Pubdate: Fri, 24 Aug 2012
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight
Author: Janet O'Neill


A Trinity County sheriff's deputy may resume writing letters to the 
editor after a federal judge ruled in his favor in a freedom-of-speech case.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on Wednesday granted a preliminary 
injunction in the case brought by Mark Potts against Sheriff Bruce 
Haney and the county.

"I don't consider it a victory for Mark Potts; it's a victory for 
liberty and the rule of law," the 53-year-old deputy said Thursday.

Potts filed the federal lawsuit in July in Sacramento, alleging he 
was punished for exercising his constitutional right to free speech.

He was reprimanded in February by his superiors for his letters to 
Weaverville's Trinity Journal.

Those letters, which he said numbered "dozens and dozens" in the past 
several years, covered such topics as the wisdom and 
constitutionality of certain laws, the appropriate scope of the 
federal government's authority, the legalization of marijuana and the 
right to carry concealed weapons.

Mendez ordered the reprimand rescinded and that the sheriff 
"immediately cease and desist" from applying sections of his office's 
policy manual to Potts' letters, "so long as his letters are in his 
own name; address general policy matters, not specific official 
actions; and specifically state that the views expressed" are Potts' 
and not those of the sheriff's office.

"It doesn't legally resolve the entire case, but the ball is in the 
county's court," said Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the San 
Francisco-based American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern 
California and co-counsel for Potts.

Winning a preliminary injunction requires that attorneys show "a 
substantial likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable 
harm," she added. The problem with the policies applied to Potts, she 
said, was they were "vague and overbroad."

Potts began working for the sheriff's office in 2000 but left in 
2004, returning in 2007. He consistently received positive job 
performance reviews, Lye said.

Haney did not return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday.

For his part, Potts said he's ready to start writing letters again, 
about "anything and everything."
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