La prensa

Legal Fight Brews over Picture in CV City Attorney Race

Chula Vista City Hall
Author: La Prensa
Created: 28 February, 2024
Updated: 29 February, 2024
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3 min read

By Alberto Garcia
Investigative Reporter

A photographer is threatening to sue over a picture used in a local political campaign, marking the third legal issue to surface in the election of Chula Vista’s City Attorney. 

An attorney for a local photographer sent a letter to the Lincoln Club of San Diego demanding they stop using a picture of State Senator Steve Padilla in their campaign supporting Bart Miesfeld for Chula Vista City Attorney against attorney Marco Verdugo. 

Steve Padilla

Picture of Steve Padilla at center of dispute. Photo credit: David Poller

 

Padilla’s picture was used to promote his endorsement of Miesfeld, along with five other former Chula Vista Mayors who also support his election. Padilla served as Mayor from 2006 to 2010. 

Miesfeld mailerBart Miesfeld mailer
Miesfeld mailers including Padilla's picture. 

 

Local attorney Ricardo Ochoa represents professional photographer David Poller who was hired by Padilla to take political pictures used in campaigns and other promotional materials for Padilla's political career.

Padilla paid Poller but, under federal copyright laws, the photographer maintains ownership of the picture. 

But copyright laws allow for “fair use” of protected materials when they are used for non-commercial purposes like political campaigns and news coverage, even without payment to or permission from the owner. 

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State and federal cases have upheld similar uses of photographs in political campaigns without the consent of the photographers, including a 2014 San Francisco case where a political blogger used a politician’s picture to criticize her, and another case where the Republican Party used a picture of a Democrat without her consent.

The letter demands that the group stop using the picture, preserve records related to their use of the picture, and pay $2,000 to “resolve this matter without litigation.”

Poller was also hired by former San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher before he resigned from office in May 2023 amid allegations of sexual assault filed by a female employee of the local transit agency.

Nathan Fletcher
Photo of Nathan Fletcher on Poller's website. Photo credit: David Poller.

 

Ochoa owns Ochoa Law, a local labor and employment law firm specializing in representing workers and labor unions. His website outlines their work in the "labor movement and working for social and economic justice" but does not list any experience in trademark and copyright law.

This is the third legal dispute Ochoa has been involved with during the City Attorney race.

Last year, Ochoa represented Marco Verdugo when Miesfeld sued over his misleading job title on his ballot statement. A judge ruled that Verdugo would have to change his ballot title for the November 2023 special election.

Then in December 2023, Ochoa represented a local resident who sued Miesfeld over his ballot title. Another judge forced Miesfeld to alter his title to “Retired Municipal Attorney.”

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Ochoa's wife, Sara Kent Ochoa, serves as a Vice-Chair of San Diego County Democratic Party which not only endorsed Verdugo, but took the extra step to rate Miesfeld unacceptable even though he, too, is a Democrat.  

Miesfeld and Verdugo are running in a Special Election on March 5th to fill the vacancy left after the November 2022 election where Simon Silva was elected two months after he had passed away. 

The candidate who wins the election will be sworn in to fill the remainder of the term through December 2026.

Ochoa did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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