MARTINEZ -- A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit lodged by a veteran Contra Costa County prosecutor alleging political retaliation within the District Attorney's Office in the aftermath of the 2010 election.
Deputy DA David Brown filed suit in April against the county, DA Mark Peterson and senior deputy DAs Douglass MacMaster and Karen Zelis Holder on claims that they retaliated against him for supporting Peterson's opponent, Dan O'Malley. Brown, who is black, further alleged that he was harassed and racially discriminated against by the defendants.
Brown, 54, joined the DA's Office in 1986 and managed the office's Richmond branch under Peterson's predecessor. Demoted once Peterson took office, Brown is one of three prosecutors who have sued Peterson this year on allegations of political retaliation, claims that Peterson says are without merit.
Peterson on Monday reached a tentative settlement in the latest political retaliation lawsuit, filed by deputy DA Jill Henderson, the details of which will become public if it is approved by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 16.
Federal court Judge Phyllis Hamilton on Tuesday dismissed Brown's political retaliation claim with prejudice, which bars him from filing another lawsuit on those allegations. The judge said that because Brown was the manager at the DA's office prior to Peterson being sworn in, he was considered a "policymaker" who -- under federal case law -- can be fired for
"A policymaker holds his/her office at the will of the employer, and may be demoted by reason of political activity," Hamilton's ruling reads.
Hamilton dismissed the remaining causes of actions related to Brown's discrimination and harassment allegations because of "deficiencies in the pleadings," writing that the facts alleged were insufficient to support his claims. She gave Brown until Nov. 9 to refile his lawsuit as to those allegations.
Brown said Tuesday that he will amend and resubmit his complaint.
"I understand the rationale behind the court's ruling," Brown said. "I plan to refile with more specific allegations."
Reached Tuesday night, Peterson said, "I'm gratified that the United States District Court rejected David Brown's allegations and ruled the way it did."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.