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LAUSD lawsuit over leaked Miramonte case files continues

Craig Clough | December 10, 2014

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Mark Berndt, former LAUSD teacher

Mark Berndt, former LAUSD teacher

A judge has ruled that LA Unified’s lawsuit accusing its former chief risk officer of stealing confidential documents related to the Miramonte school sex abuse case and leaking them to the media will move forward, as it does not violate the defendant’s First Amendment rights, City News Service reported.

The lawsuit against Gregg Breed was filed in 2013, and Breed himself is also suing the district in a lawsuit, alleging that his contract was not renewed in retaliation for being a whistleblower.

The lawsuits are all connected to the case of former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who was convicted last year of committing 23 counts of lewd conduct upon a child and sentenced to 25 years in prison. After settling with a number of student victims for $30 million, the district in November reached a record settlement of $139 million with the remaining victims.

The lawsuits between Breed and the district stem from the cases involving the original $30 million. Breed has spoken publicly about the Miramonte case, including to NBC Los Angeles, alleging that the district paid $470,000 apiece to three students who were not actually abused by Berndt. Breed also said the case was mishandled by inexperienced lawyers who were hired as a result of LAUSD cronyism.

LAUSD charges in its suit that aside from speaking the the media, Breed leaked confidential documents related to the case. Breed’s attorneys had sought dismissal of the district’s lawsuit, arguing that he was being punished for being a whistleblower and speaking out about alleged corruption in the district, according to City News Service.

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin wrote in his ruling that the case is not about Breed’s public statements or his freedom of speech but the alleged theft of confidential documents that violated his contract with the district.

“It was (Breed’s) alleged theft of LAUSD documents, not his public statements or subsequent filing of a lawsuit, that forms the basis of plaintiff’s claims,”Fruin wrote in his ruling. “The gravamen of this action is defendant’s wrongful misappropriation and retention of LAUSD’s confidential student information, internal communications and attorney/client privileged or work product documents.”

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