Yvette Felarca, an organizer from the activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, was represented in an oral argument Tuesday as a part of her appeal of a court decision to award former UC Berkeley student and Berkeley College Republicans president Troy Worden thousands in legal fees.
Felarca filed for a civil harassment restraining order against Worden in September 2017 and was awarded a temporary restraining order after citing incidents of stalking and harassment, according to First District Court of Appeal documents. The temporary order was dismissed in October after a hearing date could not be scheduled before the temporary order expired, according to Alameda County Superior Court documents.
Worden and his attorneys filed a motion against Felarca later that year requesting $100,000 in damages. An Alameda County Superior Court commissioner ordered Felarca to pay $11,100 in legal fees to Worden in 2018.
Felarca later withdrew her application for a restraining order, according to Alameda County Superior Court documents. Felarca’s attorney Ronald Cruz stated that one of the reasons Felarca decided to appeal the awarding of legal fees to Worden was that the decision sets a precedent that could discourage women from filing restraining orders in incidents of stalking or harassment.
“We will argue that the court must reverse the attorney fee because misogynist men who stalk and harass political leaders like Yvette and try to drive women out of public life should not get the sanction of and financial windfall from the California courts,” Cruz said in an email.
During the argument, Worden’s lawyer Harmeet Dhillon argued that the legal fees awarded to Worden are justified, and that Worden’s First Amendment rights have been impaired during this process.
Dhillon questioned the validity of Felarca’s allegations of Worden’s stalking and harassment.
“Felarca has weaponized the courts of California to pursue her political agenda,” Dhillon said during the argument. “Ms. Felarca’s wasting of the court’s time is justified in awarding legal fees.”
Dhillon has also argued that Worden’s ability to fairly represent himself was impeded by Felarca withdrawing her request for a permanent restraining order before Worden was able to speak on his behalf, according to Alameda County Superior Court documents.
According to Cruz, Felarca withdrew her case after it became “clear that standing up for herself” by filling for a restraining order had “succeeded at making Worden back off.”
“The attorney fee award must be reversed, because women should not be made to fear getting a restraining order unless they are willing to absolutely go all the way even after the harassment stops,” Cruz said in the email.
At the appeal hearing, no decision was reached. If the decision is overturned, the case will be sent back to a trial court for additional proceedings, according to Dhillon.
Contact Sydney Hilbush at [email protected].