When confronted by opposing viewpoints, those who sit on the far left of the political spectrum often prefer to silence those voices, rather than engage them in reasoned debate, but one Democrat official is learning the hard way that in America, citizens still have a constitutional right to challenge their elected leaders.
According to the Washington Examiner, Carlsbad, California city councilwoman Cori Schumacher (D) has been ordered by a state Superior Court judge to pay $47,191 in legal fees to two bloggers against whom she filed a restraining order alleging that the pair engaged in online harassment.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Judge Cynthia Freeland granted blogger Anthony Bona attorney fees in the amount of $32,193 and granted Noel Breen fees totaling $14,453 after also having dismissed Schumacher’s restraining order last month.
Breen and Bona have long been harsh critics of Schumacher’s policy positions, posting commentary on Facebook as well as on a YouTube channel run by the latter known as Regular Guy in Carlsbad. The Democrat city councilwoman’s civil harassment restraining order, filed in September of last year, alleged that the pair engaged in “stalking, harassment, surveillance and threats,” according to The Coast News.
Among the controversial notions promoted by Schumacher that drew the ire of Breen and Bona was a suggestion that a private police force be retained at taxpayer expense to seek out and ticket citizens and businesses who thwarted restrictions against mixing with other households amid the coronavirus pandemic. She also proposed the creation of a local municipal power company, drawing harsh backlash from many in the community, according to the Examiner.
In the wake of Judge Freeland’s ruling, Scott Talkov, the attorney representing Breen, lauded the outcome, saying:
She doesn’t understand that the public is allowed to critcize her for virtually any reason. She thought she could silence her critics and do it by force. The court told her, ‘No, you can’t do this. This remedy is not available to you.’
The court’s award of $47,000 against Cori Schumacher – almost twice what she earns every year as a council member – sent a clear message that politicians should respect the First Amendment rights of the public.
Talkov has also argued that the city of Carlsbad should be on the hook for paying the fee award, because Schumacher’s actions were “directly related to her performance of her official duties as councilmember,” adding:
Politicians should not be able to evade the damages caused by their efforts to chill free speech simply because judgment collection against them would be difficult. Rather, the government entity should be liable for the torts of their elected officials.
Also applauding the ruling was Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, who said, “As a public official, you cannot try to shut down criticism of you by abusing and misusing the criminal process. Ms. Schumacher needs a basis refresher course in the First Amendment,” as the Examiner noted.
If the judicial smack down she just received is insufficient cause for Schumacher to rein in her totalitarian tendencies, perhaps the recall campaign recently launched by a group of concerned Carlsbad citizens and small business orders will do the trick instead.