Williams’ Motion For Summary Judgement Granted; O’Connor Appeals

BannerForEdwardKennedyDinnerEven as the Chair of the Democratic Party of Denver, Ed Hall, undemocratically bestowed Williams with the “Democrat of the Year” title, O’Connor and fellow activists continued to challenge Williams in and out of court.

On October 28th, 2014, Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch held a hearing in response to Representative Angela Williams’ motion for summary judgement. During the hearing, Judge Matsch stated, “It’s an important case; I think the First Amendment has stood very fairly in this courtroom in the past.” On November 17th, Judge Matsch issued an order granting summary judgement in Williams’ favor, stating in part,

O’Connor has failed to show a “real nexus” between Rep. Williams’ conduct in seeking,
obtaining and enforcing the civil protection order and her “badge” of state authority as an elected official. Assuming that Rep. Williams had a retaliatory motive to seek the protection order, there is no liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because there was no state action.

On February 9th, 2015, O’Connor filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The summary of concerns with the ruling were presented under the section “ISSUE PRESENTED FOR REVIEW“:

Whether the district court erred in concluding that Rep. Williams, an elected official, did not act under color of state law when she used her official status of elected State Representative to cause police to eject Mr. O’Connor from a public meeting, and when she commenced judicial proceedings against him in order to silence his dissent and protest, despite the existence in the record of genuine disputes over material facts, and where the court relied only on inadmissible hearsay.

Under the “STATEMENT OF THE CASE“, the appeal continues:

This is an action that goes to the heart of the United States Constitution – a citizen’s right to engage in uncensored, unfettered political speech without fear of retaliation by powerful government officials who have the mechanisms of law enforcement and the judicial system at their disposal.

In the “SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT” section, the basis for the appeal is outlined. Some of the highlights follow:

The factual record in this matter is wholly undeveloped (which, alone, precludes a proper determination of the color of law issue), and it is clear that there are genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Rep. Williams acted under color of law, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

With these critical facts in dispute, and many more left undiscovered or undeveloped, the district court could not have fairly made the informed analysis necessary to determine whether Rep. Williams actually acted under color of law. This substantive error requires reversal.

The district court also erred in basing its summary judgment order solely on inadmissible hearsay evidence, while also prohibiting all discovery and, thus, preventing Mr. O’Connor from developing the factual record necessary to support
his opposition to Rep. Williams’s summary judgment motion. This procedural error also warrants reversal.

In the “ARGUMENTS” section, the appeal highlights follow:

Summary judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

Notably, summary judgment may not be granted if the record contains disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit, as the record here contains. Additionally, summary judgment may not be granted based solely on inadmissible evidence, as the district court did here.

The appeal goes on to respond to Judge Matsch’s claim that O’Connor failed to show a “real nexus” (see above), stating Representative Williams

did more than merely seek and obtain the civil protective order against Mr. O’Connor. She abused the authority she possessed by virtue of her position as a state representative in her efforts to silence him. This is, by definition, conduct pursued under color of law. At minimum, there are genuine disputes of material fact that, if taken in the light most favorable to Mr. O’Connor (as this Court must do here), would establish that Rep. Williams acted under color of law…(Williams) used her authority as a public figure to, effectively, ensure a personal security detail at her public meetings and in her neighborhood. A private citizen would be hard-pressed to gain that high of a degree of “police protection and police assistance” in serving and enforcing an ordinary civil protective order, particularly under these facts.

The district court also erred procedurally on a highly particularized, fact-intensive legal question, by prohibiting all discovery and issuing summary judgment based only on inadmissible hearsay evidence. This error alone warrants a reversal and remand for further proceedings…

While it is true that “[t]he nonmoving party may not rest upon ‘the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleading,””(1986)), the district court permitted Mr. O’Connor no opportunity to conduct discovery to gather evidence to support his allegations or refute Rep. Williams’s, despite his insistence that even limited discovery be allowed. Nor did the district court provide an opportunity to test the truthfulness of Rep. Williams’s assertions, or to subject her to the crucible of cross-examination to flesh out the substance of her testimony. Thus, reversing and remanding this case is the appropriate remedy so that the factual record may be fully developed and the court may make an informed decision premised on a complete and thorough analysis.

Representative Williams is expected to file a response in the coming few weeks, and O’Connor is expected a reply some few weeks after that. The court will then set a time to hear 15 minutes of oral argument from each side, after which they will issue their written opinion.

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Williams Earns Another Supporter

Friday, December 8th: Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) Endorses Angela Williams.

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Williams winning another award in 2013 for standing against her party to represent bank lobbyists.

In bestowing this award, the CACI stated, ” The CACI lobbying team evaluated incumbents on their votes during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions on key bills that were important to CACI’s agenda. Incumbents were also assessed in terms of how helpful they were to the CACI lobbyists in ways other than votes.”

Once again, Williams has been given an award for pleasing the business and banking lobby. Once again she has earned that award.

Representative Angela Williams: serving business and banking lobbyists, failing constituents.

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O’Connor Files Suit Against Williams, Both Attend Governor’s Signing Foreclosure Bills

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Above photo: From left to right: Darren O’Connor, Representative McCann, Joe Boven, ???, Governor Hickenlooper, Representative Williams, Leonard McWilliams.

Friday saw the signing of several foreclosure bills, including Representative McCann’s HB14-1295. The bill carries forward the less contentious protections sought in last year’s Colorado Mortgage Accountability and Housing Stabilization Act against dual tracking and requiring single points of contact. Having sought greater protections in both 2011 and 2012 (with HB12-1156 and HB13-1249), McCann carried the fight forward this year, albeit in the form of a smaller move forward, and one that many fear will bring little to no protections. Williams was a co-sponsor of this years bill, after leading the effort to kill HB13-1249 last year in her committee. Many believe she was keen to sponsor foreclosure legislation this year in order to counter the assertions by O’Connor and many other members of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition that she was working on behalf of banks, rather than homeowners. Williams sponsored her own bill, HB14-1312, extending the HUD deferment program, also signed on Friday. This will continue an ineffectual, supposed protection to homeowners that are savvy enough to apply for the deferment within days of receiving their foreclosure notice. The timeline of a foreclosure and of the guidelines of the program are such that only a lucky and incredibly pro-active few homeowners will benefit from the law.

Despite Mr. O’Connor’s consistent efforts to challenge Representative Williams for her leadership on behalf of banks last year in killing the more effective legislation that came through the Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development Committee she chaired, he was invited to be part of the signing of the new legislation on Friday, May 9th. Out of respect for McCann’s uninterrupted efforts on behalf of homeowners, and believing his efforts may have created space for these laws to be passed because of the political pressure applied over the past year, he attended.

The gathering was somewhat charged, at least for Williams and O’Connor, by the fact that O’Connor filed a lawsuit against Williams just one day prior, on May 8th, for infringing on his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights back in October of 2013, when she filed a civil protection order against O’Connor. An article in the Denver Post came out that day. A second piece followed, this time an editorial calling O’Connor a zealot. The editorial attempted to paint O’Connor as threatening, even as it reported that he spoke only about foreclosures to Williams under the protections of the First Amendment. The author also chose to ignore the fact that O’Connor attended the signing of Williams’ own legislation in the Governor’s office.

The press release from O’Connors attorneys follows. A link to the suit and supporting documents is here.

Date:     May 8, 2014

 Re:    Colorado State Representative Angela Williams Sued in Federal Court for Retaliating Against Free Speech Activity

Colorado State Representative Angela Williams was sued in Colorado Federal District Court on Thursday by Darren O’Connor, an activist involved in advocacy related to the rights and protections available to people and families whose homes are being foreclosed upon.  The lawsuit alleges that Representative Williams retaliated against Mr. O’Connor because of his constitutionally-protected free speech and advocacy on policies regarding protecting homeowners from unfair home foreclosure practices by the banking and lending industries.  Mr. O’Connor’s outspoken advocacy in 2013 revealed that Representative Williams, who represents the Montbello region in Denver, was far more friendly to banking and lending interests than to individuals (including her own constituents)  who have undergone foreclosure proceedings on their homes in the last several years.  The suit points out that while Representative Williams claimed in her public speeches that she was sympathetic to the plight of families undergoing foreclosures, in actuality she worked very hard to kill measures designed to provide protection and relief to such families.   The lawsuit alleges that instead of discussing and debating these issues with Mr. O’Connor and others in public meetings and assemblies, Representative Williams instead caused the police to serve a Motion for Protective Order on Mr. O’Connor, falsely accusing him of threatening her.  In fact, all of Mr. O’Connor’s activities were legal, professional and protected by the United States Constitution.   Mr. O’Connor was forced to hire his own lawyer at considerable expense to defeat the frivolous legal action filed against him. When the Protective Order hearing went to court, a Denver Judge resoundingly rejected Representative Williams’ attempt to illegally silence him, saying that to do so would violate his important constitutional rights to free speech. 

The lawsuit filed today claims that Representative Williams’ conduct in causing Mr. O’Connor to go through the legal proceedings was illegal retaliation for his free speech, and an attempt to silence him and others in the future.  Such conduct violates the federal and state constitutions, and violates the oath of office taken by Representative Williams as an elected public official.  The lawsuit seeks all available remedies allowed by law, which could include a court injunction and declaration, damages and attorney fees.  For his part, Mr. O’Connor seeks primarily to expose Representative Williams’ unconstitutional behavior to the public and to the voters in her district, and to educate the electorate on the behavior of its elected officials.

Darold W. Killmer of the Denver civil rights law firm of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP filed the lawsuit on Mr. O’Connor’s behalf.  Mr. Killmer noted that the lawsuit “raises crucial issues regarding our right to free speech and our right to criticize powerful governmental officials.  Representative Williams summoned the police and the court system to help her crush a dissenting voice.  Fortunately, a judge stopped her in her tracks.  But Williams’ message was loud and clear:  if you try to cross me, I will silence you.  If elected officials are permitted to fire up the system against regular people like Mr. O’Connor, who speak out on important public issues, then our proud system of freedoms and liberty is just an illusion.”  Killmer notes that “this is what our federal courts are for:  to enforce our cherished constitutional rights to free speech, even if such speech angers important government officials.”

Darren O’Connor, the plaintiff in this federal civil rights action,  may be contacted at (720) 961-3869

 

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O’Connor Seeks Resolution To Claims Of Retaliation

Darren O’Connor Claims Retaliation And Abuse of Process At The Hands Of State Representative Williams

(Photo Credit: Refufia Gaintan, http://www.thenationreportorg)  Darren O’Connor (foreground in leather jacket )speaks to Rep. Angela Williams (right) about a bill killed in the committee she chairs, at her May 15th Town Hall last year.

In October of last year, State House Representative Angela Williams, District 7, attempted to bring a permanent restraining order against Darren O’Connor, claiming he was stalking her. O’Connor, a member of the Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition (CFRC), had been challenging Rep. Williams regarding her vote in April last year against the Colorado Mortgage Accountability and Housing Stabilization Act: HB13-1249. Mr. O’Connor contended that Williams, Chair of the Business, Labor, Economic and Workforce Development Committee that heard the bill, refused to meet with him and other supporters, citing that they were not from her district; he claims she chose instead to meet behind closed doors with lobbyists, banking and business interests who were also not from her district.

On November 25th, 2013, Magistrate Catherine Cary rejected Williams’ claims, finding the allegations in Williams’ temporary restraining order application were baseless.

On February 6th, 2014, the law firm Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP, delivered to Representative Williams a letter stating they had advised Mr. O’Connor that they believed he has legal claims against her for retaliation and abuse against him in order to silence his constitutionally protected speech. The firm’s letter to Williams states, “With no sufficient basis on which to seek the protection order, it is clear that you were substantially motivated by a desire to suppress Mr. O’Connor’s political speech–speech that constituted his professional but passionate efforts to engage in a robust debate with you, an elected, public official.” Rep. Williams has been given until Febrary 20th to respond to Darold Killmer’s letter.

Williams’ position as the chair of the House Business Committee is a powerful one.  In an email dated January 6th, 2014, Williams shared the content of a Denver Business Journal 2014 Legislative Preview, including in part:

This year she’s overseeing negotiations on an effort led by the Colorado AFL-CIO to reform workers’ compensation law to let injured employees have more choice of doctors and to get larger settlements if they broke safety regulations while getting hurt.

Many speculate she’s carrying that bill to show she has the muscle to be majority leader or speaker when House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, steps aside because of term limits next year.

It appears that Williams, having shared this in her email on the opening day of the 69th General Assembly, has great political ambitions. It remains to be seen whether she can fend off allegations of retaliation and abuse against Mr. O’Connor.

The letter from Killmer, Lane and Newman, LLP, attorney Darold Kilmer is available here.

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Losing The Dream

ImageDenver journalist, actor, musician and slam poet Theo Wilson has written a hard hitting article in this month’s Denver Urban Spectrum (read it here), “Losing The Dream, Montbello Burns As Officials Stand By”. Wilson spent months researching this article and covers the topics of foreclosures, homelessness, the urban camping ban, Williams recent charge of stalking against Occupy Denver activist Darren O’Connor (she lost the case), and the poor choice of Denver Government Leadership to represent banks and businesses over the interests of their constituents.

Rather than try and cover the topics here, please go to the article, which starts on page 10, to read this well written piece.

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KGNU Invites Williams and O’Connor to Debate

Shareef Aleem of radio station KGNU hosting, "It's The Economy"

Shareef Aleem of radio station KGNU hosting, “It’s The Economy”

On Thursday, December 19th, Denver Metro radio station KGNU invited Representative Angela Williams and Darren O’Connor to debate on foreclosure issues. Representative Williams declined, but O’Connor and several other Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition Members joined host Shareef Aleem for a one hour in-depth discussion of the Williams vs O’Connor case, foreclosures, the connection between homelessness and foreclosures, Williams’ connection to the Downtown Denver Partnership, and many other topics. The broadcast is archived and available for download or streaming at http://www.kgnu.org/economy/12/19/2013. A caller joined in the show and shared how they are not only being harassed by phone calls from a new servicer of their mortgage, but the servicer is sending agents to his home to try and force him to make payments to them on a house that is already in foreclosure.

Once again, Representative Williams missed an opportunity to share with constituents from her district, and with all of Denver how she is working for them to protect against the aggressive and harassing behavior of the banks and mortgage servicers. Evidence continues to emerge that banks and servicers are abusing homeowners, despite the claims by Williams and others, such as the Colorado Bankers Association Vice President Jennifer Waller, that these abuses have stopped and that banks don’t actually want to foreclose. Mortgage servicer Ocwen, whom O’Connor recently concluded five months of negotiation with to save the home of a woman who had records of having made every payment, was just fined (read about it here). Homeowners who lost their homes due to Ocwen’s abuse will receive approximately $1,200 for their loss. While Representative Williams may call this a win for Coloradans, it is small compensation for those who lost what is likely their greatest investment: their homes.

Participating in the radio interview was Linda Donna, who owns a home in Williams’ district and who has been spending her retirement income to correct the mistakes made by her mortgage servicer. She is just one of the 56% of homeowners from the Montbello area who have had banks try to foreclose on them in the last ten years.

Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition Members continue to ask Representative Williams: when will you have an open discussion about your position on foreclosures, and why do you continue to meet with banking representatives and not us?

CFRC members participating in the "It's the Economy" show that aired on KGNU on December 19th.

CFRC members participating in the “It’s the Economy” show that aired on KGNU on December 19th.

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CFRC Sponsors HD7 Casino Night

Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition Members Enjoying HD7 Casino Night

Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition Members Enjoying HD7 Casino Night

Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition members enjoyed participating in House District 7 Casino Night on December 12th. We gambled away our $1,000 of funny money each, which was clearly less of a loss than some of the real losses suffered as a result of banks gambling with our homes. Much thanks to the HD7 members who hosted and shared some holiday cheer during this busy time of year. Some of the homemade prizes were very very nice.

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