm Workers. Thirty percent of my cases are pro bono. I have a standing policy: Anyone who gets nailed in the picket lines, I represent for free.

What I do is flip the script. Law enforcement is charging my client some bullshit charge because they got popped on the picket line. I flip it on them. I put them on the defensive. That’s how it should be because my client was abused. Most of the time, I’ll simultaneously file the claim for damages. I get a lot of people, parents of the children with development issues. The transgender community. Cases against Border Patrol. I am living the dream. This is my passion and my calling.

How did you end up coming to Santa Barbara? Through my activism work my name got out there. So among the activist community, I am popular because of the pro bono work I do, these police brutality cases.

What’s your sense of Santa Barbara? I would argue there is a culture of racism in Santa Barbara. I’m not talking about overt. I’m talking about embedded. There’s no cultural sensitivity for the Chicano/Mexicano community. The Chicano/Mexicano community have been disenfranchised. Once, the arrival of the Spaniard, and the second, the arrival of the Americans. What you have as a result of that is misplaced aggression, sub economies, or gangs. Santa Barbara doesn’t have a gang problem. What they have is a problem with the Mexicano community being disenfranchised.

The District Attorney’s Office is running roughshod over the Chicano community. Today, luckily for us, we saw a judge who is enlightened and compassioned, and he struck a balance between maybe a crime has happened here, but does this nonviolent crime require a life sentence of marginalization for this woman? And he said no. I want to commend him for that.

And I also want to commend the gang injunction judge. The ACLU has confirmed that it is unprecedented in this nation. I think this is a model for the rest of this country. All a gang injunction is, is a justification for racial profiling. I think there is a culture of racism within law enforcement in Santa Barbara County. I think for the most part it is not conscious. It’s subconscious. All cops who are cops now came into the culture. All of the Chicanos in the Eastside and Westside were grown into this culture.

Why did you decide to take the slander case against the city? What happened was I was asked by PODER to help against the gang injunction, but they already had 12 attorneys. So I took a step back and looked at the magna. They also told me about a press conference where the police identified people as gang members and that they are trying to increase the numbers and the evidence to justify the gang injunction. So I said we are going after the chief for public slander and libel. And that is going to be the coup de grace in the gang injunction because what it’s going to do is change the public opinion.

We are going to file it in state court. The issues here are invasion of privacy and defamation. We are going to file it here in state court. There’s no federal law. These are civil matters. We have laws in California with public defamation. My hope is that the police chief will come forward and make a public apology and compensate the clients.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Photo caption: "Look at my friend here, right behind me. He's been up ALL NIGHT!"

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 2:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When the message is all about race, then society cannot hold anyone of race accountable for anything they do. Why? Because it is racist. There is a culture of racism in Santa Barbara? And how long has this race baiter been in Santa Barbara to know that? Nice try amigo! Buena suerte!

rukidding (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 7:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

agree with the lawyer profiled here when he states: "And I also want to commend the gang injunction judge. The ACLU has confirmed that it is unprecedented in this nation. I think this is a model for the rest of this country. All a gang injunction is, is a justification for racial profiling." Our City Council timidly played with the gang injunction BS for years, wasted a lot of City resources: try a lot more outread. Bring on District elections!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Look-Cruzito is in another picture of people complaining about something!

garfish (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 9:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It is the height of irony that this LA lawyer complains about our Chief of Police who is the first Latino to hold that position in history.

Next!!!

sbreader (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, Thunder Dog really thinks highly of himself. I'm surprised Jesus didn't do the interview for him as according to TD, he's pretty much in the HOV lane towards heaven. I think I will rewrite my labor unions and freedom fighters curriculum and just show the kids a picture of TD and have them read this interview. Keep up the great work, Thunder!

hi5vonhayes (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Tattoo is at is again!

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

CALLING MISTER ROARKE!!! Please come pick up your little friend and take him back to fantasy island.

Ring that bell you little b@stard!!!

Validated (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 9:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In the pic you can see my friend who got elbowed in the stomach by Dale Francisco, the News Press reported it. I bet that lawyer isn't physically assaulting people.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 9, 2014 at 11:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Naturally, the Latino crime statistics are not really crimes in this town, but instead "Cultural Disenfranchisement Statistics" and the Latino's are the clear winner...

nomoresanity (anonymous profile)
August 10, 2014 at 8:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Lol, silly rabbits, tricks are for kids. Over simplifying a complex issue like racism and classism leads to reactionary policies and shallow conclusions. I refuse to think we are incapable of acknowledging the inequities of our society, nor do I refuse to accept we cannot come up with a creative way in which to alleviate this issue. Gangs are an American phenomenon. If we want to resolve gang issues we will follow Father Greg Boyles example, of "nothing stops a bullet like a job". Santa Barbara is like little South Africa Aparthied.

Jgutierrezesq (anonymous profile)
August 10, 2014 at 10:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"santa barbara is like little south african apartheid"

^^ winner of most delusional comment on this article goes to jgutierrez

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In the context of economics, it's not such a delusional comment.

My parting-of-ways with Guitierrez is that he makes it all about race.

Unless you're making a LOT of money, you're a second-class citizen in Santa Barbara--people aren't leaving S.B. because of the weather.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 4:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

i'm sorry bill, trying to apply the word apartheid to any societal, economic, cultural or racial context here in santa barbara is quite a stretch.

unless there's some local ordinances overtly segregating residency and social services by race or ethnicity i'm totally unaware of...

maybe if we were talking israel/palestine.

StockiestCastle (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 4:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Can't decide. Is this guy Mini-Me to Daraka Larrimore-Hall, or is it the other way around? This guy makes a living finding racism, even where it does not exist. He needs to be introduced to Cathy Murillo.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 4:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Odd, a search of licensed lawyers on the California Bar Association website did not show a Jaime Segall-Gutierrez. I must have spelled it wrong, right?.

http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Memb...

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 4:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Try James Segall-Gutierrez. So what's your point?

SFGiants (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 8:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Daryl Genis has a hispanic doppelganger!

SBLover35 (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 10:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

James Segall-Gutierrez sounds like a Mexican -Jewish name. A Mexi- Jew lawyer must be the reactionary nativists 'worst nightmare. He chooses to go by the name Jaime rather than his given name, much like when men named John go by the name Jack. Viva La Raza Cosmica!

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 10:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think you're onto something Herschel. Keep me posted.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 11:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Shows the folly of counting CVRA protected minorities only by their known names. Perhaps we need DNA samples or blood tests? And then an explanation why this even matters. Will Dale Francisco get protected voter status?

Or Megan Alley lose it unless she trots out her maiden name again? Does Cruzito Cruz really mean double-cross? Is Capello Latino Italian and protected or non-Hispanic Latino and not protected. Is Das Williams SOL because he is really Indonesian and not a protected man of color as narrowly defined under the CVRA?

Yes, please carve up Santa Barbara into genetically, or is it racial or ethnically correct districts. How much "latin" or african" genotype does one need to evidence to be included in the mandatory minority-majority voting district CVRA demands be created.

If you are half and half, which way do you get to go when they come calling to check your DNA (but cannot ask for your ID). Or do you only get half a vote.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 11:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Gangs are an American phenomenon. " uh, no, try to think globally, eh Jaime, Esq. Plenty of gangs in Munich, in Russia, no shortage at all. I believe the real issue is economic inequalities -- growing radically since about 1970 in US -- exacerbated by the usual trio of racism, classism, and sexism. The latter three are symptoms, really. If we go even deeper, it's Martin Luther King, Jr.'s militarism, materialism, and ---.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 11:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

oops, King's triple evils were POVERTY, RACISM, and WAR
http://helenl.wordpress.com/2006/04/3...
In other contexts he did speak about materialism and militarism [war].

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 11:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

" I would argue there is a culture of racism in Santa Barbara. I’m not talking about overt. I’m talking about embedded. There’s no cultural sensitivity for the Chicano/Mexicano community. The Chicano/Mexicano community have been disenfranchised. Once, the arrival of the Spaniard, and the second, the arrival of the Americans. What you have as a result of that is misplaced aggression, sub economies, or gangs. Santa Barbara doesn’t have a gang problem. What they have is a problem with the Mexicano community being disenfranchised."

Mr. S-G: When you say "embedded", that doesn't help the matter. Please give us specific examples of racism. I often hear terms such as "White privilege" and "it's out there" (meaning racism) but no specifics.

Another question: What do you mean when you say "cultural sensitivity"? How is it not being applied to the "Chicano/Mexicano" demographic, as it is being applied to--let's say--the Italian demographic?

I would be interested in specifics. Thank you.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 11, 2014 at 11:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Esq Guiterrez-Seagull does not look healthy. Seriously, look at his eyes. I hope he addresses his underlying health problems.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 12, 2014 at 2:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Latino gangs, which are 100% criminal and violent enterprises, exist in this town for one reason only: people chose to join them. There is no other reason, so stop excusing them or claim they are symptomatic for anything other than extremely poor choices made by individuals.

This town is over-loaded with positive alternatives.. Latino gang membereship in this town is a collection of stupid punks making bad decisions for themselves instead of good decisions. Gangs racially profile themselves.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 12, 2014 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

JarvisJarvis, Gangs exist for a number of reasons, and one of them is when you live in an economic dystopia such as Santa Barbara which has become gentrified to the point where many of those who work there have to commute from Lompoc and where about 2/3 of the people cannot afford to buy a house, then you have a place which is ripe for this sort of thing.

Santa Barbara is a tourist economy with a huge service industry which attracts low-wage workers, yet is unaffordable even for many with college degrees. Add to that the mentality of shoving as many people as possible into a limited amount of space, and oh wait, let's make sure these people don't advance by setting up a system where they have everything made available in Spanish so their kids grow up neither being American nor Mexican and Voila!...the gang problem.

Santa Barbara is a dystopia, it gets more crowded and unaffordable as time goes on, but people still think it's Paradise. Meanwhile our "leaders" encourage more growth, more immigration, and more wares for the tourists and we wonder why we have a gang problem.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 1:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Gangs exist because gang members chose to join them. There is no other reason, excuse or justification.

There is no economic dystopia in Santa Barbara. Only self-generated class envy and resentments that don't sound in fact. If one finds Santa Barbara to be an unhealthy environment, they need to leave rather than let their resentments and envy corrupt their lives.

Again, you mistake Montecito and Hope Ranch for the far more modest economic realities of Santa Barbara itself. Try a day without class envy resentments and enjoy whatever way you can make your own life work for you here without manufactured resentments about other people's lives.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 8:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Clausen, why does the city need to encourage revenue producing activities? Shouldn't you start with the city's expense side of the equation first.

Visit Transparent California to see the staff salaries and pensions the City of Santa Barbara is required to fund and then see if you can reframe your arguments and resentments.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 8:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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