A Supreme Court judge awarded a total of $ 47,191 in legal fees and court costs to two of the men on Friday. Carlsbad city councilor Cori Schumacher filed an injunction against what she described as harassment in social media accounts.
Judge Cynthia A. Freeland, who dismissed the injunction in March, granted Anthony Bona his full motion for $ 32,193. She granted Noel Breen a total of $ 14,453 after part of his request was denied as inappropriate for the case.
“The court’s award of US $ 47,000 to Cori Schumacher – almost twice as much as a councilor each year – sent a clear message that politicians should respect the public’s First Amendment rights,” said Breen attorney Scott Talkov on Friday by email. “We look forward to the court’s future decision that Schumacher’s political campaigns are liable, so any donation fills the pockets of the lawyers they defeated in this unsubstantiated attempt to appease freedom of speech.”
Most of Breen’s comments were on a Facebook page he moderated called Carlsbad, California.
Bona is one of Schumacher’s most prolific and open critics. He sometimes posts on Facebook, but also has a YouTube channel called Regular Guy in Carlsbad, where he mocks Schumacher and sometimes other elected officials or candidates in short videos with colorful graphics, music and short clips from city council meetings.
A third person under restraint, Larry Posner, was released from the case before Freeland ruled that the restraining order should be dismissed in response to an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion filed by Bona and Breen should. Freeland said the only reasonable interpretation of the three men’s comments on YouTube, Facebook, and other accounts was that they were “social comments, not personal threats.”
The judge’s financial award was the second wave of bad news this week for Schumacher, a former surfing champion.
On Monday, radio talk show host and former San Diego alderman Carl DeMaio announced that he would file an official notice with the town clerk about his intention to hand out a petition to call the councilor back. He cited her failed attempt to use the courts to silence her critics as one of several reasons she has to resign.
Although Schumacher has not commented on her litigation, she emailed a statement on the possible recall on Monday.
“We are seeing similar divisive and very partisan efforts to disenfranchise voters in San Diego County and California,” she said. “It makes me sad to see that the same toxic and partisan politics are being promoted here in Karlovy Vary.”
Schumacher represents the municipal district 1, which covers the north-western quadrant of the city including the districts of Village and Barrio in the city center.
Recall advocates have 120 days to collect at least 3,800 signatures from voters registered in District 1 to request a recall vote. Only registered voters in that district could vote.