Fitton: Judicial Watch Sues Veterans Affairs for Allegedly Violating Protester’s Constitutional Rights

United States Army veteran Sgt. Leon Brookings, celebrates the U.S. Army's 238th Birthday Celebration, Flag Day at the third anniversary of the West Los Angeles Veterans Home, Friday, June 14, 2013, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Damian Dovargane
Washington, DC

Veterans Affairs (VA) is a mess of a government agency and too often abuses the rights and interests of veterans it is supposed to protect.

This is highlighted in our new lawsuit against several Veterans Affairs police officers and officials for violations of the constitutional rights of Robert L. Rosebrock, a 75-year-old Vietnam era veteran, who for nearly a decade has protested misuse of a 388-acre parcel of prime West Los Angeles real estate set aside to serve veterans.

We joined attorney Robert Patrick Sticht in filing the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles (Robert L. Rosebrock v Michael Perez et al. (No. 2:17-cv-04354)).

Our lawsuit seeks damages and asks the court to enjoin further violations of Rosebrock’s constitutional rights. It also asks the court to declare invalid a law VA officials have used to prohibit photography on the public sidewalk where Rosebrock holds his regular Sunday afternoon protests. The complaint explains:

Plaintiff has held regular protests on the public walkway at the Great Lawn Gate entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park every (or nearly every) Sunday since March 9, 2008.

Plaintiff protests the VA’s failure to make greater use of its West Los Angeles facility, known as the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (“VAGLAHS”), to care for and house veterans – particularly homeless veterans.

Plaintiff records his protests with a camera and uses the images in email updates he sends to an informal group of like-minded individuals and supporters, which he refers to as the “Old Veterans Guard.” Plaintiff’s email updates are an important part of his advocacy for homeless veterans and respect for the American Flag.

On June 12, 2016 and again on June 19, 2016, Plaintiff was arrested at the Great LawnGate for allegedly taking unauthorized photographs of VA police officers citing a fellow protestor for allegedly posting the American Flag on a VA fence. On both occasions, Plaintiff was alleged to have violated 38 C.F.R. § 1.218(a)(10), which provides, “Photographs for advertising or commercial purposes may be taken only with the written consent of the head of the facility or designee.”

Rosebrock was handcuffed and forcefully placed into the back of a patrol car during the June 12, 2016, incident. VA police confiscated Rosebrock’s cameras on both June 12, 2016, and June 19, 2016.

This lawsuit follows a key court victory from this year when a Los Angeles federal magistrate ruled that Rosebrock could not be criminally prosecuted for taking photographs at the “Great Lawn Gate” entrance to the Los Angeles National Veterans Park. The court also separately ruled that Rosebrock was not guilty of violating federal law by allegedly displaying two four-by-six inch American Flags above a VA fence on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016.

The Los Angeles veterans’ facility was donated in 1888 to provide a home for needy veterans, but the VA has allowed the parcel to be used for a variety of non-veteran related purposes, including a baseball stadium for the UCLA baseball team, athletic fields for a private preparatory school, and a dog park. Judicial Watch recently filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits (Click here and here.) seeking information about the use of the West Los Angeles parcel.

Relatedly, a new law signed by President Trump on June 23, 2017, the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Act of 2017, seeks to restore accountability to the VA by making it easier to demote, suspend, or remove department employees based upon bad performance or wrongdoing. In addition to being a veteran, Rosebrock is also a whistleblower, highlighting misuse of the West Los Angeles VA facility for non-veteran-related purposes.

This 75-year-old veteran faced unlawful arrest and a retaliatory prosecution for holding the VA to account. This VA bureaucracy has gone wild. Hopefully, Bob’s lawsuit and the new VA accountability law will help restore common sense to the VA and ensure our veterans are treated with respect.

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