A federal judge has ordered a man who sued San Mateo County, the town of Atherton and several of its police officers to pay the county $145,434 in attorney fees for the case, which was dismissed last year.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero had indicated on Jan. 3 he would rule that way after concluding that Atherton resident Jon Buckheit's claims against the county were frivolous.
"The County should have never have been a part of this lawsuit," Spero wrote in his 18-page order. "Plaintiff's grievances were with the Town of Atherton, not the County."
Spero's ruling on Monday finalized the amount -- $145,434 for 739.1 attorney hours that the county spent on the case at $190 per hour, along with 50.05 paralegal hours at $100 per hour.
Buckheit filed the lawsuit in 2008 after he was arrested following a domestic violence dispute with his ex-girlfriend at his home, according to the Jan. 3 court order. The Atherton police officers who responded to the call determined he was the aggressor, based on a policy followed by the department and other county law enforcement agencies that instructs officers to consider the height and weight differential between two individuals involved in a dispute, according to the court document.
Buckheit later sought and received a court determination of his "factual innocence," so the arrest was removed from his record. Buckheit's lawsuit claims the county was partially responsible for his arrest because it crafted the aggressor defining policy. He also claimed the county retaliated against him for asserting his factual innocence by withholding a copy of his police report. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the court that the county didn't possess the report when Buckheit requested it, according to the Jan. 3 court order.
Buckheit disagreed with Spero's findings; last May he appealed the April 2012 dismissal of his lawsuit and on Monday he appealed the order granting San Mateo County attorney fees.
"I think the case was far from frivolous," Buckheit said. "It dealt with important issues."