Judge Susan Bryant-Deason ruled in favor of the city's Anti-SLAPP motion and dismissed former City Manager Geoff Dolan's lawsuit against the city and former City Attorney Robert Wadden in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom this morning.
Dolan was alleging the city had breached his separation agreement contract and caused him harm in doing so. The matter stems from a multifaceted set of circumstances after Dolan resigned his position in December 2009.
In the process of settling a lawsuit involving a Brown Act violation, documents were released that Dolan says breached his separation contract and invaded his privacy, damaging his reputation and chances of employment in city government.
In court with Dolan's attorney, Manhattan Beach resident Pat Barerra, and Don Samuels, representing the city, Judge Bryant-Deason didn't budge from her initial stated opinion in favor of the city. Barerra tried in vain to sway the judge, who seemingly sided with the city throughout the hearing, but his arguments were dismissed time and time again.
Barrera said his client will appeal the ruling.
"I don't think she carefully reviewed these papers," Barrera said just outside the courtroom in a hall after the ruling. He cited how busy the judge is as a reason for his statement.
SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and consist of "civil complaints or counterclaims (against either an individual or an organization) in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and by the California Constitution," according to The First Amendment Project. The First Amendment Project is a nonprofit, public interest law firm and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression and petition, activity which is protected under the Anti-SLAPP law.
Protected actions include:
- any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law;
- any written or oral statement or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law; or
- any written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest.
The city argued it was legally bound to release the documents Dolan says harmed him when a judge would not allow them to be sealed in litigation between Richard McKee and the city over a Brown Act violation. The violation took place during the course of the City Council considering an anonymous letter the city had received alleging misconduct by Dolan and the formation and execution of his separation agreement contract.
City Attorney Roxanne Diaz said after the hearing, "This is a great victory for the city and we are beyond pleased."
Manhattan Beach Patch will continue to report on the matter. Stay tuned.