Torres’ price for attempting to silence public debate

October 11, 2013
Dee Torres

Dee Torres

By KAREN VELIE

Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s homeless services director’s attempt to stifle free speech could end up costing her an additional $41,930 for her opponent’s legal fees.

In September, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera dismissed Dee Torres’ lawsuit against Mike Brennler, a private investigator who had been working with CalCoastNews on articles about abuses of the homeless. LaBarbera found that Brennler’s statements were protected free speech and that Torres was unlikely to prevail in her suit.

At the conclusion of the hearing, LaBarbera ordered Brennler’s attorney Stew Jenkins to prepare, file, and serve a proposed judgment for legal fees.

“My work here has achieved a great deal,” Jenkins said in the fee motion he filed Wednesday. “Not only has it successfully protected the defendant, it has beat back a dark cold spreading chill perpetrated by this litigation against investigative reporting, press freedom and witness freedom to report facts and circumstances about public programs that are of important public interest within San Luis Obispo County.”

Torres filed the slander lawsuit earlier this year claiming Brennler defamed her character by repeating statements from multiple sources who said Torres pilfered gift cards, clothing and household items donated to the homeless.

Jenkins, who took the case without a retainer, battled back telling the court Torres had filed a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) aimed at silencing free speech through intimidation.

California’s anti-SLAPP statute serves to counteract the chilling effect that arises from overaggressive plaintiffs’ use of the judicial process. If a judge determines the lawsuit was an attempt to stifle free speech, the plaintiff is required to pay the defendant’s attorney fees and costs.

On April 11, several weeks after Torres filed her lawsuit against Brennler, an advertisement for a public relations professional to help change public opinion was placed on Cragslist, using the SlanderGuard logo On the same day, SlanderGuard posted a link to a San Luis Obispo Tribune article about Torres’ lawsuit on its FaceBook page, where the public relation’s firm appears to highlight its clients.

Shortly afterwards, posts began appearing on several online blogs with numerous demeaning and false allegations about Brennler and CalCoastNews staff.

“Torres’ aggressive attempts to abuse the discovery process in the anti-SLAPP proceeding subjected defendant to additional defense work and fees to successfully prosecute the motion,” Brennler says in his declaration. “It would have wiped me out financially and I would have had to risk losing my home to be able to field a defense to the frivolous suit brought against me by plaintiff attacking citizens’ rights to free speech, press, petition, consultation and instruction.”

 


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rogerfreberg

There has been some talk about how much money might be paid or should be paid…and this is mute.


The issue is how much legal work (fees) was done in the preparation for the case… if the amount is $42,000… then thats what the judge should consider awarding.


BTW, I’ve been through the SLAAP suit process and lets just say that the amount I received was enough to send me on Safari to South Africa. I brought back 4 trophies.


zaphod

moot : adjective

1.

subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty, and typically not admitting of a final decision.


R.Hodin

the trophies Roger mounted on his den wall are mute


abigchocoholic

The issue is how much legal work (fees) was done in the preparation for the case…

————-

If by “case” you mean motion then yes. This was a boilerplate motion on a very, very small allegation of defamation. Nobody spends 42k in attorney fees fighting a small claims level case.


BTW, I’ve been through the SLAAP suit process and lets just say that the amount I received was enough to send me on Safari to South Africa.

——————-

All the anti slapp laws give you is your attorney fees expended. So the only one who makes money is the attorney. It puts nothing in a party’s pocket. So no, you didn’t go on Safari with anti-slapp money unless you were the attorney.


slojustice

Will Stew take gift cards?


r0y

+1 !*ZING*!


abigchocoholic

42k for one motion?


I don’t think so.


I’d give him $2,500.


Word

abigchocoholic says: “42k for one motion?”


“serve a proposed judgment for legal fees” for the whole trial.


abigchocoholic

“serve a proposed judgment for legal fees” for the whole trial.

——————-

There was no trial. It was the first, one and only initial response to the complaint. It was one motion to end the lawsuit. And the lawsuit was small claims level stuff–one allegation of one conversation between the defendant and the Plaintiff’s ex-spouse where alleged defamatory remarks were made. Defamed before an ex-spouse? Please. The lawsuit was probably worth $100 max.


A simple anti-slapp motion to defeat one count of extremely minor defamation is worth about $2,500.


Word

So you are saying there was no case to begin with.


I’m good with that.


fugetaboutit

Beware these Progressives. They do not believe in free speech, freedom of the press, individual rights. They believe in two things, power and control and their ability

to use it for their agenda and against you if you oppose their agenda.


obispan

Look, Debbie Arnold sits on the board of CAPSLO and has no complaints. This is money the county gets from the state and feds and contracts out to CAPSLO. CAPSLO is an efficient “private” contractor, not wasteful government, so no worries.


MaryMalone

Oh, YES. Let’s bring CAPSLO right in the middle of this.


Their director of homeless services,Dee Torres, is so inept at providing efficient services that she is unable to get rid of the bedbugs plaguing the homeless shelter–after three treatments. That is NOT efficient use of funds.


In addition, taxpayers fund those grants, and the fact that Debbie Arnold has no problem about it is actually indicative of conflicts-of-interst-laden cronyism running the CAPSLO show.


Word

fugetaboutit says: “Beware these Progressives. They do not believe in free speech, freedom of the press, individual rights.”


So like Adam Hill and all of the GOP.

Bad behaviour is not a one party problem but you can pretend if that’s what you are into.


MaryMalone

Strawman argument. The issue isn’t “progressives,” and the political leanings of a person do not dictate their stance on any particular issue.


The last presidential election should have shown that….after 4 years in office, Obama’s election performance amongst his own party’s voters was a very poor showing.


I am a member of the Democratic Party who voted for someone else.


I have two midwestern conservative elderly friends who refused to vote at all for president—after a lifetime of voting a straight GOP ticket.


Not all party members are brainless puppets who vote for whatever filth their party leadership shoves on the ballot. If you are so politically unsophisticated that you don’t know that, then you really don’t know what you are talking about.


scoopone

CAPSLO would best be served to keep it’s nose out of this one. It has no legal standing to pay Torres’ legal fees. I would expect CCN to keep all informed of the outcome. In fact, CAPSLO should consider firing her.


Pelican1

The silence of the lambs….”Hello Torres.”


kayaknut

Does anyone know if Mr. Jenkins would accept gift cards for payment, or maybe a years supply of little shampoo and soaps?


mkaney

She doesn’t care, because it is very likely she will not be footing the bill personally. Her tax leach cohorts at CAPSLO will probably cover the expense, rather than use our money for the things they’re supposed to.


Jorge Estrada

If the plaintiff is Dee Tores, why would CAPSLO be allowed to spend taxpayer funding on a personal legal failure?


jms3211

Because Adam Hill is coaching her!


MaryMalone

The comparison of Adam Hill to a bloated leach is quite a visual.


I wondered what had ballooned up his physique. It is his gluttonous feeding off of public funds.


SLOBIRD

Maybe Mr. Hill will use some of his campaign contributions for bailing out Ms. Torres. I thought they were getting married. How much engagement do they need in light of the fact they are living together with children in the household and all these happenings. Do something right, Ms. Torres and Mr. Hill!


kayaknut

“Do something right, Ms. Torres and Mr. Hill!” Do they know how to do anything right??


jms3211

Like resign and move far away from this area!


r0y

While CCN deserves a little “nya-nya-nuh-nya-nya” – repeated stories piling on CAPSLO are unnecessary. Most everyone here who is not on the dole directly (or indirectly) know what a sham Torres is and how low CAPSLO Homeless Services have become.


Any word from Biz? This is like national politics: just ignore it long enough and it goes away.


MaryMalone

Oh, no. Just because one of Dee Torres’ debacles has come back to slap her in her pocketbook and public dignity doesn’t mean that ALL of her debacles cannot be outed.


Apparently the gluttonous CAPSLO leeches, feeding off the public taxpayer’s blood, aren’t yet convinced that the public will not put up for the Dee Torres carny show, where her boyfriend plays a pitiful hand of Three Card Monty scam, with Torres being too dumb to even remember her shill lines.