From The Trump Campaign, Not Quite A Frivolous Lawsuit, But An Unethical One

Is it possible that my ol’ friend Walt is working for the Trump campaign now? Nah, can’t be. But the logic behind the Trump campaign’s defamation lawsuit against CNN has a familiar ring: like the protracted  defamation suit against me by an aggrieved (and banned) Ethics Alarms commenter, the Trump campaign is claiming that opinion in the news media constitutes defamation, and it does not, must not and cannot. Writes Professor Turley in part: Continue reading

Now THIS Is A Frivolous Lawsuit!

Sounds noble in theory, but it doesn’t always work when the one saying “no” is a judge.

Lawyers and the public mean different things when they call a lawsuit “frivolous.” The public and the news media mean that the suit is silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed. Lawyers, however, know that suits that seem  silly, desperate, based on a crazy theory or unlikely to succeed sometimes win. Sometimes, they even change the law for the better. ABA Rule 3.1 explains,

Rule 3.1: Meritorious Claims & Contentions

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….

Comment:The filing of an action or defense or similar action taken for a client is not frivolous merely because the facts have not first been fully substantiated or because the lawyer expects to develop vital evidence only by discovery. What is required of lawyers, however, is that they inform themselves about the facts of their clients’ cases and the applicable law and determine that they can make good faith arguments in support of their clients’ positions. Such action is not frivolous even though the lawyer believes that the client’s position ultimately will not prevail. The action is frivolous, however, if the lawyer is unable either to make a good faith argument on the merits of the action taken or to support the action taken by a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.

The guy currently  suing me for defamation, for example, hasn’t quite crossed the “frivolous” line, though he is arguing that what is clearly opinion is an assertion of fact, contrary to all existing jurisprudence. His appeal, however, while batty, does make an argument that I assume in in good faith, that a Supreme Court case supports his definition of libel. It doesn’t, but he has the right to make an argument in the hope that some judge or appellate panel will agree. Of course, he is also not a lawyer, so he can’t be held responsible for violating legal ethics.

This guy can be, however: Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Warm-up, 6/6/18: Special “Don’t Sue Me, These Are Just Opinions” Edition

Good afternoon.

1. For the record...Ethics Alarms passed 9 million views this week. That’s not a lot in a bit less than 9 years by the mega-blog standards, but their aren’t many ethics blogs that do better, and maybe none. Admittedly, this is a little like being the most popular fan site for Clint Howard…

2. Now this IS a frivolous lawsuit...tomorrow I finally go to Boston to argue my motion to dismiss the vexatious defamation lawsuit against me by an Ethics Alarms commenter whose feelings I hurt in the process of throwing him off the site. If a lawyer brought this suit, I would have a rare claim against him for breaching Rule 3.1, prohibiting frivolous suits. No lawyer, however, would bring such a suit. There has to be a good faith belief that you can prevail, or change the law, but there is literally no support in the law of defamation for calling insults (yup, I insulted him), opinions, and conclusions based on fully-revealed information and data libel. Non-lawyers, however, don’t have to obey legal ethics rules, and, as in this case, don’t know what they are anywhere. Maybe after I’m through with all of this, I’ll post the whole complaint. Among its claims is that I graduated from Hampshire College, and that the Massachusetts court has jurisdiction because I’m a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I also, it claims, defamed the plaintiff by erroneously referring to him as an academic. To deal with this spiteful action, I have already expended several thousand dollars. Yes, it goes with the territory. I know.

3. Imagine, impugning the professionalism and impunity of the FBI! A drunk and irresponsible FBI agent  shot a man at a Denver bar over the weekend when his gun flew out of his pocket, hit the floor and discharged as he was executing an acrobatic maneuver on the dance floor. This, you will not be surprised to learn, is not compliant with FBI policy. Agents are considered on duty at all times. They can carry their weapon at all times too, but cannot endanger the public while doing so. They are also not permitted to act like clowns in public, or be drunk as proverbial skunks. The agent is Chase Bishop, 29, who works out of Washington D.C. No word yet if he is part of the Mueller investigation.

Conservative wag Glenn Reynold would headline this story, “Top. Men.” Maybe he already has. And if you don’t get the reference, your cultural literacy needs a tune-up. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/4/2018: A Frivolous Lawsuit, An Unscripted Actress, A Lesson In Assuming, And Fake News

Good Morning!

1 On feminist integrity. The reader poll on the post about the interesting silence of US women’s rights organizations and their component feminists as their Iranian sisters protest oppression in Iran has already had more participation that the last four Ethics Alarms polls combined. Why is that? In more news related to that post, some determined spinners here claimed that the feminists have been burning up the blogs and websites with supportive essays and blog posts, so the radio silence is a myth. No, THAT was a myth: there is nothing on those sites, or if there is, it didn’t surface when I checked Ms., Jezebel, NOW and four prominent blogs. (Update: Reader Humble Talent has checked two more. Also nothing.)

Please don’t make up stuff or assume facts you haven’t checked when you don’t want to accept reality, friends. It’s not fair, and it’s not ethical debating practice. Because I trust and respect the commenter in question, I just assumed she was right, because I assumed she had checked. No, it appears she had assumed, and was not right.  And you know what Felix Unger proved happens when you assume..

2. This is why they give actors scripts. I enjoy actress Meryl Streep as an artist, but for me she is fast entering Alec Baldwin territory, a performer whose personal character deficits are becoming so overpowering that even her undeniable talent can’t make watching the performer on screen endurable. Streep is in a deep hole she keeps digging. Being a Harvey Weinstein acolyte and beneficiary for years (and a Roman Polanski apologist), she is denying culpability as an enabler of his serial sexual predation because, she says, she didn’t know. Almost nobody finds her denial credible. Yesterday the Times published a joint interview with Streep and her “The Post” co-star, Tom Hanks. Told by the interviewer that in light of the doubts about what she knew, the public wants to hear more from her, she responded,

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me. I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now.”

Streep locks up the 2018 Whataboutism of the Year title with that one, along with adding a ridiculous sentence into my personal collection of statements that deserve note because they had never been said before in the history of the English language. I started my collection decades ago at a family Thanksgiving dinner, when my sister said, “You know, the fish looks so good, I think I’ll wear my bra on my head.” And a collection was born.

“I don’t want to hear about the silence of me” has an elegant simplicity about it. In addition to being a strange sentiment, Streep also misses the whole concept of an interview—surprising, since she has done so many of them. See, Meryl, these questions are about what the public wants to hear about, not what you want to hear about. Was that really unclear to you until now? This was not an open invitation to announce all the things you’d like to hear about that have absolutely nothing to do with Harvey Weinstein. This is “Look! Squirrel!” carried to a demented extreme. Streep revealed herself as seriously Trump Deranged, as she thinks that the way out of every personal crisis is to declare, “But what about TRUMP????”

Looks like I won’t be watching “The River Wild” again. Pity. (I won’t watch “The Dear Hunter” again either, but then you never could have made me watch that thing a second time, not under torture or extortion.)

3. Now THIS is a frivolous law suit.  From CNN:
Continue reading

Yes, Catherine Gregory Should Be Fired

Jonathan Turley is fascinated with the issue of whether  faculty members and employees generally should lose their jobs over controversial conduct outside of the workplace, particularly when it involves political speech. “There remains an uncertain line in what language is protected for teachers in their private lives,” the George Washington law professor writes. As I’ve discussed here before, I don’t think it’s nearly as uncertain as Turley does. When a faculty member’s conduct or statements on social media make an objective observer think, “No competent, professional institution would hire someone like this,” it’s bye-bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Even Turley seems to waver in this ridiculous case.

Conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich was about to speak on the topic “It’s OK to Be White”—I LOVE that topic!— at the University of Connecticut when a protestor grabbed his notes. He in turn tussled with her, causing a near riot, and campus police arrested him.  The protestor was Catherine Gregory, associate director of career services  at Quinebaug Valley Community College.

Today the University came to its senses (or realized public opinion wasn’t going to allow it to get away with its attempt at liberal fascism) and dropped the charges against Wintrich  while charging Gregory.

What should happen to Gregory?

Gregory’s lawyer, Jon Schoenhorn argues that his client was justified in her actions because Wintrich’s views constitute “hate speech” and his actions “are beyond the First Amendment” in their insults to minorities. This is obviously nonsense, and I would argue it even qualifies as a frivolous and dishonest defense, an ethical violation. Unless the man is complete nitwit, he must know that there is no excluded variety of speech called “hate speech” that the First Amendment doesn’t protect. He’s lying, or he’s too incompetent to be a lawyer. Continue reading

Now THIS Is As Close To Genuinely Frivolous Lawsuit As You Are Likely To See…And Naturally, It Is An Attack On The President

Publicity stunt? Whatever would make you think this lawsuit is a publicity stunt???

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: Continue reading

Observations On The ACLU And “Grand Juror Doe’s” Power Play

Juror Doe now, but trying to become a household name...

Juror Doe now, but trying to become a household name…

In a move that tarnishes the reputation of the ALCU and reveals the deep ideological bias in its ranks, the Missouri chapter of the esteemed organization has encouraged a Ferguson grand juror to sue in order to end the lifetime ban on grand  jurors revealing what occurs during proceedings, allowing the juror to become a media star and, presumably, undermining the credibility of the deliberations that resulted in no indictment against Officer Wilson for his fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Observations:

1. Grand jury proceedings have to be confidential, or the system will not work (yes, it worked as well as it possibly could have in Ferguson.) Secrecy prevents those who are being investigated from interfering with witnesses and otherwise tampering with and attempting to corrupt the investigation. It protects witnesses who might be reluctant to testify if they believed their comments would be made public. It decreases the likelihood that one who is about to be indicted by a grand jury will flee and thereby avoid being brought to trial on those charges. It also protects innocent individuals whose names may be implicated in a grand jury investigation but who will never be indicted.

2. The prohibition on participants in grand jury proceedings revealing what occurs there is not a restriction on free speech any more than a government employee being prohibited from revealing national security information. This is a necessary restriction based on due process and the functioning of the rule of law, and grand jurors agree to the prohibition as a condition of service.

3. The ACLU is grandstanding for its progressive, civil rights zealot fans and contributors. This is an irresponsible case: if it prevailed, the justice system would be thrown into chaos.

3. If even one grand jury is able to have the ban on secrecy lifted, every grand jury will labor under the fear of those involved that jurors will speak to the media and reveal harmful details. I will be shocked if the ACLU lawsuit succeeds. I think it is a frivolous suit, and a violation of legal ethics Rule 3.1 that prohibits such actions.

4. The grand juror who is seeking the lifting of the ban has arguably already revealed more than he is allowed to do legally under the law, which prohibits disclosing “matters occurring before the grand jury.”

5. The supposed explosive revelations the juror wants to expand upon are nothing at all, just ignorant and biased complaints that have already been thoroughly explored and debated by legal experts. The likes of progressive website Think Progress falsely represents the juror’s views as “significant” because progressives so, so desperately want to prove that Michael Brown was executed by a racist cop who was corruptly exonerated by a biased prosecutor. But as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, there is no there there.

Here are Grand Juror Doe’s “concerns”: Continue reading

Banning The “Gay Panic Defense”

Last year, the American Bar Association House of Delegates passed a controversial resolution calling on states to ban the so-called gay panic defense. The defense arises (when it does arise, which is rarely), in cases of a heterosexual accused of an assault on a gay individual when the defense attorney argues that his client was so shocked and terrified by a homosexual advance of a romantic or sexual nature that he was overcome with disgust, anger and fear, and was launched into a psychotic state that compelled violence. Many judges refuse to allow it, because there is no accepted scientific evidence that “gay panic” exists as a legitimate prelude to temporary insanity.

The ABA resolved:

 That the American Bar Association urges federal, tribal, state, local and territorial governments to take legislative action to curtail the availability and effectiveness of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses, which seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.

Such legislative action should include:

(a) Requiring courts in any criminal trial or proceeding, upon the request of a party, to instruct the jury not to let bias, sympathy, prejudice, or public opinion influence its decision about the victims, witnesses, or defendant s based upon sexual orientation or gender identity; and

(b) Specifying that neither a non – violent sexual advance, nor the discovery of a person’s sex or gender identity, constitutes legally adequate provocation to mitigate the crime of murder to manslaughter, o r to mitigate the severity of any non – capital crime.

It should be no surprise that California was the first state to follow this plan, with Gov. Jerry Brown signing an anti-gay panic defense bill into law in September. Now New Jersey has a similar law under consideration. Continue reading

Now THAT’S An Unethical Lawsuit!

"All right, sir---put down the sneakers and come out with your hands up..."

“All right, sir—put down the sneakers and come out with your hands up…”

Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution inmate Sirgeorgio Clardy should probably forget his aspirations of becoming a jailhouse lawyer, if his first effort is any indication.

Sirgiorgio, an aptly named pimp, is in stir because, among other things, he brutally stomped the face of a john who was trying to leave a Portland hotel without paying Clardy’s prostitute. Jurors found him guilty of second-degree assault for using his Air Jordans as a dangerous weapon to beat the john’s face to a pulp. Now the 26-year-old pimp turned prisoner turned pro se litigant has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Nike, the maker of the Jordans, claiming the shoe manufacturer shares responsibility for the assault that was among the crimes that drew him a 100-year prison sentence. (The jury also found him guilty of robbing the man he beat and  beating the 18-year-old girl he forced to work as his prostitute. This is not, I think it is safe to say, a nice guy.)

Clardy’s creative lawsuit claims Nike breached its duty to place a label on his athletic shoes warning purchasers that they could be used as a dangerous weapon, because, I guess, the evil shoes made him do it. Or, in the alternative, he had no idea that repeatedly slamming his foot down on a man’s head would do any harm. Or something. Basically, he’d just really like a hundred million bucks, and either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, that he’s making a travesty of the justice system.

I am confident that there is literally no chance such a lawsuit goes to trial; if there is, I am through defending the legal system for good. This is a textbook frivolous lawsuit if brought by a real lawyer, rather than an unrepentant, violent, non-too-swift pimp.  The legal ethics rule that makes such monstrosities an official ethical violation, Rule 3.1, says 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.” Continue reading