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Judge Rules SCUSD Trustee Stampolis Must Pay $19,000 for Principal’s Legal Expenses

Santa Clara Unified School District Trustee Christopher Stampolis’ charge that recent harassment allegations against him are the result of an “orchestrated” “smear” campaign isn’t going over at the Santa Clara Superior Court.

On Nov. 14, Judge Thomas Kuhnle – who issued a permanent restraining order in October against Stampolis in the face of “clear and convincing evidence” that Stampolis threatened Peterson Middle School Principal Susan Harris – ordered Stampolis to pay Harris roughly $19,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs.

The judge said that he made the award based on several things, notably that Stampolis evidenced no regret for his conduct, made no apology and contested every single point in the complaint – requiring Harris to be prepared to respond on every one. Stampolis also filed a harassment complaint with the district against Harris. The district’s investigation found it groundless.

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Stampolis disputed that Harris had suffered from clinical levels of anxiety and fear, despite diagnosis from physicians.

Kuhnle also noted that there were multiple harassment incidents and multiple witnesses to them. Finally, he said that the case was a more serious violation because it involved two parts of the California law on civil harassment.

These are sections 527.8(b)(1), “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time … evidencing a continuity of purpose, including following or stalking,” and 527.8(b)(2) “a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”

The judge further found that Harris’ attorney Eugene Whitlock’s rate of $350 per hour to be reasonable, and that 53 of the 68 hours that Harris asked compensation for were appropriate. (The average hourly rate for all U.S. lawyers across all specialties in 2014 was $373, according to data analytics company TyMerix.)

The total, $19,091.25 including court costs, is due in Whitlock’s hands Dec.20. Stampolis gave no indication that he intends to pay, only telling the San Jose Mercury that he intends to appeal, and that process would “determine the prevailing party.”

This isn’t the first time Stampolis has faced judgments against him for fees or damages.

In 2008, a Los Angeles storage company clerk received a $38,000 in compensatory damages against Stampolis, after a 2005 incident where he allegedly verbally and physically assaulted her when she refused to open a storage unit for which he didn’t have the access code or proper documentation.

This led to a physical altercation where the clerk said Stampolis grabbed her, and he claimed that he was grabbing the papers in her hand. Another employee said that he heard the scuffle, came into the office, and upon seeing Stampolis’ hand around the clerk’s neck, pulled Stampolis off the clerk, “slammed” him on the floor, pushed him out the door and locked it after him.

Stampolis was arrested, but charges weren’t filed.

The arbitrator in the case found that Stampolis’ explanation of the incident “made little sense,” and that his “actions were aggressive, assaultive and threatening no matter what his actual intention was.” At the time, Stampolis was a delegate to the Democratic national convention. The 9-1-1 call was subsequently published on the celerity gossip website, TMZ.

On Dec. 9, 2014 Stampolis will be back in court for a hearing on a second request by an SCUSD employee, Superintendent Stanley Rose, for a restraining order against the trustee. The hearing is 9 a.m. at the Santa Clara Superior Court, Dept. 4, in downtown San Jose. The case number is 114CH005933.

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