Town Square

Post a New Topic

Atherton Lawyers Caution Me Against Exercise of My Freedom of Speech

Original post made by Jon Buckheit, Atherton: West Atherton, on Sep 24, 2010

I received a letter yesterday (that was sent to my attorney) from lawyers representing the Town of Atherton stating, in part:

"We both know that Mr. Buckheit and his acquaintances have been very vocally criticizing the Town, Police Department, and officers of the department in the public forum, whether at Town council meetings or on the internet...We caution you and your client against making any public statements or causing any public statements to be made regarding these officers based on the above disclosures and this case in general, which would unfairly and unjustly tarnish their reputations."

My response: I have the right to freedom of speech. Police officers are public figures in California. The information I have spoken of is factual (and true), or opinion (and privileged). I'm not scared of your threats.

The names of the police officers who are being sued by me in my litigation are:

Tony Dennis - testified in factual innocence proceedings that sections of the police report attributable to him were modified by someone else against his intentions.

Dean DeVlugt

Anthony Kockler - a police sergeant who approved the police report to be filed.

The judge said several times that he found the actions of the Atherton police department to be very troubling when rendering his decision of factual innocence.

Comments (25)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:16 am

Jon - thank you for speaking out.

Lawyers - retake your class in Constitiuonal Law.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Isn't the same thing going on all over the country?
People wanting to know why, where and who in politics or public office and service are accountable for questionable actions?
I just mentioned that the Vatican Banks are being investigated once more, and it has nothing to do with religion, but banking and corruption approaching billions.
The citizens of the small area the Vatican occupies, are just as angry and questioning and are witnesses in spite of the MAFIA supposedly being involved.
All people have rights to question local governments; especially in these times.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

Mr. Buckheit: Thank you for your courage and willingness to speak out. It's about time these names were made public.

Atherton attorneys: Your message is truly shameful. You should vacation in Caracas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

Thank You Dr. Jon Buckheit,

This is just another example of some bad legal advice.

Keep up the GREAT work. If this wasn't so serious it would be FUNNY.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 10:38 am

POGO & Peter, while I generally find myself coming down on the same side as the two of you on many issues; on this one I disagree with your comments. We don't know what the context of the letter was--nor should we know. If, for example, the letter was addressing issues involved in Jon's complaint toward the subject police officers, and the lawyer who wrote the letter is representing those officers, then I see nothing wrong with a lawyer cautioning another lawyer to advise his client not to cause harm to the first lawyer's client(s). In that context the lawyer is merely trying to protect his client's interests which is totally appropriate. Even in its abridged form, the letter didn't say, cease, stop, knock it off or else, or anything else that I would construe to be a direct violation of Jon's right to free speech. One might say it was merely free legal advice. I do hope that Jon's posting the names of the officers in this forum was done with advice of counsel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 11:43 am

Actually, "Doing nothing with out the advice of council" is precisely what has kept this self perpetuating mess going for two years.
Both management and "the leadership" have been provided the perfect excuse to let things fester on, by leaving it all in the hands of the town's insurance litigators.
I don't think Chief Guerra would be even allowed by those attorneys, to clean up his own department no matter how badly he might want to.
All aspects of Atherton's governance will remain dysfunctional if the insurance people have assumed all the control.
I wonder if this is a problem particular to Atherton, and if so WHY


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Unless there is a gag order on Mr. Buckheit's case the contents of the filings are public record. Publishing the names of those being sued in this forum doesn't violate anyone's rights. One could just as easily go to the court house right now and ask to see the filings in that case and be allowed to do so. If one did that they would have the information that was just published here. Mr. Buckheit is totally within his rights.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Menlo Voter is 100% correct. Not only are the identities of the persons I am suing part of a public court filing, they are published routinely in Atherton council agendas for closed session deliberation of my lawsuit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

WhoR -

It's not the purview of opposing counsel to offer legal advice to their adversary. In fact, unless they are referencing a specific court order limiting disclosures, just the suggestion of it can be viewed as intimidation. In this case, I'm sure Mr. Buckheit's attorney is perfectly capable of providing him with appropriate advice.

Atherton's attorney's statement to Mr. Buckheit was "We caution you and your client against making any public statements or causing any public statements to be made regarding these officers based on the above disclosures and this case in general, which would unfairly and unjustly tarnish their reputations." The fact that Mr. Buckheit has a court's determination of factual innocence is ample condemnation of these police officers who betrayed their responsibility to protect citizens.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm

again
look to the town's insurance attorneys for cause here.
They are only insuring the need for their own existence.
The town has been paying premiums for litigation endurance, not litigation insurance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Wow. Unbelievable.

Listen. I did not agree with the video taping of Gruber. Sorry but I found it a tad distasteful.

HOWVEVER, for the Town to caution Mr. Buckheit concerning his posts on a public forum means that someone from the Town has been tracking his posts.

If I where Mr. Buckheit I would love to know who was doing the tracking and how much are they paid to track the comments of residents of the Town of Atherton on a public forum.

Does anyone believe this is an appropriate use of Public Funds.

I am flabbergasted.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Excuse the spelling errors. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the original post.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUPeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm

POGO, I don't disagree with anything you said. My point, admittedly poorly made, was based on the fact that I, personally, do not have any visibility into the context in which the letter was sent to Mr Buckhiet, and his post provides none. Therefore, I, personally, do not have any basis for agreeing that the Town's lawyers were out of line in that letter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm

WhoRUPeople

I wish you would respond to mine. The very idea that someone is "tracking" the public comments of a Town resident sufficient to make them believe that they can attempt to suppress that comment causes me great concern.

This may well become (and perhaps should become) a far greater issue than Atherton has addressed before.

Is the Almanac aware of this letter?

The very idea of Government employees (in all contexts) "spying on residents makes my stomach churl. I hope I am not alone


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 5:41 pm

To Interested: nope- you are not alone
Assuming that it is still legal to express an opinion here,
I will venture to guess that it may well be that some of the dialog on the on the recent police outsourcing thread went too far off, or too far on base for someone's comfort, and it is this that may have triggered the defensive warning attempt sent to Mr. Buckheit.
Assuming (actually praying at this point), that the towns' litigation insurance team does not have any control over monitoring the local press,
one is left hoping that the REACT task force took all their spy equipment with them when they supposedly packed up and left Atherton. Is it still acceptable to hope for this?
Financing the Thought Police seems like a bad idea to me, even in the best of economies so here's one thought for free:
Didn't this all start out with the issue being that Mr. Buckheit's reputation was the one that was unfairly tarnished? Determined by the courts. And now it is being spun the other way around? By insurance attorneys.
How much uglier is this thing going to get before the ABAG attorneys/and or police union allow the system to function properly so everyone can finally move forward?
I just want to go back to having the Police Department I thought I had several years and a hand full of Chiefs ago. I have never been pro out-sourcing.
I am hoping these attorneys are dumb enough to send out more letter just like this.
They may need to be sued before anything gets resolved.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I just want to clarify one point. The 4 public meetings in which I spoke and asked the Town of Atherton to identify the one or more Police Officers who committed a felony against Mr. Jon Buckheit, I was speaking as a Victims Advocate which I have been doing for years in San Mateo County. I was not asked by Mr. Buckheit to come a speak for him and I was not speaking as an acquaintance.

"We both know that Mr. Buckheit and his acquaintances have been very vocally criticizing the Town, Police Department, and officers of the department in the public forum, whether at Town council meetings or on the internet..

I have also been working as a Victims Advocate for an elderly Atherton resident for the last 3 years. The letter writers could do all of Atherton a big favor and identify the corrupt Officer(s) as soon as possible, get them off of the force if they/he is not already gone and make sure he/they are prosecuted.

P.S. Dr. Jon Buckheit is realistically the last person you would want to threaten, do your homework.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Interested:

perhaps you are now getting a glimmer of just how screwed up the city of Atherton really is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2010 at 5:09 am

California Code 549543(c) The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 6:29 am

The following is the text of an e-mail sent to Mayor Kathy McKeithen and the City Council

Dear Mayor McKeithen

From Mr. Buckheit's note it is evident that he is being unfairly targeted by the Atherton Police Department in retaliation for the exercise of his 1st amendment rights and his right to due process protected by the 4th amendment.

I will call to your attention to the fact that an officer, in open court acknowledged that a report he wrote had been altered without his consent or knowledge. It is therefore simply ludicrous that Mr. Buckheit would have made any statement that is defamatory by asserting that a report on his person was falsified.

There have also been statements I have made both publicly and privately that my right to privacy and my right to freedom of assembly were been violated by the Atherton Police Department. Should I expect a letter from Wynne Furth in the near future as well?

To the point above, I would like to call your attention to the attached e-mails from Detective Sherman Hall. These documents were obtained via a public records request. These e-mails provide compelling evidence that Detective Sherman Hall performed the kind of intrusive forensic examination he was prohibited from doing without a search warrant. Yet this is precisely what he did at the bidding of his masters Chief Brennan and then interim city manager Wende Protzman.

Please note that these e-mails (which are a matter of public record) along with other incriminating documentation on the part of high placed elected and appointed officials (including Mary Topliff's "investigative report" on me and her videotaped deposition) serve as proof positive of the systemic nature of Atherton's callous disregard for the constitutional rights of its residents and employees.

There is a saying, that rings true at this very moment. "When one discovers on is in a hole, it is time to stop digging."

The Town of Atherton it seems is attempting to compensate for past civil rights violations by committing additional civil rights violations. As such the Town of Atherton appears to be stubbornly and unwittingly building an even better case for Mr. Buckheit.

If the City Council accepts my offer to serve as Interim City Manager at the rate of $1 per month, my first order of business will be to help drive the Buckheit litigation to a swift and successful conclusion. I believe that can best be assured by persuading the City Council that it should fire the City Attorney, and by giving Chief Guerra all of the support he needs to weed out that corrupt minority of peace officers who have devastated the reputation of an otherwise very fine department.

The choice for Atherton, I respectfully submit is clear. It either accepts responsibility for past abuses and seeks to correct them promptly or it pay Mr. Buckheit and others untold millions for a failure to get its house in order.

Sincerely,

John P. Johns, CPA



 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 9:22 am

Let's put the blame where it belongs - the Atherton Town Council. The Town Council is the CLIENT here and attorneys can only do what a client permits.

Town Council members should be called on the carpet at the next Town Council meeting. Do they support the actions of their attorneys? Do they support the intimidation of its citizens by threatening them not to post on public forums?

This would be a good question for the "meet the candidates forum" also.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ambulance chaser
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I'll take The Jon Buckheit case on contingency.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Looks like a Special Council meeting is has been posted on the town's home page for September 30th at 10:00 A.M. Council Chambers
..... to discuss the vacancies for just about every position in town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by custodian
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Will the last one leaving Town hall please turn out the lights?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2010 at 9:01 am

Interested - you asked that I respond to your point as well. Again, as with POGO's, I can't find disagreement with anything you said. My point wasn't about the right or wrong of someone being "paid" with public funds to track comments on this or any other forum. I, too, would find that disturbing as I do the "pressure" that it has been reported has been exerted on City employees by City management not to participate in this forum. My comment was strictly related to my opinion that the context in which a portion of a letter was mentioned in the original post on this thread was not sufficiently clear enough for me to conclude that the lawyer who wrote it poorly represented his client.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by falling dominos
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:50 am

The assistant city manager is next. She was the one who propped up. Now that Gruber is gone, she has no friends in town.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Flirtation
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,431 views

King of the Slides
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 1,121 views

Where the Sidewalk Ends
By Paul Bendix | 1 comment | 304 views