SAN DIEGO – On the 17th floor of a gleaming high-rise office building in downtown San Diego, Mayor Bob Filnerâ€™s legal problems and his political future are being hashed out by a contingent of lawyers, city officials and a retired federal judge known for bringing opposing sides to an agreement.
Former U.S. District Judge J. Lawrence Irving, the respected mediator who helped settle complex cases stemming from the collapse of Lincoln Savings & Loan more than 20 years ago to the fallout from the Enron implosion in 2005, is presiding over the mediation sessions.
If the sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Filner and the city is to settle before trial or if his fate is decided short of a recall election, Irving will likely have a strong influence.
â€œEveryone respects him,â€ Denise Asher, a San Diego mediator, said of the 78-year-old Irving. â€œHeâ€™s one of those people who is incredibly savvy and intelligent, who doesnâ€™t need to show you how intelligent he is.â€
Mediation has long been a part of the legal process but rarely has it been deployed in a situation like the one Filner faces. He is being sued for sexual harassment by his former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson. She claims the mayor made crude remarks to her, grabbed her in a headlock and once suggested she work without panties.