LAUSD Needs a New Defense Law Firm that Has Compassion for its Clients

COMMENTARY-As former president Donald Trump’s cruel and inhumane policies towards immigrants are rapidly dismantled by new humanitarian leadership in the White House, one of the most high-profile law firms in our county has become a refuge for Trump administration castaways. 

Jones Day has recently hired at least six high-ranking Trump administration veterans to plum jobs at the prestigious law practice. While Jones Day represents many large corporations, it may come as a surprise that one of its largest clients is the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

The LAUSD is the largest public school system in our state and according to its website, 74 percent of the district’s students are Latino, and more than 93 percent speak Spanish as their primary language. If the LAUSD is trying to look out for the best interests of its students, why would it hire a law firm that shares the values of the former Trump administration that showed such a mean spirited and callous disregard for the plight of migrant children? 

Most recently, Jones Day hired Chad Mizelle to its Government Regulation Practice after Chad Mizelle served as Acting General Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security. Chad Mizelle worked closely with Trump’s Senior Advisor and Santa Monica native, Stephen Miller, who was mean spirited, vindictive, and callous to migrant children. Chad Mizelle was installed at DHS in early 2019 at the direction of Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller worked with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and both were the “architects” of the horrific child separation policy that has left thousands of children psychologically traumatized. Miller reportedly directed DHS staff to work with Mizelle on immigration policy implementation when Chad Mizelle was in the office of the former Attorney General. 

With Miller and Mizelle at the helm of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, we witnessed a series of attacks on the legal immigration system. Some of the most egregious policy changes included imposing new restrictions on asylum seekers, forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, reducing the number of refugees that could be admitted to the U.S., and imposing a “wealth test” for immigrants with legal status. The administration ramped up deportation cases, created a new denaturalization task force to go after naturalized citizens, and created a much more xenophobic and hostile environment for immigrants. 

Another objective that Mizelle and Miller reportedly shared was to punish and outlaw the so-called "sanctuary cities" -- a resolution that Los Angeles proudly adopted in an effort to protect the human rights of all residents. The Trump administration repeatedly tried to withhold funding for municipalities that it viewed as cities of sanctuary for immigrants. 

With a significant population of undocumented students and parents in the LAUSD community, the district recognizes a need to offer resources for Dreamers to access higher education. The LA Unified School Board recently reaffirmed its commitment to schools as “Safe Zones” for immigrant students and families. It defies logic why the LAUSD would continue to employ a law firm that has such a conflicting vision of equality by hiring former Trump officials who were extremely hostile to migrant children. 

As a plaintiff’s attorney having practiced law for over 41 years, I have represented many childhood sexual abuse victims that have sued LAUSD for mistreatment by the district’s employees. The LAUSD is currently engaged in many highly sensitive and emotionally charged lawsuits involving vulnerable students who have suffered sexual abuse. These are matters that require compassion, empathy, and a moral compass. Unfortunately, it is clear that Jones Day does not prioritize those qualities when it hires defense attorneys that reportedly traumatized migrant children.    


(Luis Carrillo is the founding partner of the Carrillo Law Firm in South Pasadena. For more than 40 years Luis Carrillo has pursued justice on behalf of members of the community who have been victims of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers, and on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.