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It’s a mall world, after all

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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If Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis never hears another case involving the Roseville Galleria. I suspect he’ll be very happy. By now, most of us know he had to rule on whether the City of Roseville was well within its rights to keep the general public from learning if the police and/or fire department had the sprinkler system shut off during that rather expensive fire last year. Gaddis’ ruling was that the public had a right to know what happened that day, although Roseville still has a lot of questions to answer, not the least of which is whether Mayor Gina Garbolino used the fact that her husband (James D. Garbolino) is a sitting Placer County Superior Court judge to pressure the legal establishment to get the report placed under a gag order. As daffy as that sounds to those of us who know there were fewer than a dozen shooters who offed JFK, this local conspiracy theory has some gravity once you read the subsequent report. After going over it line by line, I cannot find a single reason that report had to be suppressed. So chalk one up for Judge Gaddis. On the other hand, it turns out he was on the wrong side of an earlier decision involving the Galleria. At least that’s what the Third Appellate District ruled last August. The original case (Snatchko v. Westfield) involved the plaintiff (Matthew Snatchko) going to the Galleria where he then — according to court records — attempted to talk to people there about the “principles of his faith.” Records say there was no disturbance of any kind, yet a mall security guard asked Snatchko to leave. Snatchko refused, was placed under citizens’ arrest by the guard and delivered (handcuffed) to the Roseville Police. The Placer County District Attorney’s Office refused to prosecute, and that was the end of the criminal portion of the case. However, Snatchko filed a civil suit against Westfield (operator of the mall) for emotional distress. Gaddis eventually found for Westfield, ruling that the mall’s rules “do not constitute an impermissible restriction on (Snatchko’s) rights under the California Constitution.” Snatchko appealed, and the Third District found that Westfield’s stringent rules of prior permission for such activities, and the rigid application of additional rules once permission was granted “... violate California’s Constitutional right to free speech,” The Appellate Court also ruled that Gaddis’ denial of Snatchko’s request for attorney fees was in error. Now this is not to knock Judge Gaddis. Checking the record, we find he’s been correct far more times that I have, and he has a much more difficult clientele with which to work. Having spent the early part of my career in that toy shop known as the sports department, I remember quite well that Cooperstown enshrines those batters who correctly guess an outcome a mere 33-percent of the time ... More judgment: Having referred to Judge Garbolino earlier in the column, allow me to applaud him for his most recent effort. He currently sits in the People v. Fishman, a laborious case being heard in Department Four at Auburn’s Historic Courthouse. That case involves the prosecution of Los Gatos resident Udi Fishman who allegedly barged into a North Auburn home in September of 2009, and used pepper spray in what the prosecution says was an attempted kidnapping. Forgive me for not being more specific, but I need to tread lightly here because the defense has already made at least one attempt at having a mistrial declared. What makes Garbolino’s actions noteworthy is that both sides are attempting to get local attorney William Bergen to betray the attorney-client privilege he has with one of the alleged victims. In the interest of full disclosure, I point out that Bergen is my own attorney, but even he won’t discuss the case with me because he’s already been told he could be recalled as a witness. Getting back to Garbolino: every so often, one side or the other makes an objection and — at least for the more esoteric ones — he does the math for us. He has these pithy conversations with himself where he reviews the objection, mentally calls upon the proper point of law, and makes the subsequent ruling. It’s a quite interesting case, although not one for the easily bored. Pop in over at Department Four and see for yourself. It’s better than anything on television. Especially these days. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at jimruffalo@yahoo.com.