Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Woman Drops $23 Million Suit Over UC Berkeley Protest

An Oakland, California, woman has dropped her $23 million lawsuit against the University of California and city of Berkeley over violent protests that led to the cancellation of a speech by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in February.

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – An Oakland, California, woman has dropped her $23 million lawsuit against the University of California and city of Berkeley over violent protests that led to the cancellation of a speech by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos in February.

Kiara Robles filed her suit in June, claiming university and city officials "willfully withheld" police protection before the planned speech, allowing masked protesters to attack her with pepper spray.

Yiannopoulos’ speech was abruptly nixed on Feb. 1 after a violent riot broke out, which the university blamed on “150 masked agitators” that caused $100,000 in damage.

Robles claimed in her suit that the university "clearly gives preferential treatment and protection" to student groups and speakers that hold the same political views as its "liberal administration." The university was also sued in April after cancelling the planned speech of another conservative firebrand, Ann Coulter, citing security concerns.

On Tuesday, Robles filed a notice to voluntarily dismiss the suit without prejudice. Her attorney, Larry Klayman, declined to say why the suit was dismissed.

"It speaks for itself," Klayman said of the dismissal in a brief phone interview on Tuesday.

Before Robles dropped her suit, she requested that U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken recuse herself from the case. The plaintiff argued a conflict of interest was apparent because Wilken graduated from the defendant University of California, Berkeley, and because she was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, the husband of Hillary Clinton, whom Robles said was supported by violent protesters that attacked her.

In a 2-page ruling, Wilken refused to step down or refer the matter to a randomly assigned judge, finding those circumstances did not create the appearance of a conflict of interest and that the request was "legally insufficient."

The University of California and city of Berkeley were not the only defendants named in Robles' suit. The Oakland woman also claimed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former California Democratic Party leader John Burton and liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros either sponsored or incited violence against her and other supporters of President Donald Trump.

In a motion to dismiss filed last week, Soros called the lawsuit "frivolous," noting it was the fourth case that Robles' attorney, Klayman, had filed against him in 12 months "based on vague and conclusory allegations of a conspiracy, funded by Mr. Soros."

Soros said Klayman has a "history of using the court system to harass" him, inappropriately using the judicial branch's resources to "air his political and social grievances."

Soros also filed a motion asking the judge to revoke Klayman's pro hac vice admission, saying Klayman has been repeatedly sanctioned by courts over the last 20 years and – according to a 2016 Ninth Circuit ruling cited in Soros’ brief – has "shown a pattern of disregard for the local rules, ethics, and decorum; and he has demonstrated a lack of respect for the judicial process."

Two courts in the Southern District of New York and Central District of California have revoked Klayman's pro hac vice admission for life, according to Soros' motion.

Responding to Soros’ claims that his pro hac vice admission should be revoked, Klayman said in a second interview that he was already granted pro hac vice, adding he shouldn’t be punished for his prior disagreements with judges.

“All strong trial lawyers have differences with judges throughout their career,” he said.

On claims that he has filed frivolous suits in the past, Klayman said a lawsuit filed against Soros in the Northern District of Texas was dismissed without prejudice on a technicality. He said that suit, Zamarripa v. Farrakhan, which seeks to hold Soros liable for allegedly financially supporting the Dallas sniper who killed five police officers in July 2016, would be re-filed.

“I’m not shying away from Mr. Soros,” Klayman said, and again declined to say why the Robles suit was dismissed. However, he did point out that the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice and could be re-filed.

In an emailed statement on Wednesday Berkeley City Attorney Farimah Brown said, “The case against the city was meritless and we are pleased that it has been dismissed."

UC Berkeley spokesman Roqua Montez said in an email that the university does not know why Robles decided to drop her lawsuit, but the university maintains the position that Robles' claims lacked merit and had "no basis in fact."

Roqua said administrators and university police "spent countless hours" and substantial resources planning security measures to enable the Yiannopoulos speech to occur.

"Faced with an unprecedented level of organized violence, UCPD responded in a manner designed to minimize injuries to innocent members of the surrounding crowd, defend the building from incursion by massed attackers, and protect and safely remove the speaker," Roqua said.

Follow @NicholasIovino
Categories / Courts

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.