As we have discussed here before, though we often complain of frivolous lawsuits, even the worst law suits seldom meet the technical standard of what is “frivolous.”
The D.C. bar’s ethics rules state that…
A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.
This provides what I sometimes call “stupid lawyer” protection, on the theory that a stupid lawyer may have a sincere belief that an absurd action has a chance of prevailing, thus avoiding the rule’s rock bottom standard for “frivolous.” The recently filed lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against President Trump and the local Trump hotel, however, may be that rarest of legal birds, the truly frivolous lawsuit.
The married couple that owns the Cork Wine Bar in Washington claim that the Trump International Hotel and the restaurants similarly located in the Old Post Office building have an illegal advantage over other nearby establishments, like theirs, because of the association with the President. Essentially the law suit claims that it’s all so unfair.
In addition to the res ipsa loquitur factor, which is to say that the lawsuit screams abuse of process to harass the President, we also have these suspicious factors:
1. No damages are being claimed.
2. The lawyers are working pro bono, as in without a fee because joining the legal profession’s unethical efforts to undermine the current Presidency and signal their virtue to other progressives with grandstanding moves like this is compensation enough.
3. The suit, filed in District of Columbia Superior Court, suggests several unserious ways to resolve the issue: the multimillion dollar Trump International Hotel can be shut down, The President and his family can sell the business, or—best of all!—the President can resign from office.
4. The lawyers disgracing their profession by taking this case includes the George Washington University Law School professors Alan B. Morrison, who co-founded a public interest group with Ralph Nader, and Steven L. Schooner, both anti-Trump trolls with a previously stated political agenda. Schooner specializes in government procurement law and has argued that the President is in violation of the lease his company signed with the federal government for the Old Post Office Building, D.C.’s failed attempt to emulate Quincy Market in Boston. A clause of the lease states that no elected official may benefit from the lease, so the GW law professors argue that this supports the law suit’s claim of unfair competition for the Cork Wine Bar.
Baloney. The clause in question is there to stop corrupt officials from self-dealing, and presumably the law professors, not really being stupid lawyers, know it. Thus the real goals of the suit are…
- To get the Cork cheap publicity, abusing the court system to do it.
The New York Times story notes that it serves “over 50 varieties of wine” and reprints rave restaurant revue quotes. Nice. Nothing like rewarding a business for abuse of process and the court system, and providing an incentive for similar stunts…
- To keep up the barrage of anti-Trump static, contrived or otherwise.
That mean, mean Trump! Look, he’s trying to put this nice interracial couple out of business!
- To signal that the law professors and the firm joining in the law suit are comrades in arms in the “resistance.”
And, of course, to get cheap publicity for them too, as well as the admiration among the Left’s Trump deranged, which in D.C. is about 98% of the population and, of course, the news media.
- To interfere with the President’s efforts to govern, as he was elected to do.
I was relieved to see that it was my alma mater’s rival, George Washington Law School, embarrassing itself this time, and not, as I first thought when I read the story too quickly, Georgetown University Law Center, last featured on Ethics Alarms when one of its adjunct professors was arrested for distributing meth.
I’m considering whether to file a D.C. bar complaint against the professors and the firm (I won’t give it any more publicity by mentioning its name here), because this is a frivolous suit in my view. I’d also like to see the hotel’s lawyers seek Rule 11 sanctions, a remedy provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure allowing a district court judge to fine attorneys and parties who submit pleadings with an improper purpose, or that contain frivolous arguments or arguments that have no evidentiary support. Of course, in Washington, D.C., the odds are strong that a judge will accept as legitimate a lawsuit that calls for an official decree that “Donald Trump is a poopy-head.”
Boy, do I hope this law suit backfires on Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, the owners of the Cork Wine Bar who say they are shocked—shocked!—that anyone would accuse them of pulling a publicity stunt! I don’t drink wine, so the fact that I would rather eat my foot than set it in their establishment is meaningless, but surely, surely, there are some principled brie-and-chablis liberals with the integrity to resent this. Surely?
As for the law professors, who will likely escape the bar discipline due them because the ethics committee is busy enough dealing with frauds and cheats, let me point out that their conduct is, or should be, embarrassing to George Washington University, making it, if not a breach of legal ethics, a breach of their duty not to devalue GW diplomas like Georgetown Law Center’s recent fiascos (like the faculty having a public pissing match over whether a law school should praise a recently deceased Supreme Court Justice when he advocated conservative jurisprudence) have degraded mine.
And the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck rolls on…