Attorney Anthony R. Taylor ’97, JD ’00 thinks “the most important thing in life is having that passion and drive and will that you never quit, no matter what.”
That passion and perseverance were essential in Taylor’s role as the lead civil litigator for the city of Bell, as he helped recover millions of dollars for the city and its residents amid a widely publicized corruption scandal.
As a result of his efforts, Taylor was named California Lawyer magazine’s 2015 Attorney of the Year in the category of municipal law. He shares the honor with David J. Aleshire, his partner at the law firm Aleshire & Wynder.
It’s symbolic to the city of Bell. It shows people how far they’ve come.
Anthony R. Taylor
“It’s symbolic to the city of Bell,” Taylor said. “It shows people how far they’ve come. I mean, it’s certainly not about Dave Aleshire and me. It’s about them. We fought for them.”
In 2011, in the wake of the 2010 exposure of Bell’s rampant corruption by the Los Angeles Times and the indictment of several city council members and officials, Taylor accepted the job of lead civil litigator and Aleshire took the position of city attorney for Bell.
More than 50 lawsuits
The duo fought on behalf of Bell in more than 50 lawsuits. The city faced liabilities from audits, investigations and claims by the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities Exchange Commission and the California state controller; a $35 million bond default; unfunded pensions; property foreclosures; employment lawsuits; civil actions against the city and police department; and former city employees’ and officials’ indemnity claims for legal costs. Bankruptcy seemed inevitable.
Taylor, a second-degree black belt who practiced martial arts for 10 years, likened the city’s legal challenges to his training experiences inside the dojo.
“The city has 50 lawsuits coming at it,” he said. “They have all these attackers around them, but you can’t devote a lot of resources to each fight, because the city will go bankrupt. So you have to look at each case, and say, ‘How do I win this case in two punches? How do I win it in one punch?’ ”
By 2014, Taylor and Aleshire had put the city on solid financial footing by securing more than $25 million in recoveries and eliminating $75 million in liabilities. At each of the sentencing hearings, Taylor argued that the corrupt former city officials and employees should pay restitution, and the courts ordered them to pay millions of dollars to Bell. The city also received recoveries from malpractice, property sales and financial awards.
Two of the appellate decisions established legal precedents for other cities fighting corruption: The Court of Appeal ruled that a city victimized by a corrupt employee should not be obligated to provide that employee with a defense, and that public officials should not earn salaries that “shock the conscience.”
I actually got rejected [by USC], I think, twice, but I fought my way in.
Anthony R. Taylor
For Taylor, what has developed into a stellar professional career with far-reaching impact almost never had the opportunity to get started. Taylor said he wasn’t a great student high school and recalled not initially being admitted to USC: “I actually got rejected, I think, twice, but I fought my way in.”
Driven to succeed, he enrolled in the USC Price School, then the USC School of Public Administration, and excelled in his courses. He learned about public administration, but also acquired skills that would later serve him well as an attorney. And when his professors invited guest speakers who were lawyers that dealt with cities in crisis, Taylor found inspiration.
By the time he graduated in 1997 as the school’s valedictorian, Taylor already knew that he wanted to combine his public administration education with legal training and advocate on behalf of cities.
After earning his law degree at Gould, Taylor joined Orange County’s largest municipal law firm, Rutan & Tucker, where he met Aleshire and Bill Wynder. He accompanied Aleshire and Wynder when they moved to Burke, Williams & Sorensen in Los Angeles, and when they started their own firm Aleshire & Wynder in 2003.