SAN JOSE —
Court critic Susan Bassi has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Santa Clara County in response to a November 2017 incident in which she claims a sheriff’s deputy broke her finger and injured her hand for refusing to stop videotaping inside a county courthouse.
The Nov. 14 confrontation was sparked when sheriff’s deputies saw Scott Largent, through a video surveillance camera, snap a photo of a computer screen at the courthouse’s public records office. The office prohibits using smartphones to copy records.
Largent, another critic of the local justice system, stopped taking photos and erased the images at the deputies’ request.
Bassi said she heard Largent yelling and claiming the officers were touching him, so she began recording the incident on her cell phone, according to the complaint.
Deputy David Gomez told Bassi repeatedly to “stop recording” and when she refused he used physical force, breaking her finger and injuring her hand, the lawsuit claims.
Gomez and two other deputies, Jack Solorio and Michael Jacobs, also searched her phone without a warrant after the incident while she received medical attention, according to the complaint.
Bassi, who previously filed a separate excessive force complaint against the Sheriff’s Office, says the county violated her First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The lawsuit also says the phone search and use of force violated Bassi’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure of her person and property.
In addition, the lawsuit contends the county has repeatedly harassed Bassi and Largent, two vocal, longtime courthouse critics.
Both the county and Sheriff’s Office declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Bassi is asking for a trial and will seek punitive damages against the deputies for their “extreme and outrageous conduct in complete disregard” of her rights, according to the complaint.
Her lawyer is San Jose criminal defense attorney Dmitry Stadlin.
Bassi is also a freelance journalist who contributes to a website called Ex Parte Mediathat exposes issues in California courts, according to her Linkedin profile.
Seven California counties, including Santa Clara, prohibit the use of smartphones to take pictures of otherwise public court records, while seven other counties allow smartphone use.
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