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After judge’s recusal, Schumacher cases pushed to Feb. 5

CARLSBAD — A conflict of interest between a Superior Court judge and one of Councilwoman Cori Schumacher’s attorneys led to a continuance in a case involving two restraining orders and a pair of anti-SLAPP suits from two defendants.

The case is scheduled for Feb. 5 at Vista Superior Court, at which time Judge David Berry will hold three different hearings. An interim judge on Dec. 15 said the court has a shortage of judges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made scheduling the hearing difficult.

Berry will hear the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) cases first at 8:30 a.m., followed by a former defendant’s request to collect attorney’s fees from Schumacher at 11 a.m. After a lunch break, the court will then address a restraining order case at 1:30 p.m.

Schumacher filed a civil harassment restraining order against three men — Larry Posner, Noel Breen and Anthony “Tony” Bona — in September. The case against Posner was dismissed, although he is seeking attorney’s fees, which will be the second hearing on Feb. 5.

Breen and Bona, meanwhile, filed anti-SLAPP lawsuits against Schumacher leading up to the Oct. 15 hearing for the restraining orders.

Bona’s attorney, Erik Jenkins, said if they win the anti-SLAPP suits, it would be a blow to the restraining orders.

“It makes sense to hear the anti-SLAPP first,” Jenkins said. “If we win the anti-SLAPP, it would be fatal to the restraining order.”

Schumacher’s attorneys, Andy Schooler and Bryan Pease, both disagree and believe there would still be grounds for the order.

Schumacher’s restraining orders against Breen, who no longer lives in Carlsbad, and Bona were granted on a temporary basis on Oct. 15 until the court could receive motions, more evidence and each side could gather witnesses.

According to Schumacher’s court filings, Bona “had intentions of forcing me to leave my home,” along with intentions to “surveil me and post such surveillance online.”

Schumacher also claims Bona made a number of “veiled threats” against her, including forcing the Carlsbad official to leave her home and “stalking,” following more than a year of “consistent, increasingly obsessive and distressing activity directed at me and those who publicly associate with me.”

In her most recent response to defendants, Schumacher has a number of witnesses who said they were harassed by Breen. However, Breen has steadfastly denied such allegations, pointing to his blog where he shares his opinions on Carlsbad politics, which he said has drawn the ire of Schumacher, according to court records.

Bona’s attorney said both men are constitutionally protected to assert their First Amendment rights to criticize Schumacher for her political opinions, ideology and actions as a city official.

Also, Mauriello and Jenkins have each filed motions with the court to dismiss Schumacher’s most recent response to the anti-SLAPP suits. Both attorneys said Schumacher’s response, which was not received until two days after the Dec. 2 deadline, is full of irrelevant statements and evidence and should not be admissible.

Berry will decide the fate of those motions on Feb. 5.

“We disagree with the anti-SLAPP motion,” Pease said of it being a fatal blow to the restraining order cases. “We got witnesses testifying about things not in the anti-SLAPP.”