How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Oh man, Evan you are so lucky. No one ever threatens me. I wanna be threatened with a lawsuit. And a complaint with the Illinois bar, and the AG's office. Wicked cool. I definitely need to step up the libel.

Carolyn Elefant

I have been asked by the subjects of stories I've posted or quoted from other sources to remove them but never threatened with suit. But although this guy's claims are baseless (to the extent there's been any harm, it was caused by the original publication), I could very easily see a bar grievance committee, with all of its provincial members, imposing on lawyers some kind of "due diligence" requirement to go beyond the text of an already published story before quoting it in a blog. This, of course, would be a death knell to blogs, but I don't think it's entirely far fetched. So definitely bring out the defense team if this nonsense takes you down that road.


I am going to assume you copied his email exactly, and the egregious "company's" is not of your doing. Therefore, I won't ask for my money.

Jeremy Richey

I can hear Johnnie now: "If you blog the quote, the lawsuit must be smote."


Did you point out that your mistake actually made him look better, by limiting the amount of time he was a creep?


Carolyn: Good points. I think you're right. Since I would hate to be the one whose posts lead to the end of all law-related weblogs, I might have to get you on the real defense team. Rufus, on the other hand, is definitely out.


Hey, wait just a second there. Not only do I have actual experience defending similar claims against lawyers, but I might also be admitted in the jurisdiction where he's probably going to sue you. I'm not saying that I am, I'm just saying that maybe I am in a completely hypothetical way.

Federalist No. 84

I'm not going to say whom I trained under, but let's just say I know a thing or two about Section 1983 actions. I bet I could come up with a way to sue him as a state actor (under a conspiracy theory of state action) for using or attemping to use the bar grievance committee in a bad-faith attempt to chill protected speech. I'll gladly work (pro bono, of course) under an attorney licensed in that guy's forum jurisdiction.

The bar's imposing a "due dilligence" requirement on a blawg (but not on lawyer-writers who write for other legal publications) would raise substantial equal protection issues. Even if blawg authors were treated similarly to other lawyer-writers; requiring an attorney to conduct "due dilligence" would be problematic under the First Amendment, since Evan's post is clearly protected speech and he makes a good faith reliance on the New York Law Journal. The ACLU would be very interested in a state bar's imposing such a requirement.

Things might get really, really messy for this fellow. Not only do we like and want to help Evan, but his suit could cause all of us to lose our First Amendment rights in our blawgs.

David Giacalone

Evan, you might want to check out
Chilling Effects.org. The "clearinghouse" website "aims to help you understand the protections that the First Amendment and intellectual property laws give to your online I activities."

Fed84: This is an important issue, but I hope the ACLU uses its limited resources to help folks who are not lawyers preserve their rights. Also, I hope lawyers hold themselves to higher standards of fact-checking diligence than the average weblogger.


David: Thanks for the tip. Chilling Effect.org looks to be an interesting site. As for your comment about the ACLU, wouldn't the ACLU be concerned about the precedential effect of bad decisions no matter who pays for the work? Didn't the ACLU get involved in the Rush Limbaugh case, for example?


[W]ouldn't the ACLU be concerned about the precedential effect of bad decisions no matter who pays for the work?

I was going to make that exact point. Sometimes you help the little guy by helping the bigger guys.

Plus, I think that relying on the New York Law Journal, offering to correct mistakes of fact, and providing a forum to tell the other side of the story (re: comments section) meets even David's standards of professional conduct.

David Giacalone

The Fedster made his comment about the ACLU in the context of the bar imposing the "due diligence" defense on lawyers, and I think that issue wouldn't set much of a precedent for the rest of the world and the Net.

On the broader issue, I still believe the ACLU should decide whether a case is likely to be adequately handled without its participation, before entering a fray and using its limited resources. Unless the ACLU is more interested in publicity for itself, such prudence makes a lot of sense -- and, it can do amicus duty if the issue "needs" ACLU input.


Standing ready to help you protect your assets.


An unfortunate aspect of blogging is that since blog authors are usually individuals without corporate infrastructures backing their activities up, bloggers are more vulnerable to frivolous threats of litigation.

I'd offer to join the defense team, with my 1st Amendment and general constitutional litigation background, but there is that jurisdictional problem. On the other hand, there's also that pro hac vice thing. ;)

Keep us posted.


Federalist No. 84,
I disagree with you

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