Dee Torres is public figure, judge says

August 23, 2013
CAPLO's Dee Torres

CAPSLO’s Dee Torres

Dee Torres is a public figure, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera said Thursday, seriously undermining the homeless program official’s slander lawsuit against Atascadero private investigator Michael Brennler.

Torres, director of homeless services for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), filed the action against Brennler in March, claiming he defamed her during a phone conversation with Torres’s former husband, Charles Barber. In that conversation, Torres asserted, Brennler harmed her by allegedly saying she stole money from homeless clients at the homeless shelter, as well as from former CAPSLO client Cliff Anderson.

Brennler vehemently denied he made any such comments.

When Torres’ lawyer, Roy Ogden, told the court he had not seen a portion of declarations filed by Brennler, LaBarbera delayed his final ruling to September 3.

During Thursday’s hearing, Ogden said CalCoastNews “published a lot of nasty things about my client.” At one point, he said CalCoastNews is “yellow journalism” and pointed to CCN reporter and co-founder Karen Velie in the courtroom,  suggesting Brennler is “an affiliate” of the news service.

Following the hearing, Velie said Ogden’s claim of a “smear campaign” was untrue.

“That’s a tactic used when people do not want to address the real issues,” Velie said.

LeBarbera said in a tentative ruling issued Wednesday that Torres had not proven that Brennler acted with malice. A public figure is faced with a very high bar in order to prove actual malice. The judge also said the question of homeless services and protection of those in CAPSLO programs is a matter of public interest. Ogden argued to the contrary, saying the news service simply created “a public curiosity” around the issue.

When Torres filed the lawsuit, Brennler was voluntarily working with CalCoastNews on an investigation into treatment of homeless persons in San Luis Obispo County. The news website has published numerous articles this year reporting on financial and management improprieties by Torres and other management-level individuals at CAPSLO.

Responding to her lawsuit, Brennler’s attorney, Stewart Jenkins, filed an anti-SLAPP motion, used to strike a lawsuit filed to silence criticism.

Jenkins said any phone call made by Brennler would have been for the purpose of further investigation of allegations against Torres made by a host of other people.

In requesting the continuation, Ogden claimed he did not receive a declaration by Torres’ ex-boyfriend Ralph Almiorl, who alleges Torres misused gift cards donated to the homeless.

Jenkins said he served the declaration on August 15 and has proof of service.

If LaBarbera stays with his tentative ruling, the anti-SLAPP motion will succeed and Torres will have to pay Brennler’s legal fees.


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Dee who?

Interesting that Mr. Ogden represented the defendent in a SLAPP suit in 2008 in San Luis Obispo county. See the article at

and it is listed on Ogden’s own website.

In the article he states:

“It’s pretty transparent why they did it,” Ogden said. “They wanted to shut her up. It’s David and Goliath. It’s a classic SLAPP suit.”

Also from the article:” Most SLAPP cases are without legal merit, but achieve their objective of chilling public debate, according to the California Anti-SLAPP Project, a public interest law firm and policy organization dedicating to fighting SLAPPs and protecting the Constitutional right to participate in civic affairs and to speak freely about public issues.”

I believe Mr. Ogden’s decision to take on the Torres lawsuit was purely for notoriety; he is obviously well versed on the topic of SLAPP suits and the liklihood that this case would prevail in court. Getting paid handsomely is of course, another powerful incentive.

Note the judge apparently did not rule on the anti-SLAPP issue, which really seems a legal stretch.

However, in finding Torres a public figure he made it virtually impossible for her slander suit to proceed, so the SLAPP matter becomes moot.

You are mistaken. The judge’s ruling on the anti-SLAPP motion will come Sept. 3. You are just expressing as fact that which you wish,

“When Torres’ lawyer, Roy Ogden, told the court he had not seen a portion of declarations filed by Brennler, LaBarbera delayed his final ruling to September 3.”

True or not??

However, this sounds like the classic maneuver of stalling to avoid an almost inevitable conclusion… Ms. Torres will have to pay the legal fees. I would recommend not planning any major expenditures for a while.

When Brennler has a proof-of-service for delivery, the excuse for requesting a delay, made by Ogden, who claimed he had not seen a portion of the declaration, is lame.

I thought Ogden had a good reputation?

Why would they want to delay the inevitable?

I would like to hope that the judge pulled Torres’ and Hill’s passports. While a delay to give them time to destroy evidence and/or for Hill to continue his attempts to strong-arm witnesses into changing their testimony, it is always a possibility Hill and Torres may also have decided to just get the heck out of Dodge.

I also wonder why Ogden would lie down with these dogs. My only guess is that he is seeking publicity from this semi high profile drama.

The common theory is that Ogden, a land use attorney by experience, is trying to court favor and perhaps pick up some legal business from the county. Watch to see if in the next 12 months whether Ogden’s law firm drums up some new county business.

Great catch, Dave. It is the most likely explanation I’ve heard yet.

The answer is simply. Like Mike B. claims, Ogden saw a wrong and wanted to make it right.

It is not so hard to understand. Ogden saw The Crucible.

Just saying something over and over still doesn’t make it right,

However, like most people who associate in any way with Hill, Ogden appears to have been contaminated with Hill’s drama-queen cooties.

Is Ogden that desperate for publicity that he would become an object of ridicule?

Mary, Why are you pretending this is a criminal case? You know Dee is the one suing? What are you talking about, ‘pulling Torres’ and Hill’s passports? or a delay to destroy evidence? I know, you know, this is a slander suit,, brought to court by Dee, so none of your above comments apply. Is this your attempt to confuse the reader into believing Dee and Hill are being taken to court? For the record, it is the other way around…

If you think is just about a slander suit then you really are living a “Fairy” tale

So now you are a psychic and can intuit what other posters are thinking? Amazing.