CARLSBAD – A Vista Supreme Court judge awarded Noel Breen and Anthony “Tony” Bona more than $ 47,000 in legal fees on April 9 after ruling Carlsbad Councilor Cori Schumacher violated her first adjustment rights.
Judge Cynthia Freeland awarded $ 32,193.50 to Bona and $ 14,997.85 to Breen, who won their March 4 anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public involvement) against Schumacher in September 2020.
Erik Jenkins, Bona’s attorney, also said he plans to file a civil lawsuit against Schumacher for defamation, damage to Bona’s reputation and negligence. Jenkins said the city of Karlovy Vary could also be named in the lawsuit if it is learned during the discovery phase that the city played a role in assisting Schumacher’s original case.
“He’s very happy with the verdict,” Jenkins said of Bona’s response to the court’s verdict. “I was appalled by what Councilor Schumacher was doing. We could correct that wrong. We should live in a free society in which people are allowed to express their opinion, even if this opinion does not match that of the elected officials. She tried to calm Mr. Bona, Mr. Breen, Mr. Posner, and it backfired. “
In September 2020, Schumacher filed an order limiting civil harassment against Breen and the two residents of Carlsbad, Anthony “Tony” Bona and Larry Posner.
Freeland granted Bona and Breen’s anti-SLAPP motion on March 4, ruling that Schumacher’s injunction violated both men’s first adjustment rights. Freeland ruled that no sane person would consider Bona’s comments about Schumacher on various social media platforms as a “threat”.
The city was also mentioned in Breen’s counter-complaint as part of his anti-SLAPP. However, Freeland ruled in favor of the city’s objection filed by prosecutor Celia Brewer not to be liable for Schumacher’s costs.
In her motion, Brewer argued that the city was not a party to the anti-SLAPP process and that Schumacher was acting in her “individual capacity”. According to Brewer’s motion, the city had “little information” about the case and since the city was not part of the original SLAPP process, it was not liable, which Freeland agreed to.
“The court’s $ 47,000 price tag on Cori Schumacher – almost double what she earns each year as a council member – sent a clear message that politicians should respect the public’s first adjustment rights,” Talkov said. “We look forward to the court’s future decision that Cori Schumacher’s political campaigns are responsible for ensuring that any donation fills the pockets of attorneys who defeated them in this unsubstantiated attempt to appease freedom of speech.”
The city also hired an outside company, with Emily Chaidez of Best Best & Krieger, LLC representing the city. The city paid the company more than $ 9,000 to represent it.
Separately, Scott Talkov, Breen’s attorney, said he is pushing the collection of Breen’s fees and the over $ 20,000 outstanding that he believes is owed by Schumacher. However, he said the collection of the amounts currently owed could be done immediately and would garnish Schumacher’s wages if necessary.
Schumacher’s attorney Bryan Pease advocated reduced fees in both cases, but was ultimately turned down by Freeland. Pease successfully enforced its concerns about Breen’s additional $ 20,000 fees stemming from its original law firm and the counter-complaint filed by Talkov.
“I refuse to allow the original law firm to produce additional evidence and charge any fees,” Pease said. “You shouldn’t get a second bite of the apple. You cannot add any further fees. “
Freeland said the court would not be very receptive to an increase in fees in pursuing the counter complaint. She said the demand was looking for another bag “in case Ms. Schumacher can’t pay.”
Freeland said April 9 was the date the original law firm would have to file fees and any future claim would have to come up with legal support for it.