A deputy Santa Clara County district attorney is suing his boss for allegedly retaliating against him for writing a critical op-ed.
Daniel Chung filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against Santa Clara County and District Attorney Jeff Rosen. The suit claims Rosen violated Chung’s freedom of speech by disciplining and demoting him after he wrote an opinion piece complaining about the treatment of Asian American crime victims. Chung’s complaint claims the retaliatory actions are part of a pattern and practice in the DA’s Office.
Chung is represented by attorney Jim McManis, who told San José Spotlight the DA is not allowed to punish a line deputy for exercising free speech.
“I can’t think of a clearer case of punishing someone for speech that the boss didn’t like,” McManis said.
DA spokesperson Sean Webby told San José Spotlight to contact County Counsel. The county attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chung joined the DA’s office in 2018 where he prosecuted domestic violence cases and served in the violent felonies unit. In February, he published an op-ed in the Mercury News raising concerns about rising racism and violence against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chung claims the office disciplined him two days after the op-ed published and reassigned him to mental health court and then juvenile justice.
Chung continued writing op-eds critical of Rosen. The office placed him on paid administrative leave on May 28. The office issued two “be on the lookout notices”—otherwise known as BOLOs—for Chung days later. Chung told San José Spotlight it’s highly unusual to issue a BOLO for a worker who has been placed on leave, and that the BOLOs violated his confidentiality by alerting the entire office about his employment matter.
According to the lawsuit, Chung received notice on Sept. 10 that the DA’s office would recommend his employment be terminated.
In two op-eds published in San José Spotlight, Chung claims Rosen tried to get him to leave the office by offering a severance package that would have barred Chung from holding any county job in the future. Chung also argued that Rosen should be investigated for allegedly committing possible law violations. More recently, Chung criticized the DA’s office for lack of training and professional standards when it comes to charging. He claims lack of coordination and communication have resulted in prejudicial delays and loss of evidence.
Last month, Chung told San José Spotlight he’s considering running for Santa Clara County DA, a job Rosen has held unopposed since 2010. Chung, who referred questions to McManis, does not appear to have filed to run for office.
Rosen is already facing a re-election challenge next year by progressive public defender Sajid Khan.
Chung’s lawsuit is seeking damages, civil penalties and attorneys’ fees. The amount is unknown.
“This is not the first time Rosen has behaved this way,” McManis added without elaborating on other cases. “I’ve heard for years of vindictive personnel actions.”