City council candidate Sean Weber had his two-year civil harassment restraining order against fellow candidate Brett Haddock upheld, meaning the order is in effect until July 19.
The state Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 that Haddock “has been engaging in a course of conduct, harassment and stalking by posting, sending, delivering harassing and derogatory electronic messages to (Weber) and his family and friends, in public and private forums who have asked him to stop to no avail.”
“Today is a great day for my family and the legal system,” Weber said. “The court spoke loudly when it issued the unanimous decision.”
Haddock had argued a First Amendment right, retaining a prominent First Amendment attorney and receiving support in the form of an amicus brief from the UCLA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic.
But while the court agreed Haddock has the right to criticize a candidate for public office, “The problem with his argument is that he has not included a sufficient appellate record for us to evaluate his claim. Even on a sufficient record, however, we would reject his argument because the evidence before the trial court demonstrated that Haddock also engaged in a course of private harassing conduct toward Weber and his family, which justified the restraining order notwithstanding any claimed protected speech.”
Haddock seemed aghast at the ruling.
“They referenced Mr. Weber’s claims, and his claims were not supported by any evidence,” Haddock said. “To fabricate an entire case, produce no evidence, and have a court uphold it is not an acceptable outcome for our legal system, and it’s a very dangerous precedent to set.”
He said he is considering further appeals but will hold off until conferring with his attorney, which he said was to occur Wednesday. The next level would be the state Supreme Court, but according to one of the justices, the Court hears an average of 83 cases from an average of 8,600 petitions.
“I’m willing to take this as high as I can,” he said. “It’s just a grave injustice.”
Weber filed for a restraining order for himself, his mother, father-in-law and brother May 9, 2017, according to court documents. In the original complaint, Weber said protection because he feared Haddock was going to “kill my family” because online posts from 2015 show Haddock talking about going on a “murderous rampage” and that Weber is Haddock’s “target.” Weber’s attorney also said Haddock posted some of Weber’s easily identifiable information such as address, date of birth and car’s license plate.
Haddock’s attorney has said the “murderous rampage” quote was aimed at an insurance company.
In court documents, Haddock said that during the appointment process, Weber “threatened people with libel, slander, defamation for indirect quotes, but still had the spirit of what he was saying. He has engaged in – it really comes down to bullying. … I believe I have a morale (sic) obligation to stand up for people who abuse their public citizens. … I am not a violent person. I am adamantly a pain in the ass, but I’m just using my First Amendment rights to stand up for people that are being bullied.”
Court documents also said Haddock posted an article on his blog entitled, “Sean Weber: Charlatan, Bully, and Criminal” with the text, “As my friends and family can attest, I’ve made something of a second career helping to expose frauds and bullies.”
Superior Court Commissioner Laura Hymowitz, saying she finds it unusual for a private citizen to appoint oneself to go after bullies, issued the restraining order despite saying, “Most of what Mr. Haddock is doing just doesn’t quite reach the standard.”
Weber said he considers the matter settled and just wants to move on. He said he has no immediate plans to seek civil damages as long as Haddock continues to abide by the terms of the restraining order.
“It’s now clear Mr. Haddock’s case was frivolous, and I look forward to putting this behind me,” Weber said. “If he continues, that’s on him.”