Welcome to my legal blog. Where I post about legal and societal issues.
Please allow me to introduce myself. The condensed version, i.e., my resume, is available here. The following is the long version:
I am a woman, not of wealth, but of passion, knowledge, and taste. My name is Kathryn S. Bloomfield. I am an attorney who has practiced law since October, 1987, when I was sworn into the Louisiana State Bar, upon graduating Order of the Coif, from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, LSU, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and passing the Louisiana state bar exam. I initially practiced business law and Chapter 11, Business Reorganization law in New Orleans, Louisiana, starting at Jones, Walker, et al. and, thereafter, with Douglas S. Draper, a ranked Super Lawyer in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, at his old law firm. In April of 1991, I moved to Los Angeles, California, as I had accepted a federal law clerkship with the now Chief Judge of the Central District of California, the Honorable George H. King, the son of a Chinese immigrant. Within months of arrival, I studied for and passed the California State Bar, and in November, 1991, was sworn into the California State Bar.
I served a couple of terms of federal law clerkships at the Central District of California, during which terms I performed extensive research in civil rights law, federal habeas corpus, and myriad business disputes jurisdictionally grounded in diversity. I then opened my solo practice in Studio City, California: Kathryn S. Bloomfield, Attorney at Law. I handled consumer bankruptcy cases, in the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of Louisiana, representing individuals and couples who found themselves imprisoned by debt and falling or lost income. My years handling Chapter 11 business reorganization cases and issues in New Orleans provided a solid foundation upon which I compassionately and diligently, assisted and represented individual debtors through the bankruptcy process, from petition, to the initial meeting of creditors (the 341 hearing), through defending and filing motions, adversarial proceedings, and ultimately Plan confirmation (in Chapter 13 cases) and discharge. Assisting people through the process was a rewarding and edifying experience; I learned much from my clients as they gained confidence on their paths to their well-deserved fresh starts.
My experience from my federal law clerkships at the United States District Court, Central District of California, exposed me to federal civil rights litigation. It was an area of law in which I previously had no involvement; I had dealt with businesses, big businesses, big and local government, in their big business real estate and other dealings, including big loans, and ultimately, big business bankruptcies. The aftermath of the 1980s oil crash cut a swath across the state of Louisiana. I remember saying at one point that I had foreclosed on every apartment building in the state of Louisiana. The 1991 Rodney King beating then played out across international news, and again, through subsequent federal civil rights litigation, one state court criminal prosecution, the Los Angeles riots that exploded after the verdicts in that case (tried in Simi Valley to an all white jury), and, ultimately, the federal prosecution for criminal violations of federal civil rights. Simultaneously, as a federal law clerk, myriad federal civil rights actions involving allegations of excessive use of force and abuse of power, dominated my desk and commanded intense research and writing.
Judge George H. King patiently explained the fundamentals of civil rights law to me. I then dove in, head first, and enrapt in the law that is federal civil rights law. It was in the middle of hours of research that I stumbled upon a case out of the United States Fifth Circuit, a case that, like the Rodney King matter, made the news. National news covered it. The Shreveport Times long ago had reported that Randy was killed, but posted the picture of another high school friend of mine; we were all 17 years old at the time. A made for TV movie ensued. I will never forget reading the case because the young man killed by the Houston police after a brief automobile chase was a young man I had met while still in high school in Shreveport, Louisiana. I stopped in my tracks. I never knew him well, having met him on one or two occasions, at social gatherings. High school kids hanging out. But it had an enormous impact on me. To read about a guy, my age, who was now dead, at the hands of the Houston Police department. I also was frustrated with the opinion. Although the officers had planted a gun, a “throw down” gun, to stage the death scene so as to paint this guy I had met in high school as thug deserving of street justice, the United States Fifth Circuit upheld the officers’ defense of qualified immunity. An immunity created by judicial fiat, not statute. A defense that is still, to this day, is misunderstood and misconstrued. And, all too often used by defense lawyers and courts to rid their dockets of viable civil rights violations and claims. I remember researching all across the eleven circuits to learn the nuances, folds, applications, and meanings of qualified immunity and carefully distinguishing that case from the case then before me. It’s funny, though; I don’t remember the facts of the case before the court. Reading about the last hour of my co-high school acquaintance’s life and his violent, unnecessary death grabbed my soul.
It all came together. I had a passion for federal civil rights. The statutory mechanism by which we the people seek redress when the government transgresses our constitutional rights, whether on a federal level, or by state officials and local government actors. It was an intellectually and emotionally stimulating area of law. And, I was living in Los Angeles, post-Christopher Commission Report and a federal consent decree, and, yet, police violence and official transgressions continued. Los Angeles is a large geographical area, with some six million in the city limits, and twelve million within the county. Yet, the Los Angeles Police department was small, far smaller than, for example, NYPD. 6,000 officers versus 24,000 officers, were the numbers at the time. LAPD had been commanded by male police chiefs who believed that shows of force compensated for small size. And, some of the results were devastating. Enter Rodney King. Enter my federal law clerkship. Enter LAPD. Enter Kathryn S. Bloomfield. Into private practice as a federal civil rights litigator.
I worked tirelessly and relentlessly on federal civil rights cases in the United States District Court, Central District of California. Cases involving at times hundreds of defendants, particularly arising out of the Rampart scandal and its CRASH unit that once again exposed the abuses of power within the law enforcement system that despite order and reports, could not seem to change. Cases involving deceased victims and their surviving families…deceased at the hands of excessive force, including multiple gunshots to their backs, especially if the SIS division of the LAPD were involved. These were hard fought cases. The Code of Silence, documented as the insidious cancer of bad government, dominated. The movie, Training Day, struck me as an amalgamation of the cultures of the SIS and CRASH. (It also kind of irritated me, because having been on the frontline, I, too, had started writing a screenplay, but while I was busy lawyering, someone else got busy making money and, alas, I’m a lawyer, not a Hollywood writer). Sometimes the plaintiffs were not so sympathetic, having felonies on their records, or having been killed after the commission of a crime. But, all these cases were righteous. No matter what, we hold our government to high standards, without which society devolves into chaos and fascism…the antithesis of the freedoms that are the foundation of our society.
Not all of my work involved the violent. When California passed Proposition 187 designed to kick all immigrant children out of public schools, I was hired to write the opposing appeal brief, after the federal district judge, Judge Pfaelzer, granted a permanent injunction against its enforcement and ruled the referendum unconstitutional. I visited with families all across south Los Angeles, from Compton to Venice. The Children who wanted an education prevailed. Justly so.
In addition to local civil rights cases, I found myself appointed as a special deputy prosecutor, for Boundary County, Idaho, in the prosecution of Federal agent Horiuchi for the murder of Vicki Weaver in the Ruby Ridge case. When the federal government closed down habeas corpus relief, I found myself in a coalition with some of the most brilliant legal minds and compassionate religious leaders suing to restore habeas corpus rights. After the Rampart scandal blew wide open, federal civil rights actions necessarily followed and we went further, because it was the right thing to do: We successfully obtained a Ninth Circuit ruling allowing not just the civil rights claims to go forward, but also our civil RICO claims against the LAPD and myriad city officials. In some cases, we pierced the immunity of the prosecutors. My work allowed me to contribute to a West Publishing Co. book…jury instructions on civil RICO claims. I found myself working side by side with long respected jurists and constitutional scholars, from Joseph Reichmann, U.S. Magistrate (retired), and Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional law professor and Dean, UC Irvine Law School. I met and worked with a well reputed and published use of force expert, who had worked with the father of my college boyfriend from undergraduate days at Tulane University on the NYPD. It is a small world, growing ever smaller.
My work world was full, busy, demanding, and intense. Civil rights cases are hard fought; and these, particularly so. This was before the days of cell phone videos and a surveillance camera on every car and corner of every building. These cases involved piecing together the facts from any and every witness we could find, from our clients (if still alive), from police reports, autopsies and internal affairs reports. This was the trench work, the front lines, of all of our constitutional rights.
Years went by and I found my parents to be aging and in need of someone to be home near them, to be their advocate as they entered the dying phase of their lives. I moved home to Shreveport, Louisiana, and accepted a position with the then Shreveport office of Lemle & Kelleher, a New Orleans based law firm. I found myself once again representing big industry, mostly oil and gas, both in litigation and also in business matters. I wrote extensively on duties of operators to pay royalties and working interest owner shares, and the limits thereon, and proper cost deductions. I wrote a guide to federal and state eminent domain for a pipeline client. I wrote extensively on the extent and scope of local regulations on oil and gas exploration operations under our state regime. I drafted the license agreements for a local company that had developed sophisticated and useful web-based software designed to facilitate 211 and outreach services, and ensured the appropriate trademark and tradename protections were in place. I assisted in complex oil and gas law litigation, including a legacy case that had pended in South Louisiana for years. I second-chaired a hard and quickly fought for and obtained restraining order involving a local hospital and the genesis sales documents in federal court in Shreveport. I, together with several other counsel including co-counsel, researched and wrote diligently an ultimately appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court addressing the division of interests in fees and charges collected by casinos. The work was intelligent and good. But, it lacked the soul that I had found by representing individuals imprisoned by debt and people and families who had suffered violently at the hands of government officials.
Then, Katrina happened; and I threw myself into the ring of those helping South Louisiana residents find and get their precious pets home, first as just another person helping, and ultimately, as a lawyer. That work and that case got me into some trouble with my law firm. I was spending too much time in my pro bono advocacy, for daddy, and for Katrina survivors. And, I learned the hard way, just how vicious the animal rescue world could be and after suing in St. Bernard Parish to recover my client’s two pet dogs, I found myself defending a defamation lawsuit filed against me in Maryland by the defendant-group of “rescuers” who’d first rescued and then re-homed my client’s two dogs. Lesson learned (I hope or maybe not; the jury is still out): either be a citizen advocate or be a lawyer. Never the twain can meet, at least, not without consequences. And, it wasn’t fair to Lemle or our clients. It was time to move on for that reason and another.
My father’s decline also began accelerating. A USAF and Vietnam veteran, he was dying from Parkinson’s. We had battled the Veteran’s Administration for decades, fighting for service-related disability between his exposure to Agent Orange and his Parkinson’s. (We prevailed…the month before daddy died). The last few years were the worst. And I could not both be his advocate and an uber associate at a large law firm dedicated solely to its clients’ demands. I amicably parted ways with Lemle, and for a year or two focused on my father and my mother.
I again re-charged my solo practice, and upon acceptance to the Criminal Justice Act panel of appellate attorneys, I handled federal criminal appeals to the Fifth Circuit. In addition, I successfully stopped the federal government from enforcing a decades old restitution order against the daughter of her parents, both of whom were convicted, released property, and served time for their crime of food stamp fraud, and her home, bought decades after the plea agreement and consensual turnover order were entered.
Meanwhile, the Haynesville Shale exploded onto the local scene. Landowners of all shapes and sizes were faced with an onslaught of landmen and blatant misinformation, doled out by the industry and even some lawyers who just didn’t know the mineral code and all of its judicially crafted nuances. I found myself answering questions, refuting misinformation, and providing written analyses of myriad issues that arose on an interactive website created by a recent law school grad whose family happened to own property within the area of the Haynesville Shale. My family, too, owned a sliver of land in the middle of this. And, I took the work personally, for me, for my family, and for my neighbors. I advocated for the landowner. I implored local government to ensure that the industry did not ravage our communities. I visited with a long-time geophysicist from UCLA, who had performed extensive research on local monitoring of urban drilling activities and used that knowledge to advocate for reasonable local regulations. I spoke at community meetings, offering my knowledge and fielding questions. I did all of that…for no remuneration. However, as everyone else, I have to pay bills. And, I had expended enormous personal resources and time, first after Katrina and then during the Haynesville Shale boom. I had to earn income, in addition to serving and to be able to serve the people.
Intellectual curiosity and compassion for people drive me. It survived the LAPD SIS unit and Katrina and the Haynesville Shale, as it had survived every area of law that I had engulfed myself in. It led me ultimately to the Office of Public Defender for Caddo Parish, Louisiana. For two years, I advocated vociferously on behalf of far too many clients. Some of the conditions of the job were poor. Low pay and enormous demands. Little to no benefits, despite (or perhaps because of) our public service. Notwithstanding the directives of the Louisiana Supreme Court some twenty years ago in the State v. Peart decision to the sate legislature to ensure indigent defender caseloads met ABA standards, we still, decades later, carried caseloads far above the ABA standards. (As an aside, I do not think it a coincidence that the public defender behind the challenge in Peart was my best friend and boyfriend in law school). Between two and three hundred felony cases and, quite frankly, I don’t even know how many misdemeanors.
My experience in civil rights more than adequately prepared me for work as a criminal defense attorney. Indeed, I used to call a civil rights case the inverse of a criminal prosecution: the officer is called as the defendant. And my fellow public defenders, some of whom had been working in that capacity for two decades — they provided invaluable help, as their caseloads could allow. And, the support of a fantastic staff of hard working, caring compassionate people. The work found me drawing on all of my knowledge and experience, as a civil rights attorney, a federal litigator, and a lover of the constitution and constitutional law. Compassion and empathy probably exhausted me. So many clients, their families, and so many hard case stories. Mental illness seemed rampant. I think a lot of people think that only the worst of our society are defended by public defenders. Well, they are wrong. The prosecution rate in Caddo Parish is such that no one is beyond its reach. The State of Louisiana spends over $3.4 billion in investigating and prosecuting cases, and less than one percent of that on indigent defense. This, despite the facts that (i) there is no constitutional directive, state or federal, that anyone ever be prosecuted for anything and (ii) the Louisiana Constitution is far broader than the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, in that Louisiana mandates both effective counsel (as the U.S. Constitution mandates) and compensated counsel (not mandated by the U.S. Constitution).
This area is economically stagnant. People out of work or in not even living wage jobs. People of all races, creed, and sex. Finding themselves handcuffed and jailed at Caddo Correctional Center and needing assistance. Indeed, Louisiana is the incarceration capital of the world, and Caddo Parish has the highest rate per capita in the state. The need for indigent defenders far outweighs the resources dedicated to indigent defense. A completely inequitable and unlevel playing field, tilted scales of justice, and people in need. It was fertile ground for my talents and my mind and I dove in, head first and engulfed myself with criminal defense. Underfunding and budget cuts gutted our office, three of us laid off in one day. I forever will be thankful of my work as a public defender and my former defenders and staff. And to my clients and their families. My hat remains ever tipped. Good people doing God’s work. With both hands tied behind their backs, despite Peart, despite reports, despite the mandates of the Louisiana Constitution, and a statutory scheme.
I am, once again, Kathryn S. Bloomfield, Attorney at Law. I am a criminal defense attorney. I am a constitutional lawyer. I have an extensive business litigation background. I am an impassioned, smart attorney. And, I care. I am sensitive to the economics of our area and I charge on a sliding scale, dependent upon income. I am outspoken and I am a fighter. I am also sensible. I do not believe in people wasting their time in disputes that will go nowhere, that will do nothing but drain their wallets and souls and provide no benefit. Litigation is not about revenge and I do not believe in using it as such. In many ways, litigation actually is war. It should be avoided, if possible. But, if you find yourself in a situation, where you need an advocate, who will fight for you, I am here.
I practice criminal defense and its inverse, federal civil rights law. I am a skilled writer and orator, experienced in written trial court and appellate briefs and effective oral argument. I provide general civil advice and handle civil litigation, and if I don’t or can’t, I can get you to the right lawyer. If you’re a lawyer and need help getting briefs written and filed, I am available. If you ever find yourself in need of such services, I appreciate your consideration. Welcome to my legal blog. Where I post about legal and societal issues.
Kathryn S. Bloomfield