Darren Chaker First Amendment Appeal

Darren Chaker, Ninth Circuit
Darren Chaker at the Ninth Circuit, Pasadena

 

Darren Chaker, Ninth Circuit

Darren Chaker at the Ninth Circuit, Pasadena

In a classic example of viewpoint discrimination, California Blogger Darren Chaker was put in jail. But his conviction was reversed federal court on First Amendment grounds. “Ms. Leesa Fazal, an investigator with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, was “forced out” of her previous post with the Las Vegas Police Department.”  See Cato Institute article. Supporters included The Cato InstituteACLU of San DiegoElectronic Frontier FoundationFirst Amendment Coalition, and Brechner First Amendment Project at University of Florida.

Darren Chaker was on probation for a white collar crime. The record shows his bankruptcy attorney fraudulently filed a bankruptcy petition without Darren Chaker’s knowledge. The report states in part, “In my opinion Chaker’s attorney did not exercise a reasonable standard of care in filing a Second Bankruptcy Case without Chaker’s consent and signature. Indeed, in my opinion such conduct is fraudulent.”  See expert report, page 7.  Despite the conduct of his bankruptcy attorney, Darren Chaker was found guilty of only a single charge at trial. That conviction is being challenged. After serving a few months in minimum security, Darren Chaker started probation.

The Ninth Circuit, Case. No. 15-50138/ No. 15-50193, found, see opinion “Chaker’s blog post, which claimed that former police investigator Leesa Fazal “was forced out of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department,” does not qualify as harassment.” The court continued to state in relevant part, “The government also failed to prove that Chaker’s blog post satisfied the elements of defamation, including falsity and actual malice. See N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 279–80 (1964).”

The blog about Leesa Fazal was protected speech also in the sense it publicized on a matter of public importance. Specifically, Leesa Fazal had appeared to have been detained by police after being found having brought her gun into a San Diego court room. This videotaped by Darren Chaker, where Leesa Fazal was taken to a back room after being told not to leave. See video.  The issue was that Leesa Fazal was not a peace officer in the State of California and appeared to may have broken the law.  Thus, under Obsidian Fin. Grp. v. Cox, — F.3d –, 2014 WL 185376 (9th Cir. Jan. 17, 2014) where Darren Chaker was entitled to journalistic protection due to publishing material about a matter of public concern.

First Amendment law professor Eugene Volkah provided assistance to the attorneys for Darren Chaker. Such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt”). Even though the Internet is the newest medium for anonymous, uncomfortable expression touching on political or religious matters, online speech is equally protected under the First Amendment as there is “no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied” to online speech. Reno v. Am. Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844, 870 (1997).

The Supreme Court has directly considered factual circumstances where a petitioner was arrested for disorderly conduct after “verbally and negatively” protesting a police officer’s treatment of him, and concluded that “[s]urely, one is not to be punished for nonprovocatively voicing his objection to what he obviously felt was a highly questionable detention by a police officer.” Norwell v. City of Cincinnati, 414 U.S. 14, 16 (1973); Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104, 111 (1972) (“Individuals may not be convicted under the [disorderly conduct] statute merely for expressing unpopular or annoying ideas.”)

The First Amendment gives protection to those who want to speak on unpopular ideas. This protection also precludes the government from silencing the expression of unpopular ideas. See Police Dep’t of Chi. v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 95 (1972) (“[T]he First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.”). See also R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377, 382 (1992) (“Content-based regulations are presumptively invalid.”).

About the Author

Darren Chaker
Greetings - I am Darren Chaker. I litigated a cutting edge First Amendment case for 7 of its 10 year lifespan. Chaker v. Crogan, 428 F.3d 1215 C.A.9 (Cal.),2005, Cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1128, 126 S.Ct. 2023, invalidated a statute on First Amendment grounds and overruled the California Supreme Court‘s unanimous decision in People v. Stanistreet, 127 Cal.Rptr.2d 633. Soon after Chaker v. Crogan, it was also used to strike down Nevada's analogous statute forcing the legislature to rewrite the law and used as the backbone authority in Gibson v. City of Kirkland, 2009 WL 564703, *2+ (W.D.Wash. Mar 03, 2009). My case is a leading case on viewpoint discrimination. In a recent case, Chaker v. Crogan was used to vindicate people who filed a complaint against police. Those people were arrested and charged with a law Chaker v. Crogan invalidated! They sued for being arrested and charged with an unconstitutional statute, Penal Code 148.6. The federal court denied the City's motion to dismiss and the case settled. See Cuadra v. City of South San Francisco, 2010 WL 55875, *1+ (N.D.Cal. Jan 04, 2010) I love the fight and made cutting edge case law in the end. No doubt without the support of the ACLU (Ramona Ripston, Mark Rosenbaum, Peter Eliasberg, & Dan Tokaji) winning on appeal, and Joshua Rosenkranz www.orrick.com/lawyers/Bio.asp?ID=225990 assembling a small army of the best attorneys to defeat the California Attorney General's efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court reverse the Ninth Circuit---this case would not have had a backbone to stand on. The case has been cited over 196 times as authority, and written about extensively. * Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation s 2:28, Denial of First Amendment rights (2009) * Smolla & Nimmer on Freedom of Speech s 3:11, Viewpoint discrimination--Cross-burning reprised: Commonwealth of Virginia v. Black--Heavy presumption against viewpoint discrimination (2010) * Smolla & Nimmer on Freedom of Speech s 10:22.50, Brandenburg v. Ohio: Intent and imminence standard--Bond and Watts decisions--"True threats" (2010) * CHAKER V. CROGAN, 5 Cardozo Pub. L. Pol'y & Ethics J. 425, 444+ (2007) My case is active, living and breathing—forever helping people who once felt oppressed.
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