News Photographer Gets One More Chance


SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge again dismissed claims against Caltrans and two state officials, from a news photographer who says he was harassed and illegally arrested while covering a controversial highway project.
     U.S. District Judge James Donato tossed Stephen Eberhard’s second amended complaint on March 3, finding his new allegations are not sufficient.
     Eberhard, who reported for The Willits News, was arrested on July 23, 2013, at a protest on the Willits Bypass Project, a four-lane freeway project.
     In his original 34-page complaint , Eberhard accused the California Department of Transportation, the California Highway Patrol and six individuals of “a pattern of harassment and intimidation” of a journalist. He claimed he was arrested and put in jail for two hours, while protestors who had illegally chained themselves to construction equipment were only cited.
     In November 2014, Donato dismissed the claims against Caltrans, CHP Chief Bridget Lott and Caltrans District 1 Director Charlie Fielder, finding Eberhard’s allegations “inadequately pleaded.”
     Eberhard filed a second amended complaint three weeks later.
     Donato last week granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the amended complaint, ruling that “because the court finds that the newly added allegations are not sufficient to save the repleaded claims, the court again dismisses the allegations against CalTrans, Lott, and Fielder.”
     The judge gave Eberhard one more opportunity to amend his claims against the three defendants, but cautioned him to “wait until discovery has progressed sufficiently for him to be confident that his amended allegations will not need further refinement.”
     “The court provisionally denies his motion to file a third amended complaint with respect to the new allegations against Caltrans, Lott, and Fielder, so that Eberhard can evaluate its adequacy in light of the court’s order, but if he chooses to, he is welcome to use his one remaining chance to amend,” Donato wrote.
     However, the judge did not deny Eberhard’s motion to file a third amended complaint regarding new allegations about another CHP officer.
     Donato did not set a deadline for a third amended complaint against Caltrans, Lott, and Fielder.
     Contact Arvin Temkar at sanfran@courthousenews.com

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