Los Angeles, California (November 24, 2017) – The Superior Court in Orange County just recently granted Urth Caffe’s motion seeking to amend its cross-complaint by publicly naming all seven Muslim women accused of trespassing at the Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach. Urth Caffe’s original trespass counter lawsuit followed on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the seven women claiming they were subjected to religious discrimination when the Urth Caffe staff asked them to leave after the women refused to abide by the café’s seating policy. The women later made the fraudulent claim that they were evicted from the café because they wore hijabs—Islamic head coverings worn by some Muslim women.
The Urth Caffe motion was filed by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC), a national public interest law firm retained by Urth Caffe.
The first lawsuit was filed by the seven Muslim women claiming discrimination but only three of the plaintiffs actually sued in their full names: Sara Khalil Farsakh, Soondus Ahmed, and Rawan Hamdan. Four of the plaintiff sued anonymously, using only their first names and a single letter for their last names: Sara C., Yumna H., Safa R., and Mawra R.
Throughout discovery, the plaintiffs have refused to provide the full names of the four anonymous plaintiffs. According to the motion filed earlier, Urth Caffe discovered the full legal names, birthdates, and street addresses for each of the plaintiffs with a thorough investigation of the public record.
The court granted Urth Caffe’s motion and at the oral argument explained that this was not a sex abuse or juvenile case where anonymity might be important and noted that if the plaintiffs had wanted anonymity, their counsel, Mohammad Tajsar, should have moved for a protective order on their behalf. The judge went so far as to chastise Tajsar because the judge remembered actually telling Tajsar (“or perhaps someone he worked with”) that he—the judge—had actually told him to file a motion for protective order if his clients wanted to maintain their anonymity.
Instead, the plaintiffs’ counsel did nothing and then made a feeble attempt at opposing the motion and seeking sanctions. The court flatly rejected the plaintiffs’ opposition, and Urth Caffe formally filed its First Amended Cross-Complaint naming all of the plaintiffs as cross-defendants in the trespass claim.
Urth Caffe’s motion explained that in the state of California, as in all states and in the federal courts, there is a First Amendment right held by the public to know who is suing whom and this means there is an obligation to sue in your own name and not hide behind a wall of anonymity. There are exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions require a clear showing of harm to the anonymous plaintiffs that outweighs the public’s right to know.
In this case, the plaintiffs not only refused to provide their names for the public record, but also refused to provide their names to the defendant Urth Caffe pursuant to a protective order that would have kept the names out of the public domain.
David Yerushalmi, AFLC co-founder and senior counsel, explained as follows:
“Four of the seven plaintiffs claimed that their safety would be at risk by disclosing their names. However, they could point to no instance of a single threat to their safety nor could they point to a single instance where Muslims had sued for discrimination, and there are plenty of high-profile cases to choose from, where a single Muslim was put in harm’s way as a result of the filing of a lawsuit for discrimination in his or her own name.”
Yerushalmi went on to explain:
“Urth Caffe did not discriminate against the women who have filed this fraudulent lawsuit. The claim that these women were asked to leave the café because they were wearing hijabs is laughable given the number of hijab-wearing Urth Caffe customers. After nearly a year of discovery, the plaintiffs have not produced a shred of evidence of discrimination. Yet, the plaintiffs had no problem holding a press conference naming Urth Caffe and individual staff members and labelling them as bigots. These same plaintiffs had no problem posing for media pictures and posting on Facebook using their real names (https://tinyurl.com/yb3sw23w and https://tinyurl.com/yc66dg4m). As we noted in the motion, it is an odd, if not untenable, position to claim a fear of public exposure while exploiting public exposure to generate a social media firestorm by accusing Urth Caffe of being bigots engaging in illegal discrimination.”
The amended cross-complaint for trespass names 30-year old Sara Khalil Farsakh of Corona, California; 30-year old Soondus Ahmed of Lake Forest, California; 25-year old Sara Soumaya Chamma of Irvine, California; 26-year old Yumna H. Hameed of San Juan Capistrano, California; 28-year old Safa Rawag of Sunnyvale, California; Safa Rawag’s sister, 27-year old Marwa Rawag; and 28-year old Rawan Hamdan of Amman, Jordan.
The amended cross-complaint alleges that on the night of April 22, 2016, as on every Friday night, a large number of young people, including a majority of whom were Muslim and of Arab descent, made up the base of Urth Caffe’s customers. Not surprisingly, many of these customers were women wearing hijabs. None of these other Muslim women was asked to leave.
The seven women who now claim victim status were not asked to leave initially, but only to abide by the café’s policy to give up their high-demand outside patio table after 45 minutes to allow other customers, including those wearing hijabs, to enjoy the experience. The women refused to abide by the policy and began causing a scene and disrupting other patrons and only then were asked to leave. When they refused, the police were called and only after 45 minutes passed did the women finally leave.
The trespass countersuit, which was filed under oath as a verified cross-complaint, demonstrates that the seven women now claiming victim status were in fact the aggressors and guilty of trespass.