A federal judge on Monday dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by a veteran Orange County prosecutor against her boss, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and the county alleging she became the target of retaliation when she ran for judge.
But U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford gave Karen Schatzle, 52, a chance to re-file the lawsuit addressing the dropped claim under a different legal theory.
Guilford ruled that one of three claims in the lawsuit must be dismissed because state law doesn’t allow such claims against public employers, only private ones. But the judge said Schatzle could amend the lawsuit within 20 days citing a different part of the law.
“I was pleased with Judge Guilford’s decision,” Schatzle’s attorney, Joel Baruch, said.
“The issue on dismissal was a close call in my opinion,” he said, adding that he ultimately agreed that the state law cited in the suit applied to private employers.
Schatzle contends she has been denied promotions or transfers to other more desired jobs in her office since she started a campaign against Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner.
Schatzle lost that election in 2016 by a 56.3 percent to 43.7 percent margin, despite Steiner being censured in 2014 by the state watchdog agency, the Commission on Judicial Performance. The commission found that Steiner had sex in his chambers on different occasions with two women, called prosecutors to help get one of them a job and failed to disqualify himself from a case involving a close friend.
Schatzle claims that when she told Rackauckas and his chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, that she wanted to run against Steiner, she was discouraged from doing so, and that it would violate an “unwritten policy” in the office advising prosecutors to avoid running for judge against incumbents.
She said she was told her career would be “destroyed” if she ran against Steiner.
After Schatzle filed her lawsuit in September, a spokeswoman for the district attorney denied the allegations of retaliation, noting that Schatzle continued to maintain her salary and job duties.
–City News Service