Anaheim’s unhinged, litigious bully Cheryl Sanders: An OC Blogosphere Parable.


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(artist's conception)

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Just a little slice-of-life from the OC Blogosphere:

The e-mails were furious, and threatening, that one day back in December of 2010.  A certain Cheryl Sanders, who works as a “Real Property Specialist” for the City of Anaheim, demanded of me and Art Pedroza that we IMMEDIATELY take down a comment from the blog that she claimed was defamatory toward her.  We both said, “Sure,” but it took me a while to find it, as it had been posted the night before on an 11-month-old story and wasn’t real notable:

Robert M says:

“City of Anaheim corruption investigating Cheryl Sanders in the planning dept.  It’s about time someone investigating the fraudulent dealings of Cheryl Sanders in the City’s most corrupted dept. Support this internal investigation.”

So I had no problem, she says it’s untrue and hurts her at her job, I took it down.  Travis Kiger over at Friends For Fullerton’s Future, receiving a similar e-mail from Cheryl, also took down this comment which was posted the same night:

Elizabeth K says:

“Well from what the community is saying, I hear Cheryl Sanders is the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and one of the dishonest employees wheeling and dealing taking advantage of our tax dollars.  I was told of a possible internal investigation?  If so then I pray the thiefs become known and their deeds become public and they/she is brought to justice!  I’m so tire of public employees misusing their positions!”

But taking these comments down wasn’t enough for Cheryl Sanders.  She insisted that numerous readers had already seen them (which I know on the Orange Juice was completely untrue – during the 24 hours our comment was up, there were only four visits to it, all from the City of Anaheim – no doubt Cheryl herself checking out a Google Alert she’d put on her name.)  Cheryl demanded we hand over the IP address and any other information we could give her to help her identify the anonymous commenter so she could sue them for defamation!

My reaction was the same as Travis’ – we do have a policy of allowing anonymous commenters, which means we protect our commenters’ identities as long as we legally can, so no IP address until we see a subpoena.

Board of Education candidate Pedroza.

I should mention that this was right about the time that I bought the Orange Juice Blog from Art Pedroza, and I was technically the owner, publisher and editor-in-chief.  But Art still had access to everything, and while I was still thinking up a polite way to tell Ms Sanders to take a hike, ART QUICKLY GAVE HER EVERYTHING SHE WANTED.

I realize Art was under a lot of stress from the lawsuit he was suffering from the bullies at the Liberal OC, and the last thing he wanted was to be dragged into another courtroom, but his caving was embarrassing to me and I found myself wishing we were more like Friends For Fullerton’s Future, who refused to hand the info over without a subpoena.  Then I forgot all about the episode.

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Pro-bono attorney Kempner.

A full 13 months later – January of this year – I get a concerned call from an attorney, Mr. Casey Kempner of Haynes and Boone, begging me for any information I could give him about that old three-sentence comment, all of which had been both given to Ms Sanders by Art and deleted by me.  It turns out Sanders had tracked the IP address Art gave her to some poor Mexican lady who works as a maid and speak-a no Ingles.  And Cheryl had been harassing this Mexican maid for a year;  the Señora was at her wits’ end until finally finding a bilingual pro-bono lawyer who’d take the ridiculous case on.

At this point Cheryl Sanders was suing three individuals including this Mexican maid, and one company, apparently believing them to be part of some vast anti-Cheryl conspiracy along with some disgruntled wig-maker whom she really suspected (and who probably has an IP scrambler.)   Kempner, with much effort, patience, and strenuous logic, eventually persuaded the crazed litigant to let his Mexican client off the hook.  Proud of this victory over lunacy, Haynes and Boone put out this press release.

Fullerton Council candidate Kiger, with daughter.

Meanwhile, what was happening with Travis and the Fullerton blog?  The first subpoena Cheryl served them with was the wrong kind – the judge, unable to determine whether the blog was a person or a business, threw up his hands and let Travis go.  Six months later, in June or July, Cheryl came back to Travis with the correct subpoena, and this time, under threat of imprisonment, he gave up the IP address.  After which, Cheryl had a hell of  a time getting the ISP (Internet Services Providers) to co-operate in connecting those numbers to actual people.  Well, Travis, who is running for Fullerton City Council now, did what he could to protect privacy and freedom of speech, and throw a spanner into the works of litigiousness run amok – and we salute him!

And guess what?  This case is still grinding on – it looks like there’s even a hearing TODAY – sixteen months after these little comments were left.  (You can look up the case here, it’s #00435218, filed in 2010.)  When will the judge put an end to this with an “Order to Show Cause?”  Ms Sanders has yet to show any damages but continues to waste the time of the court and other probably innocent people.  It’s just crazy…

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So, what have we learned here?  Well, I’d say we’ve learned four things:

  1. The “science” of identifying commenters through IP addresses is about as scientific as tea-leaf reading, stargazing, or groundhog watching.
  2. Art Pedroza folds like a tent, and the people who enjoy commenting anonymously on his blogs shouldn’t be too sure that he won’t hand over your identity the moment he feels threatened.
  3. Travis Kiger and the Fullerton gang are stand-up guys.
  4. And Cheryl Sanders, Real Property Specialist for the City of Anaheim, is an unhinged litigious bully.  How do you like that, Cheryl?  Are you gonna sue me now?  It’s true – and it’s not anonymous!


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.