A former Ventura County prosecutor has filed a federal lawsuit against his previous bosses, alleging that he was unlawfully demoted for speaking his mind and backing a rival candidate for district attorney.
Adam Pearlman filed the suit this week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. It alleges a violation of civil rights as a result of wrongful termination in retaliation for exercising his rights of free speech.
Pearlman, who now works in the county's child-support unit, is seeking damages and reinstatement as a criminal prosecutor. Pearlman and a second deputy district attorney, Mark Pachowicz, were reassigned from the felony division to the county's child-support agency last April.
Both attorneys had backed former prosecutor Ron Bamieh in the March 2002 election for district attorney. Greg Totten, the handpicked successor of retiring Dist. Atty. Michael Bradbury, won by a wide margin.
In his lawsuit, Pearlman alleges that, after seven years prosecuting criminal cases, he was suddenly transferred to child support, now a separate county agency, as punishment for backing Bamieh.
"In expressing support for a candidate in an election to public office, Pearlman engaged in the highest order of constitutional free speech on a matter of paramount public concern," the lawsuit states.
"This transfer was involuntary, and made without explanation," the lawsuit says. "Pearlman had never worked in child support, and did not request or desire transfer to that division. Rather, he desired to continue his career as a prosecutor in the criminal division."
In addition to suing the county, Pearlman is suing Bradbury and Totten individually. He is seeking back pay and reinstatement as a senior prosecutor, and is asking the court to prevent the district attorney's office from future violations.
Last year, Pearlman and Pachowicz appealed their transfers before the county's Civil Service Commission. But a state judge ruled that the commission did not have jurisdiction. A separate grievance filed with the county was denied.
Leroy Smith, litigation supervisor for the county counsel's office, said Friday that he was not aware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.