April 2nd, 2016

Deconstructing the Trump Sanction Hoax

Is it April 2nd already?

Is it April 2nd already?

It’s been a number of years now since I’ve run April Fools’ gags. But the time was right to come out of retirement.

For those new to this joint, I ran them from 2008-2012, and had a lot of fun. I do it with a motive. And, as I do here today, I always have a deconstruction the next day, because a gag without a point isn’t much fun to do.

This includes my gig as the official White House Law Blogger, that punked the NY Times, as well as a 23-blog conspiracy the following year that sent readers round in web circles. My first, and one of my favorites, was the time the Supreme Court had three justices recuse themselves in a fantasy baseball case, because they were involved in a high court league themselves.

OK, enough about the past.  Yesterday I took on Donald Trump for his conduct in bringing a frivolous defamation claim that I wrote about last year.

And in doing so, I confess it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Within minutes of the post going up, folks that knew my prior pranks were already hollering that, on this particular day, they wouldn’t believe a word I wrote, no matter what. The passage of four years, it seems, did nothing to diminish my April Fools’ Day reputation.

But the hoax had a point to make (or I wouldn’t do it), and it was rather straightforward: I’ve now been sued twice for defamation for my writings on this blog (Rakofsky and Katz). Both cases were completely frivolous and tossed into the judicial trash can on an immediate motion to dismiss. No discovery, no answer, no nothing, other than my motion to chuck it. But neither judge wanted to go the sanctions route, despite being so clearly warranted.

Such is the judicial culture in New York.

I followed up with an op-ed in the NY Law Journal, calling on the Legislature to approve Anti-SLAPP legislation that was pending. Vacuous suits, and threats of suits, serve to chill free expression. If you are fearful of writing your opinion, or using satire, parody or any other literary device to make a point, then your First Amendment rights have been devalued.

Enter, stage right, Donald Trump and his comments to a Washington Post reporter about a defamation suit he brought (and lost):

Trump said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the suit but brought it anyway to make a point. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”

Add to hit the numbers defamation suits he has brought or threatened (like the recent threat to sue Sen. Ted. Cruz)

And so, when my scheduled depositions on Thursday busted, I had an extra few hours to put on my jester’s hat and make use of our glorious First Amendment by slapping together this “decision” by a judge that sanctioned Trump for a whopping $500M. Who better than the Official White House Law Blogger to write it up?

Trump Free speechThe judge in the hoax, by the way, was Lester Bruce Sullivan, aka, L.B. Sullivan, better known as the guy who helped make First Amendment history by losing an important piece of litigation: New York Times v. Sullivan.

Was that $500M a dumb number? You bet it was. But that was the laughable number that Trump sued for, in order to get headlines. Which it did. So my “judge” thought that was the fitting sanction.

The point of the exercise was to show that, when folks have money, they can stamp on the First Amendment rights of others simply by making “life miserable,” in Trump’s own words.

Unless, of course, the weight of a real sanction makes them weigh that decision more carefully.

The use of sanctions should not be confused with costs or some kind of fee shifting merely because someone has lost. This isn’t an issue, after all, of two sides each saying they had the green light, or two experts in a medical malpractice case disagreeing on the standard of care.

No, this is an entirely different beast: This is about those that deliberately abuse the legal system, even when they know full well beforehand that there is utterly and completely no merit to the claims.

The Legislature should take action: The time to pass the Anti-SLAPP legislation is now.  If, that is, you believe our free speech rights are important.

[Addendum, 4/4, A reader who is on staff in the Assembly has pointed out that the NYS Assembly passed this legislation three times: in 2014, 2015, and 2016. It is the Senate which has not passed it to date.]

My thanks to Paul Alan Levy at Public Citizen and Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice for likewise blogging on the subject to help push the story.

 

April 1st, 2015

The Squiggly Line in the Road

Squiggly yellow line down middle of road.

Squiggly yellow line down middle of road.

If you came here looking for an April Fool’s joke, sorry, but I retired in 2013. Now on to today’s post…

So there I am last weekend looking at the squiggly yellow line down the middle of the road. And I think to myself: Self, just what the hell does that mean?

Now several things spring to mind.

1.  The yellow line painting guy was drunk and singing King of the Road.

2.  The yellow line painting guy dozed off while listening to On the Road Again.

3.  The yellow line painting guy was playing a joke on someone who likes Country Roads.

4.  The yellow line painting guy wasn’t driving, but was actually running down the road trying to loosen his load with seven women on his mind, and was thus distracted.

5.  The yellow line painting guy suffered from a disability of sorts that caused him to paint in a less-than-staight manner, and when the boss yelled at him he invoked the Americans With Disabilities Act and sang I Don’t Need No Doctor.

6.  The yellow line painting guy was a genius.

A genius? Well, yeah, that is one possibility. Because this was a construction zone. And that means lower speeds. And what can bring down speeds quickly, that isn’t also dangerous?

NormalSquigglyLineNo, not a sign. We expect signs. Even signs with squiggles on them.

But a squiggly line down the middle of the road? Well that might make a distracted driver take notice that something is up.

So I go with genius, a traffic safety genius, who sang Stayin’ Alive while he painted.

And if you got a better idea, I’m all ears.

 

April 1st, 2014

Knicks and Dolan to Be Sued in Class Action?

Blame DolanIt isn’t often that you see the Chairman of a company acknowledge that he doesn’t know his company’s business. But that, it seems, is what James Dolan has done.

And now as a result, rumors are swirling around New York’s legal community about a potential shareholder class action lawsuit.

If you aren’t from New York, you might not know that Dolan’s father, Charles Dolan, is the billionaire founder of Cablevision and HBO. Cablevision owned the NY Knicks before being spun off in 2010 as The Madison Square Garden Company. And the MSG Company owns the Knicks (as well as the Rangers, Madison Square Garden and MSG Networks). 

Both Cablesvision (CVC) and MSG Co. (MSG) are publicly traded, which is to say, legally accountable to their shareholders.

Now Charles’s son James has been running the Knicks for close to two decades, during which the team has no championships, much misery, and one lost sexual harassment lawsuit. Through the years he’s said little to nothing publicly, sometimes going years between press conferences.

The times of saying little have apparently changed, however, as Dolan has turned into a chatterbox with his recent introduction of Phil Jackson as the team’s latest savior.

Of course, when someone who hasn’t been giving interviews for years suddenly opens his mouth, it might be wise to get a little practice first. Dolan didn’t, as he apparently spoke the truth when he said:

“That I don’t know basketball.”

Yet he’s running the team and still holds the title of Executive Chairman.

Now let  us ruminate on that concept for a moment.  The guy who runs a pro basketball team, that is publicly owned, admits that for nearly two decades he doesn’t know  basketball. And lest you think it was an off the cuff joke, the Knicks’ performance over those years back that statement up. The team’s front office is ranked dead last by ESPN.

And then he goes on to say that in two hours with Phil Jackson, the Zen Master taught him basketball. So, will any of the protesting fans contact counsel (not me) regarding a class action lawsuit? Well, they might try, but they need to be a deceived shareholder also.

Knick fans are pissed. A group calling  itself Knick Fans 4 Life, has set up a Facebook page to organize its activities (with 2,658 likes and growing). Part of its mission statement regards Dolan’s failure to allow knowledgeable basketball people the autonomy/power to make basketball related decisions.

Of course, today is April Fool’s Day, and long-time readers know I have, shall we say, a bit of a history with running April Fools gags (SCOTUS and fantasy baseball, official white house law blogger, and more).

So the question the reader might ask: Are today’s rumor of a shareholder class action suit real or did Turkewitz make it up?

And the answer: Does it matter?

 

April 1st, 2013

April Fools’ Day Quiz, Justice Alito, and Baseball

Justice Sam Alito (or not?)

Today is April 1st. It’s also opening day for most baseball teams. So if you’re a Mets fan like I am, it’s an interesting happenstance, no?

But if you came here hoping for an April Fools’ Day gag, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s just a quickie quiz on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and baseball.

Hoaxes have simply become too complicated and difficult for me to coordinate. The last couple of years I went through hundreds of emails setting up elaborate cock-and-bull stories. In 2011 it involved a 23-blog web ring. Last year I created a new web site just to hide what I was doing with over a dozen co-conspirators, since so many people were assuming I would use this site for trickery. If I did this again, my wife would kill me. Then she would divorce my rotting carcass. Even fun has its limits.

Also, it’s nice to retire before I go stale and start putting out lame crap.

But just because I’ve retired from gags doesn’t mean I can’t bring you a modest little quiz regarding law and baseball and focusing on Justice Alito pictured here at right on a baseball card from a fantasy baseball camp.

Or maybe it’s a fake card. This is, after all, April Fools’ Day and do you really believe anything I write? I can almost see your brain cells pulsing as you look to see who will get hornswaggled.

Cheating on this poll is easy, as anyone over the age of eight can use the Google. But if you cheat, a kitten will die and someone will turn you into an anti-kitten Facebook meme that will quickly devour the web because that’s what the web does best and it would really suck for you and then your spouse, kids and siblings would divorce your dead rotting carcass. I’m sure you don’t want to test that theory.

And you know I’m right, anyway, or you wouldn’t have read this far.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the poll.

Each question has a link. The link contains the actual answer. But you have to answer the poll first before you click the links to see if you were right. It’s all about the kittens, remember? If you didn’t remember the kittens from three short paragraphs ago then you’ve got bigger problems than I can deal with here.

But cheating is also about your soul. Don’t screw with your soul, it ain’t worth it for a little quiz, and someone might scratch “cheater” on your headstone one day, and that one day will probably be April 1st just for the karmic kicks.

In this quiz, everything below is true, except for one item. Which item below is false for SCOTUS Justice Alito?

1. He once went to a Philadelphia Phillies fantasy baseball camp that produced the baseball card you see above (link)

2. He was born on April Fools’ Day (link)

3.  Because he plays in a fantasy baseball league he recused himself on a case dealing with the sale of baseball statistics to statistical services for fantasy leagues (link)

4.  There is a website that compares all Supreme Court justices to people in baseball.  John Jay, for example, is compared  to the first baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Justice Alito  is compared to flame-throwing right-hander Jonathan Papelbon, because Papelbon was supposed to be the next Roger Clemens while Alito was touted at his confirmation as the next Scalia. (Papelbon is now with Alito’s beloved Phillies.) (link)

5.  His childhood ambition was to become commissioner of baseball. (link)

Which of the above statements is false?

View Results

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You didn’t cheat, did you?

 

May 24th, 2012

Banning Anonymous Speech: Reality Mimics April Fool’s Gag

Really, who’d a thunk it? On April 1st I went live with a gag about Joe Lieberman proposing to ban anonymous speech on the Internet. I used a new blog: McIntyre v. Ohio to run it anonymously. Lots of fun was had, and I did a deconstruction of the hoax the day after, but no journalists were actually taken in.

But were real life politicians actually suckered into it? Or did they come up with this idea on his own?

Two bills  now pending in the New York State Senate and Assembly propose to ban anonymous speech. Yes, this would be in flagrant disregard of prior constitutional case law on the First Amendment. And that primary case is McIntyre v. Ohio for which my “other blog” is named.

The legislation — conjured due to concerns over cyber-bullying — would require anyone with a website:

“upon request remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.” By “web site,” the bill means just what it seems to: Any New York-based website, including “social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”

The bills will go nowhere, of course, because the First Amendment allows anonymous speech. For a good read on the long and deep history of such speech in the United States, read the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas in McIntyre.

For more on the subject:

New York to Publius: You’re Done Bully Boy (Simple Justice)

The New York Bill that Would Ban Anonymous Online Speech (Time)

Laughable Online Censorship Attempt Won’t Last a New York Minute (Huffington Post)

As for those that were in on my April Fool’s gag, they deserve once again their due credit for assisting:

Joe Lieberman v. the Internet: It’s not over. (Adam B. @ Daily Kos)

End of Section 230 Protection for Bloggers? (PattericoPatterico’s Pontifications)

Thanks To Senator Lieberman, You Guys Are Going To Get Me Sued (KenPopehat)

Dear Commenters: We Can’t Protect You Anymore (MystalAbove the Law)

Anti-terrorism law threatens First amendment? (Frank Point of Law)

Section 230 Amendment strips websites of immunity from anonymous commenters(RandazzaLegal Satyricon)

A Free Speech Disaster — The End of Anonymous Commenting? (CubanThe Cuban Revolution)

Lieberman to Internet: You’re Fungus (Greenfield Simple Justice)

Anonymous Commenting Legislation By Joe Lieberman? (TannebaumMy Law License)

Blind-Squirrel Lieberman Finds Acorn (BennettDefending People)

A One-Two-Punch Against Free Speech (DraughnWindy Pundit)

The Community You Create (Zubon Kill Ten Rats)

First Amendment Malpractice (Barovick at NY Medical Malpractice Law)

Will Free Speech in America Meet Its Match In Lieberman? (WiseWise Law Blog)