Retrial ordered in $1.5 million Oceanside sexual harassment case

Oceanside city officials are celebrating the news that a $1.5 million verdict awarded by a jury against the municipality has been vacated and a new trial granted in matters concerning sexual harassment charges brought by a San Diego County employee responsible for drawing blood samples in DUI cases against an Oceanside police officer.

Kimberli Hirst claimed in court that she had been repeatedly harassed by officer Gil Garcia beginning in 2008, though Garcia’s lawyer countered that what occurred was “more of a consensual, back and forth sexual banter between the two.”

Hirst, and the jury hearing her case, disagreed. The City, however, countered that it had taken appropriate action when confronted with her complaints, first placing Garcia on administrative leave in October 2009 and firing him the following month.

“After reviewing and weighing all of the evidence produced throughout the three week trial, the Court found that the damages awarded by the jury were excessive and were not supported by the evidence,” says an official City release, noting that the jury incorrectly awarded damages to Hirst for emotional distress suffered during the trial process, among other legal inconsistencies.

City officials also contest Hirst’s right to use under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as she was an employee of the County and not the City. A retrial date has not yet been set.

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Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Stern made factual findings that "the law does not allow the recovery of litigation distress, the plaintiff's counsel made impermissible arguments, and Hirst staged some of her testimony," according to an August 23 Coast News article by Promise Yee.

According to that article, Hirst's trial lawyer, Dwight Ritter disagrees, stating, "The court inserted its opinion in the place of 11 jurors. We're shocked and astounded."

Anyone who's been involved in litigation knows that court proceedings can add to stress already inherent in any conflict, any alleged civil wrongdoing. Judges are not gods, although some of them think they can act as judge, and jury.

The jury is to be the trier of fact, not the judge. The jury is able to determine in a more objective and balanced manner, whether testimony is "staged." Judge Stern's unilateral decisions are unfair. She was originally in Family Court, where juries are not allowed, so she's used to being "the final authority." This power has corrupted her.

Judge Jacqueline Stern is not honorable. In our experience, Judge Stern is one of the worst judges in North County. She is not objective, but favors cities or other "higher authorities" over the people she should be serving. She doesn't honor the Rules of Court when it comes to discovery. She struck out our motion asking that she should step down, rather than verifying, under oath, that she is not prejudiced.

Please, when she comes up for reelection, vote against Jacqueline Stern. Judges usually run unopposed, but I hope some qualified lawyer will step up to the plate so that Stern can be voted out of judicial office. She has reached her highest point of inefficiency and lack of accountability to the people above whom she sits on high issuing inequitable judicial opinions, giving out orders that fly in the face of the rule of law, disregarding human suffering.

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