Working amid high level political decision makers and intense scrutiny from the media, Thomas Jefferson School of Law graduate Daphne Delvaux ‘12 recently helped steer one of San Diego’s most high-profile lawsuits to conclusion, including winning a record settlement for the plaintiff.
This month, the San Diego City Council agreed to pay $667,000 to end a sexual battery and harassment lawsuit filed against former Mayor Bob Filner by his executive assistant, Benelia Santos-Hunter. It’s the largest settlement the city has paid in the various cases involving Filner and the scandal that prompted his ultimate resignation from office in 2013.
The lawsuit filed by Santos-Hunter detailed more than two dozen incidents dating back to 2013, when she first joined the mayor’s staff. Among them that Filner had allegedly grabbed her buttocks, had asked to hug and kiss her and had also tried to touch her breasts.
Santos-Hunter was represented by attorney Josh Gruenberg, of the firm Gruenberg Law, where Delvaux is employed as a trial attorney.
The case involved many months of hard-fought litigation. Thomas Jefferson Law alumna Delvaux worked closely with Gruenberg from beginning to end, including helping to write the complaint, assisting in successfully opposing a series of demurrers, motions to strike and motions for judgment on the pleadings.
Along with Gruenberg, she also conducted discovery, including written discovery and document review, preparing for, defending and taking depositions, locating and interviewing witnesses and arranging for their appearance.
As the case proceeded Delvaux appeared in court for hearings, helped prepare for trial, including drafting the motions in limine, trial readiness reports, and trial briefs.
“As an advocate for women's rights, this settlement is a vindication,” Delvaux says of the case. “Sexual harassment, especially by an elected official, is unacceptable. The Mayor is not above the law.”
In the months after his resignation, Filner served 90-days house arrest, having entered a guilty plea to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery involving victims of sexual harassment.
The highly sensational drama captured the attention of the nation, making headlines in newspapers and on news programs from Los Angeles to New York.
For Delvaux, the experience of working on such a closely followed case gave her the opportunity to utilize all of the knowledge, training and wisdom she had developed during law school.
“My experiences at Thomas Jefferson inspired me to fight vigorously for my ideals,” she says. “I discovered that I am an advocate for the labor movement and workers' rights. I love being a voice for silenced employees. The law is a powerful tool to do good. Law school helped me find confidence in my own capacity to achieve justice.”