LaBarbera thinks Brennler constitutionally protected

August 21, 2013
CAPLO's Dee Torres

CAPSLO’s Dee Torres

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

A San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge, in a tentative ruling, is planning to uphold an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss a slander lawsuit brought by a homeless services official against Mike Brennler, a North County private investigator.

Judge Barry LaBarbera’s office posted his tentative ruling online late Wednesday afternoon.

According to the tentative ruling, Dee Torres, director of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County (CAPSLO) alleged that Brennler “in a March 2013 telephone conversation with Torres’ ex-husband Charles Barber, stated (Torres) had been stealing money from a homeless man named Cliff Anderson.” Torres is represented by San Luis Obispo attorney Roy Ogden.

LaBarbera noted that facts presented thus far suggest that Brennler’s alleged actions and comments are protected under a host of state and U.S. constitutional protections.

The matter is scheduled for a 9 a.m. Thursday hearing in LaBarbera’s San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Brennler’s special motion to strike.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” It is the label applied to lawsuits filed against critics or opponents to prevent them from being involved in controversies. California, as well as many other states, have laws that allow the people being sued to go to court to have the SLAPP suit dismissed.

One local legal source said a tentative ruling “is just that — tentative. It’s what the judge is thinking at that moment, and  it gives a little time for the attorneys to hone their arguments.”

Brennler is represented by SLO attorney Stew Jenkins.

LaBarbara said the issues surrounding the county’s homeless situation are undeniably of public interest.

Therefore, he wrote, “the burden now shifts to (Torres) to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on her defamation cause. (She) must make a prima facie showing of facts that would support a judgment in her favor.”

Part of the tentative ruling suggested that as a result of her position as spokesperson for CAPSLO’s homeless activities and other county endeavors, Torres is a public figure — an allegation which she had disputed.

The lawsuit had left open the possibility that CalCoastNews, KVEC920’s Dave Congalton, his employers, and CalCoastNews sources might be included in the lawsuit at a later date.


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62 Comments

  1. karma2come says:

    This is a portion of what was printed in the Telegram Tribune- “There’s nothing to show that Mrs. Torres was involved personally in a public debate,” Ogden said. “CalCoastNews published a lot of nasty things about my client, your honor, and she never responded to any of those.” This is a lie! There are comments made by Ms. Torres when these stories first broke! I’m just floored how easy the lies come from Dee Torres, this may have been via her attorney, but the statement had to come from her. How does she expect anyone to believe she never stole anything when the lies come so easy!

    CAPSLO, you better take a good hard look at who you have running your Homeless Services! You have been told over and over again anout wrong doings by this woman! There are huge character flaws that keep being pointed out to you, yet you bury your head in the sand! Is it worth risking the donations and trust you receive from the public to keep this woman? Is it worth ruining the agency reputation? If so why?

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
    • kayaknut says:

      The loss of donations is nothing compared to 60 million plus of taxpayer money, so they are not concerned with losing that since certain people occupy seats in the group that decides about that money.

      (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
  2. scoopone says:

    The truth will come out if and when federal investigators decide to do their job. For the time being, I am a firm believer in CCN; it’s the only news source in this county that is willing to alert citizens regarding corruption in the public sector. The Tribune editors should be ashamed of themselves for not acting responsibly in their reporting. I predict that the Tribune will someday be replaced by a CCN-type
    publication and I hope it is sooner than later.

    (22) 40 Total Votes - 31 up - 9 down
  3. TruthFairy says:

    I know Kevin and the rest of you take what ccn says without a grain of salt, but regardless of the ruling, it doesn’t mean that what ccn says it true. Case and point. Here is Lisa Niesan, Family Ties, stealing from the homeless, no? And Dee and Case Management being part of it. The article began stating that FT stole $60,000.00 from Cliff Anderson. Wrong. Then Karen gets the records and was asked if there is an accounting of the money. She doesn’t answer direct. She says, ‘ there were so many I haven’t had time to look.’ Here is a question to Karen. Have you had time to look? The motels Cliff doesn’t remember being at? Could it be because he was too drunk?
    I know this is about the upcoming ruling, but the entire objective of going to court was most likely to expose ccn and ‘mike’ for all the vicious and untrue lies they have spread. That said, you would think they would want to go to court. They would treasure the opportunity to expose Dee, to bring in witnesses and to show that what they say isn’t a crock. BYW I love the way ccn post a quickie about Karen being sited for a DUI, blaming it on Adam Hill and Dee, who obviously couldn’t control the judge, but she implies that they control the PD and then quickly posts another post just to keep the bloggers attention off Karen’s dui and on to something else because Karen knows her reader’s behavior… Ask Karen to show you her mug shot. One person said, the picture tells it all.
    Why would they want to ask for a SLAPP suit if they want to expose Dee…..

    (-29) 49 Total Votes - 10 up - 39 down
    • Kevin Rice says:

      #1 I’ve seen the mug photo and it’s unremarkable. Further, you only display your own bias in inferring looking at a photo is all that is necessary to render judgment. Let’s see your drivers license photo.

      #2 You are mistaken that I don’t apply judgment in reading CCN. But it’s the ONLY investigative news source in the entire county. A DUI or no DUI is irrelevant beyond its clear utility for ad hominem.

      (22) 34 Total Votes - 28 up - 6 down
      • hijinks says:

        “A DUI or no DUI is irrelevant beyond its clear utility for ad hominem.” Really? Would you like to explain the “irrelevance” to somebody who’s been maimed by a DUI driver?

        (-2) 4 Total Votes - 1 up - 3 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      QUOTE: “Why would they want to ask for a SLAPP suit if they want to expose Dee…..”

      Why do Hill and Torres do any of the stupid *hit they do?

      (15) 25 Total Votes - 20 up - 5 down
    • SanSimeonSam says:

      Truth Cavity,
      Your cutesy name does not disguise your true identity Eve (make that adam

      (6) 16 Total Votes - 11 up - 5 down
    • Sarah Bellum says:

      TruthFairy, insulting the readership is unlikely to bring them over to your side, but let’s hear it. Is it your contention that Ms. Niesen returned Mr. Anderson’s money promptly and in full? Because as I remember, the crux of the story is that it wasn’t, and Mr. Anderson, unlike many others in his position, has the documentation to show it. CCN then went on to investigate other claims of abuse by CAPSLO because its’ clients were funneled to Family Ties. Please, TruthFairy, wave your magic wand and enlighten us.

      (13) 23 Total Votes - 18 up - 5 down
  4. As the world turns says:

    Now that the court ruled that Torres is a public official, it will be a difficult case to win. As many attorneys have told me, if you are a public official, almost anything can be said about you. The public official can sue but the burden of proof is very high, which is different than if a private citizen.

    If a public official, other than when sitting at the public hearing/table, etc., states something about a private citizen, the burden of proof will be on the public official. Look up slander per se.

    (24) 38 Total Votes - 31 up - 7 down

Comments are closed.