San Jose City Councilman Gets Sued, Plaintiff Represented by Politically Active Santa Clara Attorney

San Jose City Councilman Gets Sued, Plaintiff Represented by Politically Active Santa Clara Attorney

By Robert Haugh

San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha, who is also a candidate for County Board of Supervisors was sued for libel and defamation.

The plaintiff is represented by the law firm of John Mlnarik, a Santa Clara attorney who ran unsuccessfully for Santa Clara City Council in 2012.

Mlnarik has been a past supporter of Dominic Caserta who is now running against Rocha for the County Supervisor seat.

As Ramona Giwargis reported in the Mercury News last week, Mlnarik’s firm filed a suit on behalf of Shaian Mohammadi, who serves on the Santa Clara County Democratic Party’s central committee.

The targets of the libel and defamation claim are Rocha, Metro Publishing, Metro staff writer Jennifer Wadsworth and Ann Grabowski, who worked for Rocha.

We won’t go into all the details. But the suit involves allegations of angry social media posts, poor law school grades, lost job opportunities and a topless photo. Giwargis links to the lawsuit and other materials in her story.

What’s interesting is how the suit is similar to the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) filed against me by Miles Barber which I won. Coincidentally, Barber was represented by Mlkarik’s law firm, too.

We’ll watch this suit as it unfolds. This may be another First Amendment issue and may fall under the anti-SLAPP law, as my case did.

If you want to read an independent review of my legal victory, here’s a link to TechDirt which follows California anti-SLAPP cases and the law closely.

If you don’t want to read it, here’s a brief summary:

Thankfully, the judge in that case has agreed and dumped the case, and has denied Barber’s request to file an amended complaint on top of that. As of yet, there does not appear to be a full ruling on this, but congrats to Ken White and Robert Haugh for succeeding here.

And, once again, this is a reminder of the need for strong anti-SLAPP laws. They help get rid of frivolous, censorious cases quickly, and they make the plaintiff pay the legal fees of the defendant (which also helps to deter other such frivolous cases).


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