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A former San Francisco deputy public defender is suing the city, his former boss Kimiko Burton and a few of her top attorneys for wrongful termination, alleging that he was fired because he supported the PD’s opponent in the March 2002 election. Filed May 12 in San Francisco Superior Court, Robert Amparan’s complaint says he faced a hostile work environment in the public defender’s office due to his support for Jeff Adachi. He was fired about two months after Adachi won, when Burton was the lame-duck public defender. Amparan wants his old job back and is also seeking monetary damages, including lost wages, the complaint says. “He bet on the right horse, but the right horse wasn’t there when he needed him,” said Amparan’s attorney, San Francisco solo Lawrence Murray. Adachi said he’s had discussions with Amparan about returning to the public defender’s office but his understanding at the time was that Amparan wanted to remain in private practice. “I never wanted to be anything other than a public defender,” Amparan said. “It is basically a timing issue and an issue of duty” to his current clients. According to his suit, Amparan’s superiors accused him of insubordination, un-professionalism and sexism in the days leading up to his May 20, 2002, termination, but it says such charges were “a pretext to retaliatory termination.” The complaint states Amparan was a “supporter, precinct worker, endorser and contributor” to Adachi’s campaign. Amparan said he gave less than $100 to Adachi’s campaign. Burton, who now works as lead attorney for the city attorney’s children and family services division, declined to comment on why Amparan was terminated or on his allegations. “It’s a personnel issue and there’s a lawsuit that’s been filed,” she said. In addition to the city and Burton, defendants named in the suit are Deputy Public Defenders Randall Martin and Susan Kaplan and private attorney Leland Davis III. The latter three were chief attorney and co-supervisors of the felony unit, respectively, when Amparan was fired. Like Burton, Martin and a spokesman for the city attorney declined to comment, noting that they had not yet been served with the complaint. Kaplan and Davis could not be reached. Amparan’s complaint outlines five causes of action, including that the defendants terminated him for his political activities and that they violated two sections of the California Labor Code. These two sections prohibitan employer from controlling the political activities or affiliations of employees, and from threatening loss of employment to influence an employee’s particular line of political action. The suit also notes California Elections Code � 18540, which says it is a felony to use intimidation to compel a person to vote or refrain from voting for any particular person. Finally, the complaint cites two labor cases involving due process, Skelly v. State Personnel Bd., 15 Cal.3d 194, and NLRB v. Weingarten Inc., 420 U.S. 251. Amparan claims his union representative was not allowed to attend when he was called in to speak to supervisors in the days leading up to his dismissal. Murray said he’s holding off on serving the defendants with the complaint because he plans to file another complaint — alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Amparan is gay, according to the complaint. The suit doesn’t claim discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it sets the stage for it by contrasting the alleged disciplinary experiences of two of Amparan’s peers in the PD’s office, one straight and one gay, Murray said. Amparan’s complaint states that he had “an exemplary record” during his seven years in the public defender’s office. Adachi said that when he was in the office’s No. 2 position, before Kimiko Burton was appointed by Mayor Willie Brown and fired him, he remembers Amparan “had a sound reputation and was very hardworking.” A similar case hints at a possible defense against Amparan’s suit, though Murray said his client’s case is different. Former Assistant District Attorney Bill Fazio alleged in a wrongful termination suit that his 1995 dismissal from the district attorney’s office was politically motivated and illegal. But a federal court denied his claim that the city and his longtime boss, then-DA Arlo Smith, had violated his First Amendment rights when he declared his intention to run against Smith, and Smith fired him. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that Fazio, whom the court deemed a policymaking public employee, had no First Amendment right to run against his superior without being subject to termination. Murray said Amparan is proceeding on different theories in Amparan v. the City and County of San Francisco, 03-420393. He also noted that Fazio was a higher-level attorney than Amparan, and was running against Smith, rather than supporting his opponent.

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