Jon Del Arroz filed suit on April 16 against the 2018 Worldcon and other defendants in San Joaquin Superior Court asking damages for claimed violations of his civil rights under California’s Unruh act, and for defamation.
The named defendants are:
San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., aka Worldcon 76, David W. Gallagher (2019), President; David W. Clark (2020), Vice President; Lisa Deutsch Harrigan (2020), Treasurer; Kevin Standlee (2018), Sceretary; Sandra Childress (2019); Bruce Farr (2018), Chair; 2018 SMOF Con Committee; Cheryl Morgan (2020); Kevin Roche (2018), Chair; 2018 Worldcon (Worldcon 76) Committee; Cindy Scott (2018); Randy Smith (2019), Chair; New Zealand 2020 Worldcon Agent Committee; Lori Buschbaum; Susie Rodriguez and DOES 1 through 30, inclusive.
Del Arroz is represented by attorney Peter Sean Bradley.
The first 23 paragraphs of the Complaint lay out the history of Del Arroz’ banning by Worldcon 76 from his point of view, and allegations that he was banned because he is a Republican and Trump supporter.
Several of the causes of action quote from Worldcon 76’s announcement banning Del Arroz from the con, which said in part:
We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct. Worldcon 76 strives to be an inclusive place in fandom, as difficult as that can be, and racist and bullying behavior is not acceptable at our Worldcon. This expulsion is one step toward eliminating such behavior and was not taken lightly….
Repeated reference is also made to the committee’s email telling him he would not be allowed to attend, sent by Lori Buschbaum, the Incident Response Team area head. It is quoted in the Complaint as saying:
Jonathan, At this time we are converting your membership to Worldcon 76 to a supporting membership as you will not be permitted to attend the convention. On your personal blog you have made it clear that you are both expecting and planning on engendering a hostile environment which we do not allow, If you are found on the premises of the convention center or any of the official convention hotels you will be removed, Your payment of $50 covers the cost of your supporting membership in its entirety, and you have no balance owing. As a supporting member your nomination and voting rights for the Hugo Awards and site selection are maintained. If you prefer a full refund that can be arranged.
The Complaint outlines five causes of action, and in most cases leaves the requested damages to be determined at trial.
First cause of action: Violation of Civil Code Section 51 (Unruh Act)
28. …Under the Unruh Act, a business establishment may not discriminate against any person based on a personal characteristic representing a trait, condition, decision, or choice fundamental to that person’s identity, beliefs and self-definition as that factor has been applied in previous cases. …The protection of the Unrush Act extends to political affiliation….
30. Mr. Del Arroz was discriminated against in violation of the Unruh Act in that he has been banned from attending Worldcon 76 based upon his political affiliation and political beliefs….
Del Arroz claims lost sales and emotional distress as a result.
Second cause of action: Violation of Civil Code Section 51.5
This is a law against various forms of discrimination on account of characteristics such as “political affiliation.”
The Complaint says:
39. WorldCon 76 is a business establishment in that it holds itself out as open to the public without restriction and is using public facilities and engaging in public commcerce.
40. SFSF discriminated against, boycotted or blacklisted, or refused to contract with or sell to Mr. Del Arroz by refusing to sell him an attending membership because of his political affiliation and political beliefs. Plaintiff is informed and believes that the other named Defendants aided or incited this unlawful conduct.
Third cause of action: Violation of Civil Code Section 51.7
The Complaint alleges violations of the law’s protection against “violence, or intimidation by threat of violence” because of a political affiliation (or other arbitrary discrimination).
The Complaint says:
49. On Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 5:01 p.m., Mr. Del Arroz received an email from Lori Buschbaum, who identified herself as the “Incident Response Team area head” for Worldcon 76 which stated in relevant part: “If you are found on the premises of the convention center or any of the official convention hotels you will be removed.” This statement constituted intimidation by threat of violence against Mr. Del Arroz because of his political affiliatuion in that Defendants and each of them threatened to have Mr. Del Arroz forced [sic] physically removed against his consent and acquiescence from locations he had a right to be in such as the lobby of a hotel. This threat was understood by Mr. Del Arroz to include violence in that Mr. Del Arroz had advised SFSFC of his concern about physical violence at WorldCon 76 and Mr. Arroz [sic] had been threatened with violence by members of SFSFC and individuals who had said they would be attending WorldCon 76 on social media maintained by SFSFC. At no time had SFSFC advised Mr. Del Arroz that he would be safe at WorldCon 76 and at no time did SFSFC make any effort to stop anyone from expressing a violent animus against Mr. Del Arroz on its social media sites.
Fourth cause of action Violation of Civil Code Section 52.1
After repeating verbatim paragraph 49 above, the Complaint alleges –
59. Mr. Del Arroz was threatened by SFSFC and Lori Buschbaum. Plaintiff is informed and believes that the remaining named Defendants aided or incited this conduct…. Individual Defendants and Does 1 through 30 aided, incited, authorized, ratified or conspired in the said discrimination, blacklisting, boycotting, and refusal to sell or contract with Mr. Arroz [sic] with respect to his purchase of an attending membership.
Fifth cause of action: Defamation.
Citing the January 2 email quoted above the Complaint alleges —
66. …Worldcon 76 never explained to him that anything he planned on doing would constitute a violation of any code of conduct. Mr. Del Arroz is informed and believes and thereon alleges that there is no such code of conduct. Further, Mr. Del Arroz is not a racist. Mr. Del Arroz has often made a point of condemning racism and proudly identifying his Hispanic heritage. Likewise, Mr. Del Arroz is not a bully. The statement that Mr. Del Arroz is a racist bully is false and SFSFC and its representatives knew t was false or made the statement with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the charge and with a malicious intent to injure Mr. Del Arroz or his reputation….
Financial damage is also claimed, likewise emotional distress. The Complaint also claims that the defendants —
were aware that they were threatening Mr. Del Arroz with physical violence in order to prevent him from exercising his important civil rights including the right of association and the right to use public property and the right to free and equal treatment by business establishments.
Del Arroz also wants court costs and attorney fees.
Below are copies of the documents filed with the court. The Complaint contains all the allegations and support,. The judge has scheduled the initial case management conference for October 15.
- CM010 Civil Case Cover Sheet
- SUM100 Summons – Civil
- Notice of Case Assignment Scheduling Information
Update 04/16/18: Corrected the info under the Fourth Cause of Action.