I met Carmen ďNuchĒ Trutanich, a candidate
for Los Angeles City Attorney, at his StudioCity
campaign headquarters on
Ventura Boulevard. He was
born in San Pedro on August 12, 1951,
received his Masterís Degree from USC and his JD from SouthBayLawSchool.
TONYTell me how you decided to become a lawyer.
CARMENAfter I got my Masterís Degree, I went to work
for Star Kist foods in their procurement department with my uncle. He
ultimately died on The Great Barrier Reef in New Zealand. I
was working with him, negotiating fishing contracts and doing
International Procurement of fishing rights for Star Kist. He told me I
had to get background in law for the job. So I enrolled in Night School
and I liked it!
University. I just took 2-3
classes a semester at night from 6-10 during the week. Iíd study on the
planes going to and fro and on the weekends. I took an internship with
the District Attorneyís office and got to try some cases as a Certified
Law Student. I had a great time.
TONYYou could try cases when you werenít a member of
CARMENYes, as long as you try them under the
supervision of a lawyer and youíre certified from an ABA-accredited
school. I enjoyed it. I said, "this is what I really want to do." I
donít want to be a businessman. My wife and I were poor. She was making
$1100 a month as a flight attendant and I was making nothing, $200 a
week as a watchman at the Star Kist cannery. Iíd work 24-hour shifts. My
wife and I got married on March 11, 1978 and had our very
first child December 14, 1978,
nine months and three days after the day of our marriage! So I took the
Bar Exam and passed it and opened an office. I didnít even know a
lawyer. I didnít know what a lawyer did. I got my Sears Selectric
typewriter that I had on my desk in my apartment, rented an office on
Street in San Pedro, moved
my desk out of my apartment and opened a law office. I got a few clients
and got appointed by a few judges down there that I had met and started
making some money.
TONYHow did you end up with the D.A.?
CARMENWe did pretty well. We bought a house, but we
were house poor. My business was doing well, but I didnít have the
confidence in my abilities. I knew Iíd be a good lawyer if I had the
opportunity to really get good. Iím working 20 hours a day. I used to
get up at
to do research and not come home until 11-12 oíclock at night. I canít
work any harder, so I applied to the District Attorneyís office. I just
applied; I didnít know anybody. I got through the first interview, got
asked back and then got asked back again for an interview with (District
Attorney) John Van de Kamp and got hired. I had built up my practice to
where I was making $80,000 a year. When I go to the DAís office, Iím
going to make $17,000 a year. My first pay check was $434 for two weeks
TONYYour wife didnít object to going from $80,000 a
year to $17,000?
CARMENI married a saint. She knew it was the best
thing for me career-wise.
TONYHow long were you there?
CARMENEight years, then in 1988 I went out on my own
with a big firm, Bronson, Bronson, & McKenna as a litigator. After a
year one of the partners asked if I wanted to break away and start our
own firm. I said yes. He ran the
San Francisco office and I ran
office. We went to about 25 lawyers. Then my partner, Rex Scatena, was
one of the founders of ValueAmerica.com. He took it public and made
something like $800 million in one day. He and I were good friends. We
were like brothers. He was a decent guy. So when he left, it was time
for me to start my own firm, so I left my own firm.
CARMENIt just created a different feel to the firm,
him not being there. Rex was always my buffer with the other partners.
So when Rex left, I left. I built the new firm up from two lawyers to 18
TONYWhy would you want to leave that for politics?
CARMENIn 2006, I got a call from Rocky (Delgadillo,
current LA City Attorney) to help him in his transition because his
chief deputy had left the office, retired. I left private practice to
come and help him. I stayed about four months. I had an opportunity to
see the office. I had the opportunity to forge a relationship with (LA
District Attorney) Steve Cooley and (LA County Sheriff) Lee Baca. When I
went back into private practice I kept up my relationships with Steve
and Lee. In September of 2007, I got a call from Steve saying, ďLos
Angeles needs a champion.Ē I
reached in my pocket and pulled out my checkbook and say, ďOK, How much
is this champion going to cost me?Ē
He said, ďNo. We want you to run for City
Attorney. We want someone there who is competent and honest and will do
a good job.Ē What do you do when the Sheriff and the DA of LA County put
that mano pesado (heavy hand) on you?
TONYDid you know you were going to be hit with all
this dirt thatís been thrown at you by your opponent Jack Weiss? Itís
the dirtiest campaign Iíve ever seen.
CARMENWhat do you expect? Jack Weiss has Ace Smith
running his campaign. Smith (a
Clinton advisor who has been
compared with the fictional cinematic godfather, Michael Corleone, who
was pictured as a cold-blooded murderer) is the guy who called Barack
Obama a Muslim. They can say whatever they want to say. Iím real
comfortable putting my head down and going to sleep. I know what I do
and Iím very proud of what I do. Iím a good lawyer.
TONYYouíve been throwing the dirt back, too.
CARMENWhat Iím throwing is not dirt. Itís his record.
Thereís a difference. Heís distorting and making things up. For example,
the big allegation from him is, ďYou represent the NRA.ĒIíve never represented the NRA. One of my
partners has the NRA as a client. Youíve never seen my name on a
pleading for the NRA. Youíve never seen Carmen Trutanich appearing for
the NRA. Never happened. But thatís what youíre hearing. Heís stretching
Another one of his attacks is ďheís representing
polluters.Ē I represent a mom and pop cleaning shop that gets in trouble
with some of the local ordinances. He claims they are the worst
polluters in Los Angeles.
Thatís ridiculous! Itís almost asinine to say that. It shows the level
of his intelligence. First of all, the worst polluter in LA is the City
of Los Angeles,
Ballona Creek, the DWP; the
Port of Los Angeles. How
about Mobil? There are tons of companies that are the major polluters in
They arenít on my client list. But itís a distortion. Itís smear and
fear because he doesnít have a record.
TONYWhere are you on gun control?
CARMENThe law provides that people can carry guns, but
it also leaves it to the discretion of the sheriff or chief of police in
that city to make a decision as to what they want to do. Thatís in their
discretion. Thatís something that would not be in my purview as City
Attorney. If you donít agree with the exercise of their discretion, you
have the right to bring a lawsuit. But I donít think itís the obligation
of the City Attorney to determine whether or not he has abused his
TONYIs the Mayor behind you?
CARMEN(pause) Do I sound like someone who would have
the Mayor behind him? (laughs)
TONYIf you had known how dirty the campaign was
going to be, would you have gotten into it?
CARMENItís not dirty.
TONYI think itís the dirtiest campaign Iíve ever
seen. Weiss has made it dirty.
CARMENYes, but Iím not afraid of Jack Weiss.
TONYBut how has it affected your family?
CARMENMy family knows me. Iím a decent guy. They know
that. Theyíve had 31 years of being around me. Walk down to San Pedro
and ask people about me. Ask them what they think of Jack Weiss and his
commercials. Half that town I donít know. But the other half knows me
and they spread the word. Jack Weiss couldnít sully my reputation if he
had a million commercials. At the end of the day, I am who I am and the
minute people meet me, they can size me up. They know Iím a straight
shooter. Iím an honest guy. I speak my mind. I try to be as articulate
as I can. Screw Ace Smith and Jack Weiss if they want to tell lies. I
donít care about them. I care about the people of Los Angeles. Theyíre
smarter than those two guys. This is their smear and fear because they
have nothing else to say. So all they can do is scare you. That tells
you who they are.