Presiding San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Smyth dismisses a case brought by Ron Ratekin, 77, of Washington state. Photo by Ken Stone

How many defamation suits can one family file in San Diego Superior Court? When it comes to the Ratekins of Brush Prairie, Wash., at least seven.

Ron Ratekin defamation suit against County of San Diego (PDF)

Nicholas “Nick” Ratekin and his grandfather Ron Ratekin have been keeping eight downtown judges busy. But one jurist — Presiding Judge Michael Smyth — has lightened the load by one.

Last Tuesday, Smyth tossed out a suit filed July 13 by the elder Ratekin targeting Judge Eddie Sturgeon for actions involving his grandson, who sued the University of San Diego.

Smyth waited about 20 minutes for Ratekin, 77, to appear virtually for a sanctions hearing.

“We notified Mr. Ratekin of the hearing this morning, and he has not appeared,” Smyth said in an almost empty 10th-floor downtown courtroom. He dismissed the case “with prejudice,” meaning it can’t be filed again.

The same day, the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by grandson Nicholas Ratekin, 27, the former USD graduate student who Sturgeon branded a “vexatious litigant” on July 18.

Nick Ratekin, the former CIF title-winning water polo coach who sued USD after being let go from his student-teacher jobs in 2019, had been ordered to deposit $9,814 by Oct. 25 to cover court-reporter costs.

Judge Eddie Sturgeon lectured Nick Ratekin on discovery abuse at a March hearing. Photo by Ken Stone

But he never did, so his appeal in the USD breach-of-contract case was tossed.

The elder Ratekin filed suit against the County of San Diego two days before a July summary judgment hearing of his grandson in Sturgeon’s court where the younger plaintiff was ordered not to file any more legal actions.

But acting as his own attorney (as did his grandson), Ron Ratekin failed to prove he had notified the would-be defendant of the suit.

Ron Ratekin was apparently aware of the doctrine of judicial immunity — meaning judges can’t be sued for actions taken in the courtroom. But Ratekin sued the wrong party, since the State of California operates local Superior Courts, not the County of San Diego.

The Ratekins didn’t respond to email requests for comment, and phone numbers on file with the court didn’t pick up.

Court order in Ratekin suit against the San Dieguito Union High School District. (PDF)

“The person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time,” said the outgoing message on Ron’s cell phone. “Please try again later.” A landline number didn’t work either.

How did Judge Sturgeon defame either Ron or Nick Ratekin?

Ron Ratekin’s complaint isn’t clear.

His suit — asking for unspecified monetary damages for loss of tuition, earning potential and other items — mainly cited a series of upcoming hearings and protective orders.

The elder Ratekin’s suit alleged that Sturgeon had a “continued bias and collusion” with USD, the private school his grandson attended after graduating from UC San Diego.

Judge Smyth, a 1991 graduate of USD School of Law, had the power to levy a $1,500 fine against Ron Ratekin in the Nov. 15 OSC sanctions hearing. (OSC stands for “order to show cause.”) No fine was ordered.

The younger Ratekin says he’s also filed a complaint against Sturgeon with the California Commission on Judicial Performance for “abuse of sanctions.”

On Nov. 10, Judge John S. Meyer shot down a Nick Ratekin defamation suit against his former lawyer, Dennis Brady. Ratekin wanted relief after allegedly being called a “criminal” for recording confidential communications in violation of the Penal Code.

But Brady, doing business as San Diego Education Law Group, filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the suit, saying any comments were OK since they came in court. The judge agreed.

“Ratekin did not file an opposition [to the anti-SLAPP motion],” Meyer wrote. “There is no evidence that either Brady or [Dustin] Pinder made the alleged statements, that the alleged statements were untrue, or any of the other elements of a claim for defamation. As such, Ratekin has failed to meet his burden.”

Ruling on Brady anti-SLAPP motion against Nick Ratekin. (PDF)

But Ratekin’s legal battles aren’t over. He has court dates in at least six other courts.

The young man’s Aug. 26, 2022, defamation suit against National University is pending, with a case management conference set for April 7, 2023, before Judge James A. Mangione.

Yet another case management conference is set for Dec. 16 in a breach of warranty lawsuit Nick Ratekin filed July 11 against National University. Judge Gregory W. Pollack is handling that one.

His defamation suit against the San Dieguito Union High School District (where he lost a student teaching job) is pending before Judge Timothy Taylor. A case management conference is set for Dec. 16.

(But Taylor spared him from having to pay the district $35,000 for potential attorneys fees and other costs since Ratekin is out-of-state. Ratekin was ordered to pay only $5,000 in so-called security costs.)

Yet another defamation suit, before Judge Keri Katz, targets Facebook parent Meta. (A case management conference is set for Dec. 16 as well.)

And a defamation suit against the San Diego Unified School District, filed May 31, is before Judge Katherine Bacal. Nick Ratekin has been ordered to appear (at least virtually) for a sanctions hearing Jan. 6 and a motions hearing March 17, 2023.

Finally, Ratekin has a Jan. 6 hearing before Judge Meyer in a defamation suit against Pacific Polo Water Polo Club.

Among the allegations: The club fired Ratekin on Nov. 24, 2020, via email and a phone call “with no cause provided to end the contract.” And the club emailed Ratekin’s supervisors at Scripps Ranch High School with a copy of a workplace violence restraining order.

The club’s restraining order was dismissed by Judge Robert C. Longstreth for “lack of evidence,” Ratekin says.

Nick Ratekin, in earlier hearing, appears in San Diego court from Washington state. Photo by Ken Stone

But Ratekin also alleges that club coach Heather Calvin and her husband, Mike Calvin, and USD nursing student Amber Guischard “continue to collude” with the Pentagon, Freedom of Information Act Office and the FBI.

Ratekin alleges that those people and agencies are using “drone surveillance” to snoop on his home in Brush Prairie, “in an attempt to defame Plaintiff Nicholas Christian Ratekin from litigation in ‘Ratekin v. University of San Diego” with Case No. 37-2020-00040983-CU-BC-CTL.’”

The invasive spying allegation has appeared before. A year ago, Ratekin filed a report with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, saying he was being taped 24/7 at his home — with video and audio being “leaked” to social media.

An investigating deputy said Ratekin provide no proof.


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Ellen Bullock