Torres ordered to pay attorney’s fees
November 26, 2013
Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s homeless services director Dee Torres will pay $17,681 in attorney’s fees to attorney Stew Jenkins over a slander lawsuit she filed.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera made the fees ruling Monday, after previously dismissing Torres’ lawsuit against Mike Brennler, a private investigator who had been working with CalCoastNews on articles about abuses of the homeless.
LaBarbera slashed the attorney’s fee award sought by Jenkins from $41,930 to $17,681.
In cutting the attorneys’ fees, LaBarbera found the amount of time Jenkins spent on the case to be “somewhat excessive.” He noted that Torres’ attorney Roy Ogden had billed his client $8,400 for 30.5 hours of work.
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 over aggressive 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.