Posts Tagged ‘watch what you say about lawyers’

Arrested — for telling lawyer jokes?

It happened at the First District courthouse in Long Island: Nassau County court spokesman Dan Bagnuola says Harvey Kash, 69, and Carl Lanzisera, 65, of the gadfly group Americans for Legal Reform, were charged with disorderly conduct because they were “being abusive and they were causing a disturbance,” while Kash and Lanzisera said all they were doing was telling a lawyer joke (the “his lips are moving” one) while standing in line to get into the courthouse. “The pair said that for years they have stood outside courthouses on Long Island and mocked lawyers.” An attorney reported them to the guards. (“Pair arrested for telling lawyer jokes at Long Island courthouse”, AP/Newsday, Jan. 12; L.A. Times; South Florida Sun-Sentinel). Eugene Volokh has some analysis of the First Amendment issues. More watch-what- you-say- about-lawyers stories: Dec. 23 and links from there. Updates: Jan. 14, Jan. 30.

Watch what you say about lawyers, cont’d

Madison County: Gordon Maag, the trial-lawyer-backed candidate who last month was defeated in a race for the Illinois Supreme Court in what is said to have been the most expensive judicial race in American history, has filed a $100 million defamation suit against an arm of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce for saying bad things about him during the recent campaign. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Edwardsville Intelligencer/Southern Illinoisan/Illinois Leader). Jim Copland comments at Point Of Law. For two other widely noted efforts by Madison County lawyers to silence or intimidate their critics, see Nov. 4 and Nov. 30, 1999 and Feb. 29, 2000 (class action lawyers sue Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan for making fun of them) and Jun. 9, Jul. 12, Jul. 26, 2003 (dragging national tort reform groups to court). For efforts to suppress the airing of ads affecting the Maag-Karmeier race, see Oct. 27. For other watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers cases, see Mar. 16 and Nov. 15, 2004, Nov. 30, 2003, and earlier posts; and Point of Law, Oct. 25 and Dec. 22, 2004.

Read On…

His so-called reputation

Reports David Giacalone (ethicalEsq):

Elderly Schenectady (NY) lawyer Romolo Versaci has filed a $100,000 defamation suit against Diane C. Richie, an unemployed social worker and widow with two children. Versaci claims — and Richie admits — that she called him a “so-called attorney” on a message board. …

Versaci says the comment has “greatly injured” his reputation, and adds that “She’s got to stop these cutesy messages and think a little bit.” He has been replaced with another lawyer in the controversy that spawned this lawsuit. Richie says, “I haven’t got $100, let alone $100,000. I couldn’t even imagine a judge looking at this. It’s so stupid.”

Adds ethicalEsq: “Most days, I’d consider being called a ‘so-called attorney’ a compliment.” Evan Schaeffer has strong words concerning the action and his comments section should also be checked out. More watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers cases: Nov. 30, 2003, Sept. 16-17, 2002, more. Updates Jan. 19: David Giacalone reports on a further development; Mar. 20: judge throws out case.

On Pa. court sleaze, a kind of hush

Profile of a maverick attorney who after decades of fighting machine corruption and courthouse politics in Pennsylvania is now working for malpractice reform in the state: “[Bob] Surrick is upset about the silencing of the print media because of the fear of libel suits. He said that during the 18 years that Gene Roberts was the Philadelphia Inquirer’s executive editor, the newspaper won 17 Pulitzers, which was unheard of for a newspaper. But during the 1980s (while Roberts was still editor) Surrick said that the judges and justices started the business of suing their critics, particularly the print media critics, for libel, effectively silencing the Inquirer; after Roberts left, the newspaper no longer did investigative reporting on the judiciary. ‘If the media — the guardian of the truth about what is going on in government — does not tell you, who is going to tell you?’ Surrick asks.” (Eileen Laskas, “Whatever Happened to Bob Surrick?”, CountyPressOnline (Phila. suburbs), Jan. 28) (via Donna Rovito’s Liability Update Information Network). For more on the kinds of legal trouble you can get into by criticizing Pennsylvania judges, see Oct. 24-25, 2001.

Update: ABA Journal settles “fixer” libel case

The American Bar Association Journal will publish a half-page apology, as well as pay an undisclosed sum, to settle attorney Richard A. Sprague’s claim that he was defamed when the magazine described him as “perhaps the most powerful lawyer-cum-fixer” in the state of Pennsylvania. (Dec. 5-6, 2001) Although the word “fixer” is widely employed to describe political wheeler-dealing of a lawful sort, a judge had ruled that it might also convey the impression that Sprague improperly “fixed” court cases. “In its answer to the suit, the ABA attached a list of more than 100 examples of prominent lawyers described as ‘fixers’ in such publications as The New York Times and the Washington Post.” (Shannon P. Duffy, “ABA, Sprague Agree to Settlement”, The Legal Intelligencer, Nov. 21).

Update: case of the subpoenaed tort reformers ends

Apparently ending the most recent watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers episode (see Jun. 9, Jul. 12): “Two groups that have protested the Madison County legal system will not seek sanctions against a Wood River law firm that subpoenaed them to give information about their members and finances, the groups’ lawyer said Monday. The Illinois Civil Justice League and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dropped their request for sanctions against the Lakin Law Firm after deciding they had already made their point, said their lawyer, Gordon Broom.” (Trisha L. Howard, “Seekers of tort reform drop action against critic”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jul. 21)(more watch-what-you-say-about-lawyers episodes).

Update: intimidating tort reformers

Madison County, Ill. class action lawyer Bradley Lakin has withdrawn his subpoenas aimed at four organizations that had spoken out against lawsuit abuse in the Madison county courts: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Civil Justice League, American Tort Reform Association and Illinois Chamber of Commerce (see Jun. 9). Lisa Rickard, president of the Chamber?s Institute for Legal Reform, called the subpoenas “an illegitimate attempt to silence the critics of lawsuit abuse.” The ICJL, which has filed a sanctions motion against Lakin, has its own press release as well as links. (Further update Jul. 26: sanctions motion dropped)