Posts Tagged ‘watch what you say about lawyers’

Update: Boston Herald libel award upheld

“Massachusetts’ highest court on Monday upheld a $2 million verdict against the Boston Herald won by a state Superior Court judge who said the newspaper libelously depicted him as soft on crime and insensitive to the suffering of a 14-year-old rape victim.” Better be careful what you say about Judge Ernest Murphy in future. (AP coverage; Romenesko first, second posts; Dan Kennedy, Media Nation; Childs). Earlier coverage: Dec. 8 and Dec. 23, 2005.

“A paradigm for ‘frivolous'”

This week, Roy Pearson, the Judge With the Missing Pants, has replaced Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong as the symbol of lawyers run amok in the United States. And after hearing the story of Pearson’s lawsuit, approximately 65 million people — one for every dollar Pearson is demanding — have asked me in exasperation what it takes for a lawyer to get disciplined in this country. Well, perhaps one reason it’s so difficult to discipline an attorney can be illustrated by a case handed down on Thursday in the Ninth Circuit, involving an attorney named Richard Canatella. Mr. Canatella has a rather… spotty disciplinary history. As described by the California State Bar:

Canatella stipulated to filing numerous frivolous actions in courts in San Mateo, San Francisco, and Santa Clara county courts, as well as in the California Court of Appeal and federal district and appeals courts.


Canatella’s involvement in nine other matters also was the subject of discipline.

Sanctions were ordered against him or his clients 37 times. Courts repeatedly found him responsible for frivolous, meritless and vexatious actions. Sanctions totalled more than $18,000 in one matter, and the opposing parties were granted all fees and costs in another.

In one case, a federal judge said, “This complaint is a paradigm for ‘frivolous.’” Wrote another federal jurist: “Plaintiff’s repeated attempt to challenge the sanctions and judgments . . . in the face of clear authority that his claim is frivolous evidences his bad faith and wrongful purpose.”

So what did Canatella do? You guessed it: he sued the California Bar and various Bar officials for publishing this disciplinary record online, claiming that it violated his civil rights. The California Appellate Report elaborates:

You’d probably freak out too if that’s what they said about you. Mind you, Cantanella offers the following defense (?) of his conduct in his second amended complaint, and alleges that he was not actually sanctioned 37 times, but was instead “investigated” for 47 “purported sanction orders” over a nine year period and was sanctioned on at least 26 “separate” occasions by federal and state courts between 1989 and 1998. Once you hear that, by the way, do you think the judges have a pretty good sense regarding whether Cantanella’s a particularly sympathetic figure? Or, perhaps, think — shockingly — that a person sanctioned this pervasively is precisely the type of person who would file the present action?

Not surprisingly, Canatella lost his suit. So, showing the same level of sense that got him sanctioned all those times, he appealed. He lost again, in the decision handed down yesterday.

This wasn’t the first suit he filed against the Bar, by the way.

So, it’s not hard to see why state bar officials may be a little cautious in disciplining attorneys.

April 27 roundup

Jack Thompson sues Gawker Media

The anti-game attorney cites reader comments on the Gawker site Kotaku that he considers personally threatening. (, Apr. 25; Kotaku, Apr. 23; earlier Kotaku post). Mark Methinitis at Law of the Game says that in his view the complaint “falls well beyond the norm of complaint drafting and more into the realm of a self-promoting tirade” (Apr. 25).

April 24 roundup

Update: Maag drops defamation suit

Watch what you say about judges dept.: former Illinois judge Gordon Maag has dropped the $110 million defamation lawsuit he had filed against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other defendants over campaign flyers he claimed were false and unfair. An appeals court in November upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the suit, and the Illinois Supreme Court declined to revive it. (Ann Knef, “Gordon Maag drops $110 million defamation suit”, Madison County Record, Apr. 12). Earlier: Dec. 23, 2004; Feb. 6 and Nov. 6, 2006.

February 26 roundup

  • High-school basketball player gets TRO over enforcement of technical foul after pushing referee. [Huntington News; Chad @ WaPo]
  • Madison County court rejects Vioxx litigation tourism. [Point of Law]
  • Faking disability for accommodation disqualifies bar applicant [Frisch]
  • DOJ antitrust enforcement doesn’t seem to be consistent with U.S. trade policy position. [Cafe Hayek]
  • Professor falsely accused of sexual harassment wins defamation lawsuit against former plaintiff, but too late to save his job. [Kirkendall]
  • Watch what you say dept.: Disbarred attorney and ex-felon sues newspaper, letter-to-editor writer, Illinois Civil Justice League. (His brother won the judicial election anyway.) [Madison County Record; Belleville News Democrat; US v. Amiel Cueto]

“Will Sue For Food”, cont’d

Kentucky trial lawyers just won’t let up in their po-faced indignation about that innocuous cartoon in the state bar magazine (see Feb. 15 roundup). “‘The cartoon exhibits an indifference to the rights of all Kentuckians to access the justice system — the very system the KBA is charged with preserving on behalf of its members and their clients,’ Bowling Green lawyer Steve Downey, the immediate past president of the trial lawyer group, said in a letter to the bar association.” (Andrew Wolfson, “Trial lawyers find nothing funny in cartoon”, Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb. 19). David Lat covers the story (Feb. 20). What would have taken guts, I think, is for the Kentucky bar magazine to have run a cartoon making reference to the state’s deeply embarrassing fen-phen fee scandal. But let’s not hold our breath waiting for that.

When a judge sues for defamation, cont’d

Reacting to the recent case in which a jury awarded Illinois chief justice Robert Thomas $7 million against a suburban newspaper, the Kane County Chronicle (Jun. 22, Jul. 19, Nov. 3, Nov. 7, Nov. 14, Nov. 19). the New York Times recalls a 1983 case in which “a Supreme Court justice in Pennsylvania sued The Philadelphia Inquirer for defamation. The case was finally dismissed this summer — a full 23 years after it began. … [Reporter Daniel R.] Biddle, who is now an editor at The Inquirer, said he had learned through lawyers that some of the biggest law firms in Philadelphia declined to represent the paper, in part ‘because they were afraid’ that fighting a Supreme Court justice might jeopardize their other clients.” (Katharine Q. Seelye, “Clash of a Judge and a Small Paper Underlines the Tangled History of Defamation”, New York Times, Nov. 20). More: Mar. 16, 2004. The Times piece also discusses a lawsuit’s silencing of the Alton Telegraph, which once was an outspoken voice in Madison County, Illinois; Ted covered that episode on Point of Law Dec. 28, 2004.

Update: damages in Ill. justice’s libel suit

So how exactly do you build a case for high damages when the alleged defamation (see Jun. 22) hasn’t dislodged you from the bench and it will be a good long while before your term expires? Well, your lawyer can talk about how you were thinking of stepping down to become a highly paid rainmaker at a Chicago law firm, and so maybe the defendant newspaper should have to compensate you for what your hired economist says is the value of that. Besides, you were thinking of securing an appointment as a federal judge. And what if the Illinois voters decide to throw you out down the road — isn’t the lost salary from that something the defendant should have to pay you for, too? (Eric Herman, “Justice’s libel suit figures his losses”, Chicago Sun-Times, Jun. 10)(via Lattman).