[Warning, boring legal stuff ahead, but it is important]. Many OC Political readers are familiar with the plight of Costa Mesa Councilmembers Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger as they have failed to back down to aggressive (and allegedly dirty) union tactics. For those of you unfamiliar, Righeimer and Mensinger have filed a lawsuit against the police union, the union’s former law firm, and an investigator previously used by the law firm, alleging, among other things, that the defendants have engaged in spying, threats, intimidation, assault, and false reports of criminal activity. Recently, they have alleged that the defendants illegally placed a GPS tracker on Mensinger’s car during the last election.
Apparently, the defendants have been stonewalling Righeimer and Mensinger, including the investigator repeatedly asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during his recent deposition as Righeimer and Mensinger are trying to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the tracking, and other purported illegal activities.
Enter the defendants’ lawyers for another round of delay. They recently filed what is called an “anti-SLAPP” motion. In a nutshell, an anti-SLAPP motion alleges that Righeimer and Mensinger have violated the defendants’ right of petition or free speech. While enacted for good reasons, sadly many lawyers abuse the process because filing an anti-SLAPP motion automatically stays all discovery, preventing Righeimer and Mensinger from getting important facts and documents. In addition, filing an anti-SLAPP motion early in the case forces the plaintiffs to factually defend their claims, even if the defendants are in possession of the facts and documents needed to proved the case, or risk having the lawsuit dismissed.
The defendants’ motion claimed that the principal thrust of the lawsuit is the 911 call that the investigator made against Righeimer, falsely accusing Righeimer of driving drunk. The Court rejected that claim, denied the motion, and held that the main thrust of the action is the false and malicious reports of criminal activity by the investigator as an agent for the other defendants.
So what does this mean? It means that for now, Righeimer and Mensinger can continue with their discovery and hopefully find out whether the law firm, the union, or both, were behind these dirty tactics. It also means that the Court did not buy the defendants’ bogus claim that their alleged illegal activities are protected. It also means that Righeimer and Mensinger are as committed as ever to exposing the union and its efforts to shut down any attempts to rein in its power.
Righeimer and Mensinger have had their personal lives put under a magnifying glass because of their efforts against unions. They have been followed, falsely accused, illegally tracked, and had their families dragged into the fray. Yet they refuse to be scared or threatened into giving up. We should applaud these men and their families, support them, and look for other leaders like them in our communities to support and get elected to local, state, and federal positions. Only then can we begin to make inroads into the unions’ enormous power over California.