Federal Complaint Filed against Santa Clara DA by Former Employee for Violating First Amendment Rights

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen (jeffrosen.com)

By Robert J Hansen

Sacramento, CA – In the Northern District of California Court, a federal complaint has been filed against Santa Clara District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen by a former deputy district attorney claiming Rosen and his office violated his constitutional right to free speech, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff, Daniel Chung, is also a candidate challenging Rosen for Santa Clara County District Attorney in this year’s election.

Chung published an op-ed in The Mercury News in February 2021 about the recent surge of racism and violence towards Asian Americans and California’s ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in the Bay Area following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two days after the op-ed was published, Chung was reassigned to Mental Health Court and then to Juvenile Justice, assignments generally considered less prestigious.

Chung was not provided with an explanation of the reason for the reassignment he claims.

Chung prosecuted domestic violence cases and served in the Violent Felonies Unit. The Violent Felonies Unit is an important assignment, highly regarded and much sought after by deputy district attorneys.

In 2020, Chung was awarded the Robert L. Webb Award, an “Excellence Award” presented by the Santa Clara County District Attorney.

In May 2021, Chung was placed on leave and escorted out of the DA’s office by three armed investigators. 

Lead Criminal Investigator in the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation, Captain Michael Whittington,  issued a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) notice to the entire Santa Clara DA’s office staff on May 31, 2021.

The notice included a non-work photograph of Chung and told staff, without explanation, that “DDA Chung is not allowed on County property until further notice.

The second BOLO notice email Santa Clara County DA staff received on June 2, 2021, about Daniel Chung.  (Northern District California Court of San Jose)

Two days later, Captain Whittington issued a second BOLO notice to the DA’s staff which specified Chung was “not allowed on County premises occupied by or affiliated with the District Attorney’s Office.”

Last September, Assistant District Attorney Stacey Lynn Capps recommended Chung be terminated from his employment while a  hearing on that recommendation of termination is pending.

DA Rosen and his office violated Chung’s rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution when they took adverse employment action that included harassment and retaliation to his February op-ed in which he voiced his concerns about the treatment of Asian American crime victims, according to the complaint.

Neither Chung nor Rosen or his office could be contacted for comment.

The complaint also alleges that Rosen’s actions have caused and continue to cause Chung substantial loss, including, but not limited to, professional injury, loss of reputation, loss of promotional opportunities, and other employment benefits. 

Additionally, Chung has suffered humiliation, embarrassment, anguish, and severe emotional distress, and has incurred attorneys’ fees all to his damage.

Chung is seeking general and special damages as well as attorney’s fees and civil penalties to the extent of the law. 

Chung has demanded a trial by jury.

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall explained the rationale for prohibiting suppression of public employee speech in Rankin v. McPherson (1987).

“ … Pertaining to matters of public interest is to ensure that public employers do not use their authority over employees to silence discourse, not because it hampers public functions but simply because superiors disagree with the content of employees’ speech,” Marshall said.

About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

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