Schiffman, Meet Streisand (Update!!! x4)

Yeshiva University’s vice provost, Lawrence Schiffman, hired a lawyer named Clifford Rieders from Pennsylania, who has some beef with an old post of mine about Raphael Golb being prosecuted for using sock puppets. Oh boy.  His lawyer sent out this email:

Law Offices of
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Harris,
Waters & Waffenschmidt
161 West Third Street
PO Box 215
Williamsport, PA 17701

E-MAIL TO: Eugene Volovh [[email protected]]
FROM: Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
DATE: March 13, 2013
RE: Lawrence Schiffman
CC: Professor Lawrence Schiffman

Please be advised that the undersigned represents Professor Lawrence Schiffman, previously Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, now Vice Provost of Yeshiva University.

Dr. Schiffman’s name was the subject of illegal and criminal misconduct by Raphael Golb. Your website has been provided to me as one of the locations where the criminal postings occurred.

Please confirm that within five (5) work days of the date of this email the following will occur:

1. Complete removal of the blog material;
2. Removal of index entries on search engines;
3. Cancellation of fraudulent email accounts;
4. Removal of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him.

We will need your certification as to all efforts made to expunge the material.

I enclose as Exhibit 1 news release by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau announcing the arrest of the 49-year-old Raphael Golb for creating multiple aliases to engage in the campaign of impersonation and harassment relating to the Dead Sea Scrolls and scholars of opposing viewpoints. Mr. Golb was arrested on charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation, and aggravated harassment.

I am also enclosing as Exhibit 2 letter from Director, Witness Aid Services Unit, District Attorney of the County of New York, providing a temporary order of protection which the court issued in the aforementioned criminal case.

I am advised that Mr. Golb has been convicted and appeals denied. Unfortunately, there continue to be current blogs containing Golb’s fabricated story, as though Dr. Schiffman acknowledged or admitted some wrongdoing. I am enclosing not only a variety of sampling but also the platform, address and the blog as well as URLs.

Please contact me as soon as possible at …

He sent one to me.  He sent one to Eugene Volokh. I wasn’t impressed. Eugene wasn’t impressed. He wrote:

The e-mail from Mr. Rieders of course offers no explanation of how this is a “criminal posting[],” because of course it isn’t. Fortunately, I can tell that there is absolutely zero basis for the demand letter; other recipients of the e-mail might not be so lucky.

I generally do not publish letters sent to me, but unfounded demands such as this are an exception. This is especially so because demonstrating the unsoundness of the lawyer’s argument requires showing the entirety of the letter — both the particular language that the letter included (“criminal postings,” the demand for “[c]omplete removal of the blog material,” the demand for “[r]emoval of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him,” and so on) and what the letter didn’t include (any specific explanation for why the material would indeed be legally actionable).

Eugene is much nicer than I am.  Had he not calmly and succinctly explained the email’s massive failing, I would have been constrained to respond, bite me.  I am happy to say that because of Eugene’s parsing of the unfounded email, I can maintain my dignity, merely refer to Eugene’s response, and add, “what he said.”

So, what he said.  Asshole. I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist. Eugene would never use such language. I’m so ashamed.

Update: Apparently, the plot thickens.  Just as Rieders is busily trying to sanitize the internet of arguments that might favor Golb and not-so-much favor Schiffman, it turns out that the New York Cout of Appeals (the top court in New York) has  granting leave to appeal the affirmance at the Appellate Division.  And the Order was just granted a few days ago! What remarkable timing!

It’s not over yet, at least for Rapheal Golb.

Update 2:  Yet another twist, this coming from Eugene’s new post at VC :

I e-mailed Mr. Rieders yesterday evening to ask for a comment on the matter, but have not yet heard back from him; I’ll post his response if I do get it.

UPDATE: Mr. Rieders called back and said they checked shortly before sending the e-mail, and didn’t know of anything then about the highest court’s grant of leave to appeal, or even that the petition for leave to appeal had been pending.

In light of  Ken at Popehat’s having emailed Rieders, and receiving a response that Rieders knows nothing about any email and to get lost, Rieders response to Eugene emits an unpleasant odor.

While Eugene, lawprof that he is, may bend over backwards to avoid any possibility of suggesting anything inappropriate in the absence of conclusive proof to the contrary, none of this comports with the basic expectation that before a lawyer (not an academic, or a guy with a beef, but a lawyer) sends out an email making representations that Golb is guilty and all appeals have been denied, he would have made pretty darned sure that was accurate. To subsequently not only claim that he knew nothing of the pending petition for leave to appeal, but that it had been granted two days before sending the email, is a problem.

Is it possible? Sure. It doesn’t speak well of Rieders diligence or lawyering skills, but it’s possible. On the other hand, it’s impossible to reconcile his response to Eugene and his response to Ken.

Update 3: The story shifts a little bit more with Eugene’s “correction” to his own update:

UPDATE: Mr. Rieders called back and said they checked shortly before sending the e-mail, and didn’t know of anything then about the highest court’s grant of leave to appeal, or even that the petition for leave to appeal had been pending. I e-mailed this UPDATE to Mr. Rieders to confirm it with him (I’d read it over the phone during our conversation, but I wanted to check it in writing), and he thought this summary was inaccurate; I therefore thought that I’d instead just quote what he said in the return e-mail: “[A]t the time I sent you the email, there had not yet been any posting about the appeal which we explicitly checked for and the DA had not informed us that anything was pending at yet a second appellate level.”

Why Eugene felt the need to obtain Rieders secondary approval of the update is surprising. Either Rieders said it or he didn’t, and if he said it, then it doesn’t need to be double fact checked, and Eugene doesn’t need Rieders approval to write what he said. Weird.

Still, neither Rieders nor Eugene, for that matter, offers any explanation of why he would make an affirmative representation that was flagrantly false if he didn’t know it to be accurate?

Update 4: And shortly after the above “correction,” Eugene added this to his post:

FURTHER UPDATE: Mr. Rieders e-mails to add, “In the interest of integrity you should also state that this does not dilute our original message that impersonation is improper and those who aide and abet in impersonation may subject themselves to civil liability.” It is my pleasure to quote that.

It appears that things have no come full circle, it being wonderful to see Clifford Rieders show a sudden interest in integrity, even if he struggles to grasp the meaning of the word after having falsely denied he sent the original email to Ken, on top of having actually sent such a ridiculous, ignorant and outrageous threatening demand.

It’s also good to see Eugene reminded why he had a problem with Rieders in the first place.  I hope that message is what he meant in his “pleasure to quote that” phrase. I really hope so.

48 thoughts on “Schiffman, Meet Streisand (Update!!! x4)


    But he “will need your certification as to all efforts made to expunge the material.”

    Did you certify your effort? It’s not an effort unless it’s certified.

  2. SHG

    I am only able to discern one thing about that email that’s certifiable. But it would impolite to say.


    Well I expected nothing less from you as a response, being that you’re the host of a blog that contains criminal postings.

  4. Alex Bunin

    And you need to cancel that fraudulent e-mail account. I always knew there was something fishy about that.

  5. Turk

    Since Schiffman and Rieders will be checking in soon, let me give them a little advice:

    Sending a polite email, or making a polite phone call, to update an old post, would be a more productive (and far less certifiably stupid) use of your time.

    Hey, Mr. SJ and Mr. Volokh, I thought you might want to know that there is an update to that old post and that this guy was convicted. Might you consider a little amendment in case anyone should stumble across it in the future?


    Mr. Turk, what kind of lawyer sends a polite email or makes a phone call? You sir have no concept of how law is practiced. Doing what you suggest is no way to properly bill a case.

  7. Brandia

    So this “Esquire” thinks that you can control the internet search engines… is accusing you of having “fraudulent” accounts, & firmly believes that he can put a gag order on this other gentlemen by telling you to do so?

    WOW! You are good!

  8. Ken

    I have sent him an email asking for comment.

    Deliberately and knowingly sending this threat to Volokh and you based on what you actually posted would demonstrate one sort of bad judgment. Setting up some sort of automated system to send out legal threats based on hits on the client’s name would demonstrate another sort of bad judgment.

  9. Turk

    Doing what you suggest is no way to properly bill a case.

    But he doesn’t bill cases; his website says he has “expertise” in personal injury and med mal.

    He’s a past president of the state’s trial lawyers, so I would have assumed some smarts about something like this. And I would have assumed wrong.

  10. SHG

    I look forward to learning what he has to say. Actually, what I really want to know is whether they actually have a partner named “Waffenschmidt,” because I absolutely love that name. If they don’t, and they’re just screwing with us, then I tip my hat to them.

    By the way, I considered responding, “snort my taint,” but I was afraid of violating the trademark.

  11. Turk

    Did that a couple years ago. Get up to speed, will ya?

    Nah, I mean an addendum to the original post. If he’d asked nicely, you probably would have shrugged your shoulders and said “why not?” and linked to the new post-update.

    I’m still trying to grasp the blithering stupidity of the letter, and think it actually constitutes malpractice to have sent it.

  12. SHG

    I might have, if he asked nice. But he didn’t. And given my view of the merit of the prosecution, I suspect what I might have written wouldn’t quite please Mssrs. Rieders or Schiffman.

  13. RAFIV

    I will ask, humbly and with reverence.

    On a related note, I wonder if Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire sent such a notice to [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules] because the allegedly criminal postings are listed there as well.

    Indeed, it can be found here.

    [2d Ed. Note: Screw with my rules and think you have a chance at using “snort my taint”?]

  14. Jag

    It’s not actually his trademark as much as a catchphrase. Sort of like Kojak’s “who loves ya baby”. Actually give Ken a lollipop and the resemblance is uncanny. Regardless I believe he will license the phrase to legitimate defenders of free speech and legal thuggery.

  15. SPQR

    Hey, I think I want to add Waffenschmidt to my firm name. Would add some class to my office, I’ll bet.

  16. Lindsay K

    Has it occurred to anyone that this letter isn’t a demand that the posts themselves be removed, but a (very clumsily worded) demand that specific comments on the posts be removed?

    I had a little trawl through the comments on both blog posts in question. On your post there are only 3 comments, two of them negative about Schiffman. One (by Elie Kadouri) suggests that Schiffman is undoubtedly a plagiarist trying to distract attention from his crimes.

    Mr. Volokh’s comments section has a much livelier discussion with many participants. But one stands out- a david kripke, who posts numerous angry rants directed at Volokh (perhaps because Volokh, unlike Greenfield, said that he thought the case came to the right result) and accusing everyone from Schiffman to the judge of the case of acting improperly. Kripke, like the Edie Kadouri comment on the other blog, talks about coverups of Schiffman’s supposed plagiarism as a foregone conclusion. Sort of odd, given that the plagiarism accusation is the very libel which was at the center of Golb’s conviction for identity theft etc.

    I am guessing that this threat letter is not a demand that the respective authors pull their posts, but that they delete comments which advance Golb’s argument that Schiffman is a plagiarist. I don’t know if they have any evidence (like IP addresses) to suggest that comments on these blog entries were made by Golb, but I think this interpretation casts their goal in a very different light- Golb has been pretty conclusively proved a lying dick, yet his comments libeling Schiffman are still littered around the internet influencing whoever comes across them. Of course, whether this was the best way to persuade the two of you to take said comments down (no) and whether there is any legal basis to threaten action if they fail to do so (probably not) are separate questions.

  17. SHG

    It’s possible, but nothing in the email remotely suggests that interpretation and my tendency (and I bet Eugene’s as well) is not to strain too hard to reinterpret a lawyer’s language to mean something other than what it says. Put another way, it’s not our problem to make sense of Rieders’ nonsensical email.

  18. Lindsay K

    I was by no means suggesting you had an obligation to act on the demand, regardless of what the lawyer meant when he wrote it. 🙂 I was just suggesting an alternative interpretation- one which gives the lawyer the benefit of the doubt by assuming he wrote (or let someone write) a letter demanding something rational in a really incompetent way, rather than a letter demanding something totally batshit insane in a really incompetent way. I mean, it’s not MUCH of a benefit, but it’s something.

  19. SHG

    What makes me disinclined to work too hard to cut Rieders a break (aside from the fact that he hasn’t come back to me after the first email to apologize for his approach and try to engage like a human being) is that any lawyer sending a threatening email better be awfully damned sure it says exactly what he means it to say.

    In other words, it was his choice how to approach me. He made his choice, chose poorly and now has to live with the consequences. I am not sympathetic.

  20. Ken

    I note that the sentence “I am advised that Mr. Golb has been convicted and appeals denied” in that threat email was sent two days after the Court of Appeal granted leave to appeal.

    Draw such conclusions as you will. Perhaps it was merely a coincidence.

  21. Howard Fredrics

    As the second most wanted international fugitive, wanted by the Kingston Upon Thames (UK) Police for speech crimes against a member of the nobility, I’m pleased to see you have joined the ranks of the rogues.

  22. Howard Fredrics

    If Prof. Schiffman and his lawyer want to challenge any of the points allegedly made by Raphael Golb, why don’t they do it the old fashioned way by filing a defamation claim against Golb, whereupon the veracity of Golb’s alleged statements vis a vis the plagiarism matter may be tested in a court of law.

  23. Howard Fredrics

    Scott, a small error re: Prof. Schiffman’s current position. He is actually Vice-Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva, a mid-level administrative position created specifically for him.

  24. David

    It’s interesting that his lawyer is doing just that.

    P.s. I apologize for submitting, yesterday, a comment containing links to numerous sites containing commentary that Schiffman is apparently trying to sanitize from the Internet, including the New York Times, Tablet Mag, and the Raphael Golb Trial website. I did not realize that Scott has a no-link policy. Sorry for the annoyance.

  25. Pingback: The Raphael Golb appeal brief and related documentation (updated February 15, 2014) | The Raphael Golb Trial

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