Jeff Lewis files Opening Brief in First Amendment Appeal Challenging Misuse of California’s Anti-Harassment Statute, Code of Civil Procedure, Section 527.6

Jeff Lewis is representing a party restrained under California’s Civil Harassment Restraining statute, Code of Civil Procedure, section 527.6. The appeal is now pending against personal injury attorney Dan Dunbar in the second District Court of Appeal. Section 527.6 was intended to protect victims of violent stalking but in the case of Dan Dunbar, the law was misused to prevent the restrained party from speaking the truth about criminal drug convictions and a jail sentence imposed upon Palos Verdes Estates resident Cindy Dunbar. The order issued by Judge Gary Tanaka is an unlawful prior restraint in violation of the restrained party’s First Amendment rights because it purports to restrict him from speaking or writing truthfully about the drug convictions and nursing license surrender proceedings involving Dan Dunbar‘s wife, Cynthia Dunbar. Jeff Lewis agreed to represent the restrained party in this case because he has witnessed a trend of increased restraining orders issued not to prevent violence but instead to silence defendants or to improperly restrain persons who have not committed or threatened violence or harassment. You can access the brief filed in this case here.

It’s Over: California Supreme Court Denies Review of Palos Verdes Estates Parkland Sale

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association — still convinced it has the absolute power to sell parkland — asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in and hear the case. On April 11, 2018, the Supreme Court declined. Thus, the 2015 ruling by the Superior Court and the January 30, 2018 Court of Appeal ruling are now the final word on whether the Palos Verdes Homes Association has the power to sell parkland.

 

Court of Appeal Denies Rehearing of Parkland Appeal

In January, the Second District Court of Appeal issued its opinion about the validity of the property deed restrictions and the propriety of the 2012 sale of parkland in Palos Verdes Estates. The Palos Verdes Homes Association filed a Petition for Rehearing asking the same three appellate justices who decided the case to change their mind. Today that request for a rehearing was denied. In addition, the Court of Appeal strengthened its earlier decision by adding the following footnote to the opinion on the validity of the deeds:

The Association argues that it had the right to transfer the parkland to the Luglianis because this original declaration was never properly amended. But, the Chairman of the Association’s board expressly consented to the terms of the 1940 deed. By expressly agreeing to those terms, the Association cannot now argue that Bank of America had no power to include them.

 

Court Orders PV Homes Association to Count Votes

For some time, an organization named “Residents for Open Board Elections” or “ROBE” has been attempting to get the Palos Verdes Homes Association to allow votes to be counted in the annual election to determine the members of the Board of Directors. The PV Homes Association’s long standing practice is not to count the votes and simply vote to re-appoint themselves as board members. As indicated in an article by the Daily Breeze, the Los Angeles Superior Court has ordered the board to count the votes:

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ordered the Palos Verdes Homes Association to unseal and tally ballots cast in its recent board election even though the group considers them invalid.

This was the ninth year in a row the association hasn’t met its quorum requirement — more than 50 percent of members voting — and each time that happens, the ballots remain uncounted and the directors retain their seats or appoint new members. This year, however, the association extended its voting deadline to Feb. 8 in an effort to reach a quorum.

Judge Ruth Kwan, hearing a lawsuit filed by a filed last May by a group of activists, said in December she would wait to see if a quorum was reached. Notified that it wasn’t, the judge last week called for an informal tally of the votes to help her decide how to rule in the case.

(Judge asks Palos Verdes Homes Association to count votes in disputed board election, Daily Breeze, February 23, 2018).

Cartoonist Ted Rall Takes His Battle Against the Los Angeles Times to the California Courts of Appeal

Ted Rall is an award-winning nationally syndicated political cartoonist who was terminated by the Los Angeles Times as a favor to outgoing LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in 2015. (At the time, the LAPD Protective League pension fund was the biggest shareholder of the Times’ parent company.) Adding insult to injury, the Times published two pieces, both proven false, that defamed Rall in a scorched-earth attempt to destroy his journalistic career. Mr. Rall sued in 2016. Now his fight for justice goes to California’s Courts of Appeal.

The Times, now under new ownership but being run into the ground by the Chicago-based “Tronc” corporation at the time, wrongfully terminated Mr. Rall in 2015 based on allegations that Mr. Rall falsified a story about being roughed up and handcuffed by the LAPD for jaywalking in 2001. Thanks to audio technology, Mr. Rall used the Times’ own evidence to prove that he told the truth, and that the LAPD lied. Inexplicably, the Times still refuses to admit they were wrong, issue a retraction and give Mr Rall his job back. Mr. Rall sued the Times and others responsible for his firing in 2016 but in the summer of 2017 the case was dismissed. Ironically, the Times used a California law designed to protect individuals’ First Amendment rights – the anti-SLAPP law – to obtain a dismissal before Mr. Rall could conduct discovery and before a jury could hear Mr. Rall’s story.

“This is about a lot more than a newspaper firing a cartoonist,” said Mr. Rall. “It’s about a newspaper colluding with a government agency, the most heavily militarized police department in the United States, in order to send a chilling message to journalists in Southern California that they risk losing everything if they dare to report the truth about the LAPD. How can the Times speak truth to power, when it’s in bed with that power?

This week Mr. Rall’s legal team – Roger Lowenstein and Jeff Lewis – filed an appellate brief before California’s Court of Appeals to reinstate Mr. Rall’s case and vindicate Mr. Rall’s First Amendment rights to speak his mind – draw his cartoons. You can access Mr. Rall’s opening brief here. As argued in the brief: “The Times hired Rall to speak truth to power, and when he did his job too well, they fired him.”

“Working on a case like this for a client like Ted is the reason I went to law school,” said Jeff Lewis. Although Mr. Lewis frequently represents defendants in anti-SLAPP motions and appeals, in this case, accepting the representation for a plaintiff was an easy choice. “The anti-SLAPP law was designed to protect an individual from a wealthy corporation using an army of lawyers to silence critics. In this case, the anti-SLAPP law was turned on its head by the Times’ massive financial and legal resources to keep a jury from ever hearing Ted’s story,” said Mr. Lewis.

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About Jeff Lewis

Jeff Lewis is a Certified Specialist in Appellate Law The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization representing businesses and individuals in First Amendment and SLAPP matters throughout California. Contact Info: Tel. (310) 935-4001, E-Mail: Jeff@JeffLewisLaw.com, Web: www.JeffLewisLaw.com

 

About Roger Lowenstein

Roger Lowenstein is a lawyer (Harvard ‘68) and former professor of constitutional law. He is the founder and Executive Director of a social justice-themed charter school in Lincoln Heights. The school, Los Angeles Leadership Academy, K-12, serves 650 predominantly Latino families and is designed to produce critical thinkers who perceive themselves as agents of social change. 100% of the students graduate and go to college.

 

About Ted Rall

Ted Rall, cartoonist for Forbes, is America’s most widely-syndicated alternative editorial cartoonist. Twice the winner of the RFK Journalism Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Rall’s cartoons and illustrations have appeared in Time, Newsweek, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice and hundreds of other publications and websites. He is a regular contributor to MAD magazine.

Rall is the author of 20 books, including the Gen X manifesto Revenge of the Latchkey Kids, the bestselling first book filed from the 2001 U.S. invasion, To Afghanistan and Back, the radical Anti-American Manifesto, and a mixed-media look at the U.S. occupation from beginning to end, After We Kill You We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests. Most recently, he authored the New York Times bestselling graphic biography Bernie, as well as the bios Snowden and Trump.

Court of Appeal Finds Deed Restrictions Apply and are Enforceable in Palos Verdes Estates

Today the Court of Appeal issued its decision in the long simmering dispute over the City of Palos Verdes Estates’ sale of parkland. A copy of the decision can be read here. In sum, the Court of Appeal agreed that summary judgment should have been granted as to the Palos Verdes Homes Association (“Homes Association”) and the Luglianis. Their actions violated deed restrictions. The Court of Appeal, however, found that the relief fashioned in the judgment should be limited solely to the Panorama Parkland and not impact all 800 acres of parkland in the City. The Court of Appeal has ordered the trial court to issue a more narrow judgment against the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of Appeal found that neither my clients nor the City were entitled to summary judgment and instead the matter should proceed to trial against the City.

I am grateful that the Court of Appeal today confirmed the essence of what my clients have been saying since 2012: “that the deed restrictions mean what they say—Parcel A is intended to be parkland for the community.” (Opinion, p. 14). The parkland case is now over as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis. The Court of the Appeal has affirmed the grant of summary judgment as to the Homes Association and the Luglianis finding there was no question of fact to be tried regarding the Homes Association and the Luglianis’ actions. Per the Court of Appeal:  “We do not agree with the Association and the Luglianis that their actions were proper; the transfer of property from the Association to the Luglianis violated certain deed restrictions.” (Opinion, p. 3). The case will now be remanded to discuss the proper form of the judgment to be entered against the Homes Association and the Luglianis.

As for the City, the case will move forward to trial. The Court of Appeal ruled that neither the City nor my clients were entitled to receive summary judgment due to the existence of fact questions about the City’s intentions in conveying parkland. It remains to be seen what the City will do. Will the City continue to fight in court for the “right” for the City to liquidate the City’s 800 acres of parkland? I hope for the community’s sake that the City does not waste more legal fees to fight for a right that no residents want the City to assert. The City should take no solace in the fact that the summary judgment was reversed as to the City. The Court of Appeal observed: “While the City may have had the right to transfer Parcel A to the Association, it may not have had the right to do so if it knew that the Association was going to transfer Parcel A to the Luglianis.” (Opinion, p. 10). That is precisely the intent of the MOU – to get a public park into the hands of the Luglianis. I am confident that if this matter proceeds to trial against the City that the court will conclude that the City’s objective — to get the Panorama Parkland into the hands of the Luglianis will be found to be improper.

On a personal note, having represented the plaintiffs and respondents pro bono since 2013, I was gratified that the Court of Appeal concluded by finding that “the public did benefit from this litigation—namely through the protection of a public park.” (Opinion, p. 19).

PV Homes Fails to Get Quorum for Board Election, Jeff Lewis to Return to Court

The Daily Breeze reports here on the going legal dispute over the quorum for board elections for the Palos Verdes Homes Association:

The next hearing is set for Feb. 15, where Jeff Lewis, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will ask the judge to lower the threshold for a quorum. A quorum hasn’t been reached since 2009. In 2017’s election, just 1,589 votes were cast.

PV Parents Call on School Board to Resolve Threat of Murder Suspect Attending PV High School

The Daily Breeze reports on a parent group upset that PV High allowed a suspect in a gang murder to continue attending PV High. From the article:

On Monday, attorney Jeffrey Lewis said about a dozen parents forming the group Residents Against Gangs at School sent a letter to the Palos Verdes Peninsula school board asking for Terrell to be removed from campus and home-schooled, or transferred to a continuation school. He said the district was “needlessly exposing itself to moral and financial liability should any harm befall any student due to Terrell’s continued attendance at school.”

“The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has been silent about what steps are being taken to protect Palos Verdes children from Terrell and his accomplices,” the letter said. “While Terrell does enjoy the presumption of innocence in a court of law, there are serious safety concerns raised by Terrell’s continued attendance at school. At best, Terrell is a distraction to teachers, staff and other students. At worst, most law enforcement officers would say that allowing an 18-year old gang member suspected of a felony to attend a high school presents a clear and present danger to other students.”