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Michael Shames, former executive director of watchdog Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), lost a libel suit today (Sept. 9) against attorney Mike Aguirre. Aguirre represented two whistleblowers whose revelations about Shames led indirectly to his dismissal as executive director. Shames sued UCAN and lost recently.

Today, Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager ruled against Shames a second time. He had sued Aguirre on four grounds, including libel, blacklisting and interference with Shames's ability to make a living. Aguirre's lawyer, Maria Severson, filed an anti-SLAPP charge. (SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation-- a lawsuit intended to intimidate or silence critics.)

Among many things, Prager ruled that "the alleged statements by [Aguirre] about [Shames] regarding theft, unaccounted for money, and misdirected funds were made while investigations, e.g. whistleblower investigation and lawsuits...were in progress." Shames "failed to establish that the statements at issue were false or that [Aguirre] acted with malice."

Shames's suit against whistleblower David Peffer has not been heard.

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Comments

Twister Sept. 9, 2013 @ 4:08 p.m.

I can't even spel laweyer, but can't one collect punitive damages when a SLAPP suit fails?

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Diogenes Sept. 9, 2013 @ 7:38 p.m.

An award of attorneys fees and costs would be appropriate.

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 6:53 a.m.

Diogenes: That's what Judge Prager seems to think, although he hasn't made the decision on that yet. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 6:52 a.m.

Twister: The judge ordered Maria Severson, Aguirre's attorney, to prepare a bill for Shames to pay, possibly, Aguirre's legal costs. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 6:54 a.m.

shirleyberan: This adventure within UCAN has been very sad. Best, Don Bauder

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Yankeedoodle Sept. 9, 2013 @ 7:55 p.m.

Diogenes: Is the award within the scope of Judge Prager's duty, or how would it be determined?

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Diogenes Sept. 9, 2013 @ 8:55 p.m.

An award of fees and costs is mandatory for the prevailing party in SLAPP motions. Making or opposing such motions can be very costly. I am sure that Aguirre just wanted the case dismissed.

Judge Prager probably sustained the motion, awarded fees and costs, and dismissed the suit because it violated the right to make contentions in the underlying whistleblower case.

I would have to read the exact ruling.

Some lawyers are all gaga over SLAPP motions. But when you are the one being sued over a legitimate exercise of free speech, it is a breath of fresh air. You can have a pre-trial determination of the improper use of a lawsuit. Plus, you can get your fees and costs.

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 6:56 a.m.

Diogenes: Anti-SLAPP motions can thwart many suits that are meant to intimidate people. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 6:55 a.m.

Yankeedoodle: It will be up to Judge Prager. Best, Don Bauder

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Yankeedoodle Sept. 10, 2013 @ 9:07 a.m.

Don: now that this case is over, do you think Aguirre will start his mayoral campaign, if he has pulled the papers? I have gone on his Web site to volunteer, but so far I have heard nothing. Of course that is an office site, not a campaign site.

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 9:52 a.m.

Yankeedoodle: Yes, Aguirre is starting his mayoral campaign. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Sept. 9, 2013 @ 8:02 p.m.

Does this represent a step down the slippery slope that might put Shameless in prison? His "offense is the best defense" doesn't seem to be working. I'd guess his best approach would be to disappear, and be totally out of sight/mind for the next few years. The whole Michael story is bizarre, and gets stranger with every passing event. It is hard to accept that no criminal charges have been filed yet. Let's hope that when it happens, it is a bombshell.

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 7 a.m.

Visduh: This was a civil suit, of course. The last I heard, the federal government was still looking at possible charges, although that was several weeks ago.

Shames frequently goes to Costa Rica. Will he take another extended trip? Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Sept. 10, 2013 @ 7:23 a.m.

With all that has happened within UCAN in recent years, there has to have been criminality by someone. Since Shameless was running the show all by himself, I'd be looking for some sort of charges against him to come down. Everyone in the county needed UCAN on the job, protecting them from the rapaciousness of SDGE, and UCAN didn't do that in recent years, or maybe ever. All should be outraged.

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Don Bauder Sept. 10, 2013 @ 9:55 a.m.

Visduh: The charges that might interest the FBI the most revolve around the private lawsuits that Shames farmed out to lawyers around town, including Lerach. Those lawyers used research and leads uncovered by the UCAN staff, but it was the attorneys, including Shames, that walked off with the money after a settlement. Best, Don Bauder

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Diogenes Sept. 10, 2013 @ 1:03 p.m.

Wow!

The UCAN info was used to line the pockets of Shames?

Very clever.

Aguirre buried the guy. The SLAPP suits are the last refuge of scoundrels to try to shut people up. Judge Prager needs Aguirre's billing records to award fees and costs. If he was not considering fee award, why bother?

Fee awards are mandatory, in all or almost all, such anti-SLAPP motions. Unless there are exceptions, a fee award is coming.

The FBI nailed Lerach. Too bad in ways because Wall Street feared him.

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2013 @ 3:31 p.m.

Diogenes: I began reporting on this UCAN mess in mid-2011. A lot has gone on. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 12, 2013 @ 11:40 a.m.

Diogenes: Lerach overstepped his bounds. He filed lots of frivolous suits, knowing that companies would find it cheaper to settle than go to court. That way, Lerach's firm built up capital.

Lerach understood Wall Street's predations and often brilliantly exposed them. But as he later confessed, he crossed the line....many times. I think some in law enforcement believe Lerach got off with too easy a punishment. Best, Don Bauder

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shirleyberan Sept. 10, 2013 @ 5:08 p.m.

Don - it's beyond sad, it's TwilightZone - I filed at bankruptcy court today to find out the truth - Oct. 10 hearing - somebody's lieing again - is the usual! Especially with Money-grubbers. Pat was right. You are a lovely man and a great teacher!.

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Don Bauder Sept. 11, 2013 @ 3:32 p.m.

shirleyberan: I think it is unfortunate what you are having to go through. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Sept. 20, 2013 @ 8:36 a.m.

"This adventure within UCAN has been very sad. Best, Don Bauder"

Is this just one tip of a whole field of "icebergs" called NGO's? I am besieged with appeals for money from 501.c.3's who won't disclose their finances. Transparency? Why not?

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