(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced that a U.S. District Judge in California awarded Judicial Watch $22,000 in legal fees in a case filed by an Antifa organizer in an effort to block Judicial Watch from obtaining information about her activities.
Yvette Felarca, a middle school teacher in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and two co-plaintiffs were ordered to pay Judicial Watch $22,000 in attorney’s fees and $4,000 in litigation costs. Felarca had sued the BUSD in federal court to keep the school district from fulfilling its legal obligation to provide Judicial Watch with records of their communications mentioning: Felarca, Antifa, and/or BAMN. Judicial Watch also asked for Felarca’s personnel file.
Felarca is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that protests conservative speaking engagements. In 2016, Felarca and two of her allies were arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento. Earlier this year, Felarca was ordered to stand trial for assault.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, Northern District of California, who had previously ruled that Felarca’s lawsuit was “entirely frivolous,” wrote in his ruling awarding legal fees to Judicial Watch that Felarca and her co-plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims were “premised on the obviously baseless assumption” that the First Amendment condemns the speech of some while condoning the ideological missions of others.
Judge Chhabria added that “The plaintiffs also mischaracterized the documents under review” and that the plaintiffs “failed to grapple with the role Ms. Felarca played in making herself a topic of public discourse through her physical conduct at public rallies and her voluntary appearance on Fox News.”
Judge Chhabria’s order also states that “a significant portion of the documents the plaintiffs initially sued to protect from disclosure had been publicly disclosed months earlier in another suit brought by Ms. Felarca against BUSD, where she was represented by the same counsel. (See generally Felarca v. Berkeley Unified School District, No. 3:16-cv-06184-RS). The plaintiffs, therefore, had no reasonable argument to protect those documents from disclosure.”
Along with Felarca’s $20,000 payment, co-plaintiffs Lori Nixon and Larry Stefl were ordered by Judge Chhabria to pay Judicial Watch $1,000 each (Yvette Felarca, et al., v. Berekely Unified School District, et al. (No. 3:17-cv-06282-VC)).
“Judicial Watch is entitled to attorney’s fees because the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was frivolous, and their litigation conduct was unreasonable,” Judge Chhabria wrote in his order.
Additionally, Judge Chhabria’s order holds the plaintiffs “jointly and severally liable” to pay Judicial Watch $4,000 in litigation expenses.
In 2017, Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request seeking public records information about Felarca’s Antifa activism and its effect within the Berkeley Unified School District. In her lawsuit aimed at keeping the Berkeley school district from furnishing the records, Felarca alleged that Judicial Watch was misusing the law for political means and the district should refuse to provide the information.
In January 2018, a separate judge ordered Felarca to pay more than $11,000 in attorney and court fees for her frivolous attempt to get a restraining order against Troy Worden, the former head of the University of California (UC) Berkeley College Republicans.
“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against Antifa and the violent left,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Ms. Felarca attacked Judicial Watch without basis and the court was right to reject her ploy to deny our ‘right to know’ because we don’t share her violent left views.”