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By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza looks on as attorneys Cory Briggs and Melinda Vasquez participate remotely in Monday's court hearing at the El Cajon courthouse. Councilmember Liana LeBaron was not present.

April 4, 2023 (Lemon Grove) – Attorney Cory Briggs has filed a motion on behalf of  Lemon Grove Councilmember Liana LeBaron asking Superior Court Judge Peter Lynch to dismiss a civil harassment temporary restraining order issued on behalf of Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza.  He cites California’s anti-SLAPP statute as the reason to dismiss the matter.

Briggs contends that the restraining order constitutes a SLAPP suit, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. SLAPP suits are actions filed to discourage a person from speaking out on issues of public importance. 

“The purpose of the anti-SLAPP statute is to encourage participation in matters of public significance and to prevent meritless litigation designed to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights,”  states LeBaron's brief filed in support of the anti-SLAPP motion.

The brief further contends that LeBaron is "frequently in the minority when it comes to advocating for transparency and fiscal responsiblity" and that "petitioner does not like the scrutiny and criticism that Respondent has been proivding," calling the suit seeking a restraining order "frivolous."

Judge Lynch has set an April 24 date for Mendoza to file an opposition to the anti-SLAPP motion.

On May 8th, the court will hear arguments to determine whether the anti-SLAPP motion applies or not. If the SLAPP motion does not apply, the Judge will then hear evidence on whether or not to issue a permanent restraining order against LeBaron.

As ECM previously reported, in her written brief, Mendoza indicated LeBaron’s husband had filed a restraining order and that LeBaron was arrested over alleged domestic violence. No charges were filed, and LeBaron's husband dismissed his petition seeking a permanent restraining order, but has since refiled it with divorce proceedings in the works. LeBaron claims his complaints were false.


LeBaron denies those allegations and submitted affidavits signed by several people who attested that the vehicle honking was part of a candidate parade through residential streets that coincidentally included the street where Mendoza lives. She accused Mendoza of pushing a chair into her when she approached her at the brewery and called the Sheriff, though the Sheriff did not find any evidence of an assault.

LeBaron, in her written brief,  noted that while Mendoza’s filing indicated  LeBaron had been arrested and had a temporary restraining order filed against her by her husband over alleged domestic violence,it failed to mention that no charges were filed and that LeBaron's husband dismissed his petition seeking a permanent restraining order. The couple has since divorced, and LeBaron claims his complaints were false.

The City Council did previously consider censuring LeBaron for alleged harassment of staffers as well as disruptive behavior during meetings,notably one that resulted in the Mayor ending a meeting early when LeBaron continued speaking out and refused to follow Council rules. However Briggs noted that when he submitted a public records request for proof of staff complaints, the city found no responsive records; he contends that other alleged actions are protected as free speech.

To assure that LeBaron can attend and participate in City Council meetings, Briggs asked the judge during a hearing on April 3 to modify the temporary restraining order. The judge asked the attorneys for both sides to agree on language.

The agreement allow LeBaron to attend City Council meetings as well as closed-door sessions, as long as she does not engage in any harassing behavior.  The temporary restraining order, which requires LeBaron to stay 100 yards away from Mendoza, will not apply when LeBaron is arriving at, participating in, or leaving Council meetings or closed door sessions.


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Pay Attention

There have been several investigations. That's public record. The failed censure referred to certain behaviors and referenced the investigation. Even those that voted against the censure stated that everything in there was true. And a censure is not a court procedure. It is a statement by an elected body directed at a member of that body. No one that I know takes that lightly. The City, like any employer, is obligated to protect their employees within the law. Lemon Grove is a small city with a small staff and releasing a redacted document does not protect employees. There is too much of a chance for retaliation and harm to employee careers. Remember that LeBaron ally Chris Williams followed Dave DeVries to Poway to attack him. No matter how righteous a law suit may be, for a public employee to bring suit against an employer makes future employment difficult. Believe me, I wanted to release a redacted version of that report. Had the City been able to do so and protect employees, LeBAron might not be sitting so smug on the dais today.

Facts Matter

When Briggs says "the city found no responsive records" what he means is that he is asking for employee records that are protected by law and not reportable by law. He knows that and so do you Miriam . The employee's complaints and exodus are real. The number and expense of the numerous investigations involving LeBaron are a matter of public record. LeBaron's classic paranoid delusions and rantings are obvious to anyone with a working brain.

Lemon Grove records

It's true that some contentious actions by LeBaron during Council meetings are on videos and which we've reported on previously.  What's not been proven is whether or not staffers complained and if so, how many or specifically why. The city could have provided redacted complaints to provide privacy, or a summary of  how many complaints and what was alleged. It's unfortunate that the city did not do so, if harassment occurred or staffers alleged that it did.