Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Prosecutor Says Boss Was Relentless Harasser

CHICO, Calif. (CN) - A Northern California prosecutor's supervisor pursued her endlessly, effectively ending her employment, the woman claims in court.

Jacqueline Devlin sued Butte County and Michael Sanderson in Butte County Court, alleging sexual harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment and retaliation.

Butte County hired Devlin as a deputy district attorney in January 2008, she says in the Oct. 31 lawsuit.

"Sanderson, a married man, was sexually attracted to Devlin and he pursued her in an unwelcomed, offensive and unlawful manner," Devlin says in the complaint.

He frequently invited her to lunch, while rarely inviting others, took photographs of her without her permission, and "displayed an unnatural and disproportionate degree of interest in Devlin's professional development, often attending a tremendous amount of Devlin's courtroom appearances," even when she was transferred to another division, according to the lawsuit.

Devlin claims Sanderson sent her unwanted cards, gifts, flowers, and notes that made her uncomfortable, stating things such as:

"I would do anything for you, anytime, anywhere, because you are who you are ... I do it because I want to, because it gives me an excuse to spend time with you, because it makes me feel good";

"Please know that, for what it's worth, wherever, whatever or whoever, from the depths of my conditioned existence, you will have my unconditional love and support until causes and conditions move me to my next life

and "I worship the ground you walk on."

After Devlin was transferred to another division, Sanderson asked if she would like to work in the violent crimes division, which she did not. "However, within a matter of weeks, it was announced that Sanderson was becoming the unit's supervisor, and that Devlin was being transferred to [that division] to work under his supervision, once again. Sanderson then manipulated Devlin's workload to create opportunities for him to offer his assistance to Devlin, both during and after hours. This enabled Sanderson to greatly intensify his sexual harassment of Devlin," the complaint states.

In coming years, "Sanderson's sexual harassment of Devlin intensified further. Sanderson frequently found a way to sit next to Devlin, and he would get visibly upset if somebody else sat next to her. He would frequently touch Devlin's lower back, her thigh, or her arm. When he did so, his hand would tremble in such a way that made Devlin extremely uncomfortable," the complaint states.

He told her he loved her on several occasions, and "placed a Ficus plant in Devlin's office and built an elaborate stand/lighting system for it. Sanderson then used the plant as a pretext for coming into Devlin's office while she was present and away," according to the lawsuit.

Devlin claims Sanderson sent her flowers "very often, even when there was no distinct occasion," with handwritten messages such as "I miss you"; "You are my hero"; "I think you're incredible!"; and "You're still, and always will be, number one with me."

He also gave her 48 CDs, and appeared to have been "frequently driving by her house," and going through her office, she claims in the lawsuit.

"Sanderson's behavior was evident to others," inside and outside the office, including to the district attorney, according to the complaint, though the DA "proceeded to proclaim ignorance that Sanderson had any romantic attraction toward Devlin." Devlin says she was afraid to make a formal complaint for fear of retaliation.

When she requested an end-of-year transfer from Sanderson, Devlin says, he got visibly upset and threatened to send her to her least favorite division.

"Sanderson also angrily told Devlin that she would have to find someone else to cover her cases during her upcoming vacation," this was his duty as her supervisor, according to the complaint.

Her complaint states that an investigation substantiated her charges, that Sanderson was told to have no contact with her, but he continued to do so because the county did not take effective action.

Devlin says she no longer works at the office, on the advice of her health care provider.

She seeks a jury trial and punitive damages.

She is represented by Robert Wasserman with Mayall Hurley, in Stockton.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.