Judge Dismisses Defamation Suit Filed by Convicted L.A. Boss

When Janett Humphries lost her job as president of Service Employees International Union Local 99, she thought she was going to lose her mind as well.  At least that’s what her lawsuit against two former union associates suggested.  Until her recent resignation, Humphries had headed a union that represented Los Angeles public school employees.  Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mel Recana issued a five-page ruling on November 22 that was not available until a week later. 

Humphries, 63, sued Local 99 political operative Thomas Newbery and bookkeeper Rhoda Conde for remarks they allegedly made during 2003-04 to investigators looking into possible financial mismanagement.  She insisted the remarks did not qualify as constitutionally-protected free speech.  Recana, who had dismissed a similar complaint by Humphries in June, concluded, “Even if the subject statements were made to union officials (and) attorneys, such statements still constitute…protected speech…as the statements concern an issue of public interest.”  In that earlier action, Ms. Humphries had sought $5 million from Newbery and Conde for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” 


Humphries pleaded guilty last month to federal charges of illegally funneling union funds to the successful 2003 campaign of former Los Angeles City Councilman Martin Ludlow.  She is set for sentencing in February.  She also was convicted of related charges in Los Angeles Superior Court.  Ludlow earlier this year pleaded guilty to separate federal and local charges.  He had resigned his council seat in 2005 to head the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a move prompted by the death of the latter organization’s previous leader, Miguel Contreras.  Ludlow in turn left that post this February in light of details uncovered by the probe.  In the federal case, Ludlow was sentenced in June to five years probation and 2,000 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay nearly $40,000 in restitution.  When, pray when, will this case be done with already?  (City News Service, 11/29/06; other sources).