A GUSS REPORT EXCLUSIVE--For the second consecutive time, notorious Los Angeles City Hall gadfly Wayne Spindler has defeated LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, as a federal judge ruled that Spindler did not threaten Herb Wesson, the LA City Council president, in an incident back on May 11, 2016.
And for the second consecutive time, the LA Times failed to proactively report on it when the ruling came down last week, after its reporter Emily Alpert Reyes earlier wrote an untrue story on Spindler’s other legal entanglements with the city.
In a 30-page ruling on November 20, U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton ruled that from both standards – subjective and objective – Spindler’s actions (racially-tinged words and images on a City Council speaker card) were protected free speech and did not constitute any threat.
In the subjective test, Staton ruled that the court must “accept as true” Spindler’s claim that his written comments constituted valid criticism of the LA DWP.
In the objective test, she ruled that the court must consider “the entire factual context of (Spindler’s speaker card) including the surrounding events, the listeners’ reaction, and whether the words are conditional.”
Part of that objective assessment is the fact that if Wesson considered Spindler to be a threat, why was he not arrested until May 13, rather than on-the-spot? Instead of taking such immediate action, Wesson and other city officials, spent their time holding press conferences, etc.
But the problem there is, if Spindler was arrested on the spot, the City of Los Angeles, Wesson and the LAPD may have found themselves in even deeper liability for silencing vocal critics at a public meeting with arrest, since his written comments have been upheld as constitutionally protected free speech.
In other words, the City’s increasingly aggressive attempts to silence its critics (no matter how obnoxious they may be) since Wesson took over the role of City Council president from now-Mayor Eric Garcetti, have consistently failed and resulted in costly legal consequences.
The taxpayers are now going to have to pay a fortune in legal fees to defend against Spindler’s suit, which is one of three legal actions he presently has against the city.
Spindler also points out that the federal ruling, which he is going to amend to address some unresolved issues, now clears the way for the temporary restraining order the city got against him to be lifted, and for his civil suit to proceed against both the City as a corporation, and against individuals Wesson, Deputy City Attorney Hugo Rossitter and two LAPD detectives, Nelly Mercado and Eric Reade, the new chief of the LAPD’s Threat Management Unit.
He adds that Feuer and his deputies, Dora Alicia-Gonzalez and Ava Smith, threw those individual defendants under the bus by agreeing to represent them against Spindler’s civil suit (instead of hiring costly outside legal counsel), while simultaneously claiming that if Wesson, Rossitter, Mercado and Reade did violate Spindler’s civil rights, the City is not liable for any resulting damages. This, Spindler says, is a conflict of interest for the city which may have put the individual defendants in legal jeopardy.
While Feuer’s office did not respond to a request for an interview, Spindler also believes he is about to prevail in defeating the TRO because of a legal concept known as ultra veres, meaning that the City Attorney’s office did not have standing to obtain the TRO on Wesson’s behalf in the first place.
In Rossitter’s original TRO filing, Wesson was listed as an employee of the City Attorney’s office, thus allowing Rossitter, a deputy for the City Attorney, to seek the TRO. But Wesson is, in fact, an employee of the City of Los Angeles, not the City Attorney’s office.
While Rossitter acknowledged that mistake in an amended TRO order on June 17, 2016, he failed to actually correct that mistake and, to this day, the order still lists Wesson as an employee of the City Attorney’s office. If applied, ultra veres means that the original TRO is null and void.
Judge Staton, whose law degree is from Harvard and who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama, recently ruled against President Trump’s attempt to prevent a family from Afghanistan from entering the U.S. at LAX.
Whether the LA Times, which now regularly pleads for readers to “Support Quality Journalism, 4 weeks for 99 cents,” tells the entire story, remains to be seen. Its CEO and Publisher Ross Levinsohn could not be reached for comment.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at [email protected]. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.