The website invites women to post negative “reviews” warning others against men who are poor dating material. Now it’s being sued by Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer Todd Hollis, who says false and defamatory material about himself appeared on the site. (Moustafa Ayad, “City lawyer sues ‘don’t date him’ Web site”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jun. 30; Carl Jones, “Scorned Attorney Sues Kiss-and-Tell Web Site”, Miami Daily Business Review, Jul. 5; Robert Ambrogi, Legal Blog Watch, Jun. 30; Lattman, Jul. 3; Evan Brown, Jul. 1.
“A prominent civil rights attorney who was indicted this month on tax charges has sued a retired police detective for writing a letter that expressed ‘glee’ at the news. Stephen Yagman claims in the suit filed Wednesday that the three-paragraph letter he received from Jerry Le Frois caused him ‘extreme emotional distress.’ Le Frois’ June 23 letter says he felt ‘glee and profound satisfaction’ when he learned that Yagman had been charged earlier this month in a 19-count federal indictment. Le Frois identified himself as a former member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Investigations Section, which was a frequent target of Yagman’s civil rights suits.” (“Attorney sues former L.A. cop who expressed ‘glee’ he was indicted”, AP/Sacramento Bee, Jun. 29). More watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers posts: Apr. 18 and links from there.
The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association has installed as its president none other than Swansea, Ill. class action lawyer Judy Cates, known to longtime Overlawyered readers for her venture into columnist-suing (Feb. 29, 2000) following the controversial Publisher’s Clearing House settlement. For one of Cates’s more recent suits, see May 4, 2004. (“She’s our poster-lawyer”, St. Clair Record, Jun. 18).
An example: one would not wish to be sued for defamation by the chief justice of one’s own state, as is happening at the moment to the Kane County Chronicle, which is facing a lawsuit from Illinois Supreme Court Justice Bob Thomas over a series of critical columns in the suburban paper. Noway, nohow would one wish one’s name to turn up as the defendant in such an action (Christi Parsons, “Chief justice doesn’t just get mad, he sues”, Chicago Tribune, Jun. 18).
The West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association says it will file a Federal Communications Commission complaint unless radio stations yank ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which compare injury lawyers to crocodiles and cite the widely circulated (but trial-lawyer-loathed) Tillinghast studies on the cost of the liability insurance system. (Jake Stump, “Trial lawyers want radio ads pulled”, Charleston Daily Mail, Apr. 6). Carolyn Elefant, Mike Cernovich and Prof. Childs comment. More watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers stories: Jan. 13, 2005, Dec. 23, 2004, and links from there.
Watch what you say about judges, yet again: For the second time, Illinois circuit court judge Patrick Kelley has dismissed a $110 million defamation lawsuit filed by former Madison County appellate judge Gordon Maag against groups that criticized him during his unsuccessful 2004 double run for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court and for retention in his existing seat. Maag’s attorney, Rex Carr, vowed to appeal. (Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 9; Steve Gonzalez, “Maag’s defamation suit dismissed, again”, St. Clair Record, Jan. 9; “That’s two strikes, now spare us” (editorial), Madison Record, Jan. 15). Since losing the races, Maag has aimed defamation suits at a wide range of local and national groups that include the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the American Tort Reform Association and even the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, with which I’m affiliated (no, I don’t know what his theory for including it was, and I haven’t asked). For more on the controversy, see Dec. 23, 2004, as well as PoL Jun. 10, 2005 and assorted links there.
As usual, the funniest piece on the controversy came from the wonderful (and brave) columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bill McClellan, who explains that he is not among Judge Maag’s critics (after all, who likes getting sued?) but notices that “there seems to be some question as to whether he is a resident of Illinois, as he stated in one of his suits, or a resident of Alabama, as he stated in another.” (“With confusion over residency, lawyer’s critics feel vindicated”, Nov. 25).
Watch what you say about lawyers (and everyone else), cont’d: a “Philadelphia judge has ruled that a valid defamation claim trumps any right to speak anonymously on the Internet….Common Pleas Judge Albert W. Sheppard Jr. ordered the operator of two now-defunct Web sites to turn over the identities of the anonymous authors of comments on the sites that allegedly defamed a Philadelphia law firm….In the suit, the Klehr Harrison firm complains that its reputation was severely disparaged by comments on the two sites that falsely accused its lawyers of being ‘thieves,’ committing ‘fraud’ and ‘lying’ to a judge.” Although courts in some other states have protected anonymous online commenters from demands that their identity be disclosed, Sheppard said Pennsylvania law was not obliged to follow that path. (Shannon P. Duffy, “Law Firm’s Defamation Claim Found to Trump Critics’ Internet Anonymity”, The Legal Intelligencer, Jan. 23). For more on the legal hazards of criticizing Pennsylvania lawyers and judges, see Nov. 30, 2003, Mar. 16, 2004, and Oct. 24-25, 2001.
Comments are open (be very careful, please).
“A couple of jokers from Long Island got the last laugh yesterday after a grand jury dismissed charges they had caused a disturbance when they told lawyer jokes in front of an attorney.” (see Jan. 13, Jan. 14, Jan. 30). “It’s still legal in America to tell jokes — even about lawyers,” said their attorney, Ron Kuby. (Devin Smith, “Good ‘Gag’ Rule”, New York Post, Feb. 9).
“Prosecutors have dropped a disorderly conduct charge against legal reform advocate Carl Lanzisera, one of two men arrested for telling lawyer jokes outside District Court in Hempstead, N.Y. But his comedic and legal reform partner, Harvey Kash, must appear before a grand jury — and Lanzisera has been subpoenaed to testify in the case against him.” (Zachary R. Dowdy, Newsday/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Jan. 27)(see Jan. 13, Jan. 14). Monica Bay (“Common Scold”) comments (Jan. 27).
Those two Long Island men who say they were arrested for telling lawyer jokes at a Nassau County courthouse (see yesterday’s post) were soon deluged with offers by lawyers to represent them for free. Reports Newsday:
“Barbara Bernstein, executive director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she found the arrests “bewildering” and she called the men yesterday to determine whether the organization could help. “It’s just bewildering and preposterous that they should be arrested for telling lawyer jokes,” Bernstein said. “What’s the violation of law here?”
(Zachary R. Dowdy, “Lawyers offer help after pair’s anti-lawyer joke arrest”, Newsday, Jan. 13). The two men, Harvey Kash and Carl Lanzisera, have now accepted an offer of representation by radical attorney and New York radio personality Ron Kuby. (“Kuby takes jokers’ case”, Jan. 14). Further update: Jan. 30.