Subpoena from an Anaheim Employee

The OC Sheriff’s department staked out an FFFF outpost last week to deliver a subpoena demanding that produce information identifying one of our anonymous commenters.

Cheryl Sanders, currently a “Real Property Specialist” for the City of Anaheim, is suing (see complaint) one or more John Does who allegedly defamed her in anonymous comments on FFFF and a few other sites. The blog comments claim that the Anaheim planning department is taking bribes under the table, call for an investigation and state that Cheryl Sanders should be “brought to justice.”

Faceless Internet meanies strike again

Of course, Sanders’ suit against the commenter claims that all of these statements are false and were made with the intent to emotionally harm her.

But back to the matter at hand: Cheryl’s initial demand for FFFF to identify the commenter was denied. We don’t disclose our logs to anyone. So what should we do with the subpoena?

View the subpoena

The Friends have a soft spot for the anonymous horde of commenters that visit our humble blog and we’d hate to see any of them get pushed around by a litigious public employee. On the other hand, making false statements with the intent to harm is a legal no-no, and the alleged victim should have her day in court. But the actual comment that was left on FFFF was vague, uninspired, and hardly defamatory in my professional opinion (it was removed pending the outcome of the case, but that was pointless since you can now view it on the last page of the subpoena.) Truthfully, this blog is disinclined to acquiesce to the court’s request, but we’d like to consider the opinions of the armchair attorneys that frequent our blog before we proceed.

And it’s worth noting that in over two years and 350,000 words, none of our own bloggers have ever been sued for libel. Why not? Because you can’t sue if it’s true.

59 Replies to “Subpoena from an Anaheim Employee”

  1. I think blogs are to modern society what the printing press was to revolutionaries of the 1700s.

    That said, if the anonymous poster has ever provided Friends with inside information, their job and livelihood could be at stake.

    If it were my blog, I would give the court all of that useless statistical data that is captured and be frank that you don’t keep tabs on visitors/commentators. If Friends did, I think there would have been a few bad apples outed by now- including a string of law enforcement personnel.

    1. Hit submit too soon…

      Posters have to act responsibly but parody and humor sometimes call for whit and intellect. Is it up to the Friends to verify whit and intellect before visitors can post comments??? Hmmm…. food for thought.

  2. File to quash that subpoena under California’s Journalism Shield Law. It’s quite possible that this commenter was trying to blow the whistle on Anaheim. Whether the remarks were true or not, that commenter should qualify as a confidential source.

    I know you guys don’t claim to be journalists, but you clearly know how to dig stuff up, so I would say that you fit the legal definition and should have your confidentiality protected as journalists.

  3. Are you seriously taking legal advice from anonymous blog idiots? Might as well save some time and check yourself into jail tomorrow.

  4. Dear FFFF:
    Code of Civil Procedure section 1985 treats subpoenas to compel merely attendance differently from subpoenas to compel production of records. The latter is called a “subpoena duces tecum”, and is governed by subsection 1985(b). CCP subsection 1985(b) very clearly states that “[a] copy of an affidavit shall be served with a subpoena duces tecum issued before trial, showing good cause of the production of the matter and things described in the subpoena, etc.”
    The subpoena above does not seem to have any such affidavit attached to it. It seems to be facially invalid. It can easily be “quashed” in court for that reason.
    FYI: Believe it or not, it is not defamatory to say that some official takes bribes. It only becomes defamatory when the alleged bribes would violate law: i.e. cash bribes. But that is not what the “blog” said… it merely referred to “bribes under the table”. Furthermore, it did not say that the Sanders woman was taking the bribes, but rather “the Anaheim Planning Department.” It is now settled in California law that governmental entities cannot be defamed; only governmental officials and individual workers. Sanders herself has not been defamed, it sounds.
    Stating it differently, it sounds as if the Complaint might be “generally demurrable”, and for that completely separate reason, the Subpoena for Business Records might be “quashable”.
    Ms. Sanders might want to heed my father’s repeated advice to me while he was alive: “The gods first anger, those whom they would destroy.”
    Best wishes, WSH

  5. Travis :
    And it’s worth noting that in over two years and 350,000 words, none of our own bloggers have ever been sued for libel. Why not? Because you can’t sue if it’s true.

    It’s also worth noting with public officials you have to prove malice which is damn near impossible. That’s what makes blogs like this possible. God bless America.

  6. Wait, she’s suing “in pro per” but must have hired a lawyer to write the complaint. Right? Maybe that lawyer knew the lawsuit was stupid and refused to represent her in court?

    1. Flawless deductive skills there, Nedinu. I’ll be sure to give you a call when I need a P.I.
      Or better yet, Tony, you might get a discount from Nedinu next time you want to eff with carpetbaggers.

  7. Art and I were contacted first about this matter, as this commenter left mean comments about Cheryl both there and here. The comments were on an eleven-month story of Tony’s that was cross-posted. Almost nobody ever saw these comments, it’s remarkable that somebody did within the first day and reported them to Cheryl.

    I decided to go ahead and delete the comment, along with the e-mail and IP address (though I’m sure it’s on my hard drive somewhere) When Cheryl asked for those things I ignored her. I felt I’d done enough deleting the comment; that we who run blogs owe our readers some expectation of privacy. I think Travis feels the same way.

    But Art felt differently, and gave Cheryl the info. I was a little surprised that Art would do that, given his own current troubles with malicious litigants. Cheryl told him she was sure this commenter (here it gets weird) was an incompetent wig-maker who created a shitty wig for her mother who’d lost her hair due to cancer chemo. Lawsuits ensued, with the wigmaker not prevailing, and bitter anonymous blog comments the result.

    In any case I don’t think we should be giving away our bloggers’ or commenters’ identities unless we’re literally forced to. Bad thing to start doing.

  8. This is stupid. She is public figure. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of kitchen. I say refuse to give any information just on general principles.

  9. She is not a public figure. OTOH, making a such a big deal about those stupid comments is just plain nuts.

    Oh, oh. Please don’t hand over my IP address!

    1. I don’t know. Does she set policy? If she is involved in policy decisions then she would be considered a public figure.

        1. Thanks for the link. I would be curious just what exactly her duties include. “Real Property Specialist” seems vague to me.

  10. well, then it is on cheryl as the plaintiff to prove the accusation false and then to prove what emotional damage she suffered from the accusation. this means cheryl must reveal all her business and political dealings to prove there is no nefarious deals orchestrated by her or she participated in nefarious dealings which means her colleague must also reveal any dealings, agreements they have had with cheryl. and if her supporters refuse to cooperate with the court’s requests to submit all the info related to cheryl’s dealings, they are in big trouble.

  11. I’m pretty sure this covers the spirit of the law:

    [W]hen men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct, that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas, that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.

    – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes; Abrams v. United States; In dissent; 250 U.S. 616; 630; 1919.

  12. I just read the complaint again and reached the conclusion that something fishy is going on here. Keep in mind, the alleged defamation occurred on December 10th and 12th.

    Exhibit 5 is a comment from the OJ Blog posted December 12th at 5:22pm. At the bottom of the page, you can tell when the website was printed (presumably by Cheryl Sanders) on December 14th at 7:43am. That means 39 hours had elapsed from the comment being posted and Cheryl (or her people) discovering the post and printing it out.

    Exhibit 6 is the FFFF comment and the same conditions exist there too. The comment in question was posted December 12th — on a thread that was twelve months old, for crying out loud — and that webpage was printed December 14th at 8:01am. Again, less than 48 hours would have elapsed.

    Most of us have probably Googled our names before. I know I have. If something has been written about me, there’s no way I would find it 39 hours later — unless I expected it to be written and knew where to look. Why would Cheryl Sanders need to Google herself so religiously?

    The complaint refers to Exhibits 1-6, and Cheryl signed the complaint on 12-21-2010. Exhibits 3-4, as attached to the complaint, were printed the following day. The date, 12-22-2010, appears in the footer. Why sign a complaint before making sure the Exhibits are in line?

    OK, cue the conspiracy theory music. Follow the timeline and draw your own conclusions…

    Nov 2 – Harry Sidhu, Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem, loses (again) to Shawn Nelson for 4th District Supervisor
    Dec 7 – Curt Pringle’s last day as Anaheim mayor
    Dec 10 – first comments about Cheryl Sanders
    Dec 12 – more comments about Cheryl Sanders
    Dec 21 – lawsuit signed by Cheryl Sanders
    Dec 22 – lawsuit filed by Cheryl Sanders

    Do you suppose the defamation of Cheryl Sanders is really an inside job, intended to rattle the cages of FFFF and OJ because of the negative press given to Pringle and Sidhu?

    1. No. Not likely. The goons tried to scare us with the idiots at Jones Day. All the ‘pugs said we would shit our pants. Instead we flipped them the bird and never heard another peep out of Problobsky, Ackerman, Cunningham, or Jones Day. They know they can’t scare us.

      I really believe this is all about faulty wigs and creepy vendettas (shudder). This is almost as weird as torturing insects and boiling bunnies.

    2. Cheryl first wrote to me and Art Dec. 13 at 4:12 pm – less than 24 hours after the “Robert M” comment was posted. She claims that a friend came across it; I’m surprised anyone saw it at all on that ancient Tony story, I had a hard time finding it myself until she sent me the link the next morning.

      Yet she wrote in her second e-mail to me, “I’ve had many individuals calling me inquiring about these posts and it has become extremely humiliating and embarrassing.” Really?

      On Dec. 12 itself, the only person to visit the story was the anonymous “Robert M” who put up the offending comment after searching for stories about “Anaheim Planning Dept.” Nobody even looked at that comment for nearly 24 hours.

      Then the next afternoon, Dec. 13, “City of Anaheim” went there twice after googling “Cheryl Sanders Anaheim” – at 3 and 4 pm. I deleted the comment the next morning around 9:40; there were three more visits from “City of Anaheim” earlier that morning, and three more after that (when the comment was gone) – all from googling “Cheryl Sanders Anaheim.” Next morning Travis came over, and that’s it for that story.

      I don’t know what you guys’ records show, but on our end it’s hard to see how there could’ve been “many individuals” calling her about the comment. Okay, tempest in a teapot, I’m gonna forget about this…

      1. Visits from “City of Anaheim”, eh? No wonder why things don’t get done at City Hall, but some city bureaucrat is doing some digging for someone higher up!

      2. So Cheryl contacts you less than 24 hours later, which means her “friend” found the post even sooner.

        Cheryl apparently lives in Corona judging by the mailing address and phone numbers. Thus, why would somebody Google the words “Cheryl Sanders Anaheim”?

        Whoever did it would have had to immediately contact Cheryl which seems a little odd to me. Ask yourself, if you found defamatory comments about a friend online, as their FRIEND would you immediately run off and tell them, or think it over first…i.e. decide whether to say anything at all, or how to broach the subject.

        AT THE VERY LEAST, I think this “friend” isn’t a friend at all. Who knows, maybe he/she wrote the comments themselves.

        1. Well, really, Ned, I WOULD contact a friend pretty quickly if I saw something like that written about them.

          What’s interesting is that there were only TWO visits to the post after the comment went up and before Cheryl wrote me & Art. Both from City of Anaheim, both from googling Cheryl Sanders Anaheim. The second one HAD to-a been her; the first MIGHT have been some friend. But she was really milking things to complain about “numerous individuals” contacting her.

          I keep wanting to forget about this dopey story but it keeps coming back to me, as it addresses the question of what sort of privacy do we owe our commenters. And it sounds like Gustavo is gonna do something about this too. Baleful news for Cheryl if what she really wanted all along was to keep under the radar.

  13. well at least you guys have a defense lawyer if ya need him, well…as long as he isn’t busy defeneding a murdering monster or a catholic pedophile.

  14. Google has an app (Google Alerts) that looks for and alerts you every time a name or specific phrase is posted on the web. Therefore, anyone can track the usage of any name on the internet, such as Bill Gates. Every time Google finds “Bill Gates” on the internet, it sends you an email with the context and link. Enjoy!

  15. Could this experience of Ms. Sanders be an example of why those in public sector jobs earn the pay and benefits they do, and why comparisons to the average private sector wage is ludicrous? How many of those average private sector wage earners have to put up with the kind of job related written harrassment that was apparently directed at her? Think about it.

    1. If you believe Mister Vern’s wig story, the public sectorness of her job has nothing to do with the attack. Nice try, but we are not accepting your ludicrous excuses for ludicrous union wages today.

    2. BAW, I agree. Public employees should be paid more because someone might criticize their work.

      I work in the private sector and my bosses let me do whatever I want, all the way up the chain of command. Our customers never ask us to prove that we are getting anything done. I assume all businesses operate like this.

      Government work is much more demanding. With the advent of the Interent, they should be paid even more. Look how easy it is to talk bad about the work they do.

    1. This is the Law of Unintended Consequences at work. Cheryl of all people should be familiar with its workings.

  16. [W]hen men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct, that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas, that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.

    – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes; Abrams v. United States; In dissent; 250 U.S. 616; 630; 1919.

  17. Google,

    I tried “Cunningham is a spineless hack” on the google app, along with “Jerbal is a tool”

    But both were already reserved by sombody named Dan Chmelinswiki at onother blog. Probobly a mistake and not collussion!

  18. A couple of things. While bloggers enjoy protections via the 1st Amendment they are not immune for slander or libel laws if the accusations are made against public servants. While the threshold of malice needs to be met, the law doesn’t allow for an anonymous individual to make a claim of illegal behavior against an individual. The slandered individual has rights to redress. However, in order to extract any damages the slandered individual has to prove they have been harmed financially.

    It’s why the morons on this blog can write claims of malfeasance against Keller. At the end of the day, she hasn’t done anything illegal. If claims of illegality were made she would have grounds for a slander suit, but she would have to show how she was harmed financially in order to be awarded damages.

    Given that sane individuals realize it this blog and its posts are written by morons, she would have a very difficult time.

  19. Why do you keep talking about these non-existent claims of Pam Keller’s illegal activities? I bet she would really appreciate it if you just stopped bringing it up.

    1. I’ve never made any, that’s why. I’ve stated the claims of illegality against her are non-existent.

      You continue to prove my point that the writers of this blog are morons.

      Thank you.

      1. I never claimed Keller was a law-breaker. Just a lying, incompetent, ego-maniacal, sleazy sack of rabbit turds.

      2. Never did anything “illegal.” Boy that’s sure setting the bar awfully low. So low even Keller can slime her way over it!

        1. No it’s not. We are required to act according to laws that are enacted by a body of individuals who have that responsibility.

          We are not required to act according to your singular moronic beliefs.

          She did nothing wrong despite your attempts to claim otherwise. But being a moron, you fail to understand that basic precept.

          1. Doing a 180 on your campaign promises isn’t wrong?

            Staying at a $400 a night hotel 25 miles from your house insn’t wrong?

            Manipulating your grant recipients for your political projects isn’t wrong?

            Whoo-boy. You sure got a mighty high threshold of wrong.

  20. 4sd observer, keller cited her need to spend more time with her children as the reason for resigning from public office. she can’t turn around and say she was forced out of her current position as a fullerton collaborator which she still holds and claim damages from defamation. freedom of speech is opinion and we have our right to form personal opinions from observations. 4SD, I may not agree with some op-ed pieces in the NY Times, LA Times but it would be silly to say these often critical of elected officials op-eds that are formed from facts and observation of the elected officials words and actions are defamation. if it looks like a cow, moos like a cow and produces milk like a cow, maybe it is a cow.

  21. I am not accusing Cheryl Sanders of being a dishonest or a city member that takes bribes, but I feel it is to easy for some city officials to do as they please.I read this Blog and nothing surprises me when I comes to city officials. I just dont understand why it takes so long before any City official is found to do anything illegal. I want to share what I had found on the internet. It usually starts out in the bottom ranks and as they get into more powerful positions they seem to become more bold. Travis I applaud you for standing for free speech for peoples rights here in CA. If others continue to just hand over posters names for any reason we might as well become a communist country. USA was built on freedom of speech. Thank you again.

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  22. has anyone done a background check on this Cheryl Sanders her middle name is Ann? Can anyone confirm this? in all surrounding counties to see what she is hiding anything criminal or other?

  23. And what is the job description of a “Real Property Specialist” ? What exactly is their job description entail? Is it handing out permits? Can anyone please define this? That also would answer alot of questions pertaining to this. If it is Cheryl “Ann” Sanders, then it states in public records that she also is the owner of construction design companies. If that even matters I dont know. I am not sure about the laws in the state of CA pertaining to political employees. People Smart .com has alot of info readily available.

  24. If it is Cheryl Ann Sanders born 12-12-70 and Cheryl A Sanders (Think it be the same) on online searches it shows one Criminal judgment against Cheryl Ann Sanders and numerous civil court cases where she is both defendant and plantiff, traffic violations including no registration (big deal) and one criminal violation for Insurance Fraud says prosecuted for using false name and birthdate. Well, I dont care to comment on how serious “insurance fraud” in San Bernandino County is in the state of CA but I am not interested enough to look further into her fake names used and birthdates submitted to the insurance company. Im not saying that she is hiding something much bigger but using fake names and birth dates seems like a serious issue (this is an opinion). Anyone know the details? We can nip this in the bud quick if someone wants to. I hope that answered your question “W” I am curious why our state of California is so lenient on public employees?

  25. Gary, “lenient”? Hell public employees now get discounts on everything from cell phones to cellulite removal. They can’t even get fired even if caught with hand in cookie jar.

    Something just aint right.

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