An Antifa organizer who tried to prevent Judicial Watch from obtaining her public information records was ordered to pay $24,000 in court costs and litigation fees by a federal judge in California, the nonprofit government watchdog said on May 21.
Yvette Felarca, who teaches middle school classes on a part-time basis for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria of the Northern District of California to pay Judicial Watch $20,000 in attorneys fees.
Felarca and two co-plaintiffs, Lori Nixon and Larry Stefl, were also ordered by Chhabria to jointly pay $4,000 to Judicial Watch for litigation costs.
Nixon and Stefl were also each ordered to pay Judicial Watch $1,000 in attorneys fees. Nixon is a BUSD staff member and Stefl is a BUSD teacher.
“Judicial Watch is entitled to attorney’s fees because the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was frivolous, and their litigation conduct was unreasonable,” Chhabria said.
“This is a huge victory for Judicial Watch against Antifa and the violent left,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement announcing Chhabria’s April 10, 2019, ruling.
“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,” Fitton said.
Felarca and two fellow protestors were arrested in Sacramento on multiple charges, including felony assault, as a result of their actions inciting a riot in 2016.
“Felarca was captured on video calling a man a Nazi and punching him in the stomach repeatedly while shouting obscenities at him,” according to Judicial Watch.
“More than a dozen people were injured in the riot, at least 10 with stab wounds, and the capitol grounds suffered thousands of dollars in property damage,” the nonprofit stated.
Felarca is an official with the radical By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), an Antifa-linked group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League to protest speaking appearances on college campuses by conservative advocates, according to Judicial Watch.
The BAMN group is linked to Antifa, a loose coalition of radical leftist groups whose actions are classified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “domestic terrorist violence.”
Felarca is featured prominently on BAMN’s Facebook page, including in a video in which she describes herself as a “national organizer” and describes her participation in immigration protests in Texas.
Chhabria’s ruling culminated litigation prompted by Felarca suing the BUSD to stop officials there from fulfilling Judicial Watch’s request under the California Records Act (CRA) for the middle school teacher’s publicly available communications and other records, including her personnel file.
In an Oct. 30, 2017, class-action suit in federal court, Felarca, Nixon, and Stefl asked that BUSD officials be prevented from providing to Judicial Watch the requested documents because the nonprofit “seeks to conduct a political witch-hunt, violating Plaintiffs’ privacy and chill their freedom of speech, freedom of association, and right to engage in protected activities and disrupts their public function as educators.”
Chhabria ruled the suit “entirely frivolous” in October 2018. The payments order announced May 21 by Judicial Watch followed the 2018 ruling.
“In Judicial Watch’s 24-year history of submitting thousands of public records requests and litigating hundreds of public records lawsuits in state and federal courts nationwide,” the nonprofit said in a 2018 statement, “a third party has never sued to stop a government agency from responding to one of its requests.”
In addition, Judicial Watch said in the statement that it “has never been required to litigate a state public records act lawsuit in a federal court.”