It sucks getting sued for defamation. It sucks even worse when the judge denies your motion to dismiss. So it’s hard to blame Above The Law for being a bit skittish about the fact that it was not only sued by lawyer Meanith Huon for making him the target of its lawyerly snark, but will now have to go through litigation like ordinary humans before winning.
Hey, guys, those who live by the snark, die by the snark. So my fellow curmudgeon and long-time ATL columnist, Mark Herrmann, did what any self-respecting guy who wallows in the gutter by writing for ATL would do: He wrote a post about it, which ATL refused to publish.
So I will.
ATL Announces: We’ve Been Sued!
I’ve done a lot of stupid things during the four years that I’ve been writing this column at Above the Law.
But today, I’m taking my stupidity to a new level.
Above the Law, David Lat, Elie Mystal, and others have been sued in a defamation case. (I’m pleased to report that I personally dodged the bullet, presumably because I had nothing whatsoever to do with the allegedly offending article. If anyone asks, I don’t even have anything to do with the articles that appear here under my own name.)
Everything I know about this lawsuit comes from the public domain: I saw this article about the case at the ABA Journal, and I read the recent order granting in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss. (That order just came down on December 4, so this column is reporting on relatively recent news.)
Being a lawyer, I’m about a thousand percent sure that ATL’s lawyers told ATL not to say anything in public about this case. So what am I about to do?
Heck, I reviewed David Lat’s new book in a column here — at a blog controlled by David Lat. That’s pretty stupid.
That’s pretty stupid.
If I can plumb the depths of that stupidity, then I’m also stupid enough to publish a column about a defamation lawsuit brought against the very site where I’m writing. On the other hand, I’m smart enough to know that I must tread very carefully here, so I will.
How shall I phrase this?
Above the Law was sued.
It’s a defamation case.
The plaintiff (who I’m certainly not going to name here; read the order granting in part the motion to dismiss, if you’re really that curious) says that Lat named the plaintiff the “Lawyer of the Day” in a demeaning (or am I obligated to say “allegedly defamatory”) post back in 2008, and a large black man who writes regularly at Above the Law published a post titled “Rape Potpourri” in 2010 that was also allegedly defamatory.
[Note to Elie: Are you friggin’ nuts?]
[Note to readers: I know, I know. I’m supposed to link from the words “Rape Potpourri” in that last paragraph back to the original article called “Rape Potpourri” so that you can immediately satisfy your lust for salacious details. Sorry, Charlie: I don’t know enough about the law of defamation to run that risk on your behalf. But footnote 5 of the order granting in part the motion to dismiss says that the “ATL Article is no longer available on AboveTheLaw.com, but it remains available online via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at http://web.archive.org/web/20100512094544/http://abovethelaw.com/2010/05/rape-potpourri (last visited Dec. 4, 2014).” That’s all I’m doing for you today.]
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages “in an amount well in excess of $75,000 and punitive damages of $100,000,000.”
[Note to self: If it’s really possible to pry $100,000,000 out of ATL, Lat, and Mystal, I’ve been wasting my time writing articles. I should be ginning up some reason to sue these guys. Look out, Lat: I’m coming after you.]
The Complaint also sought to hold Above the Law responsible for things that you — the readers — did. The plaintiff wanted to hold Lat and Mystal (and others) liable “for publishing ‘the actionable and offensive statements'” that appeared in the comments appended to the offensive articles. (The court grants the motion to dismiss directed at that part of the complaint.)
The lawsuit also involves an allegation that some of the allegedly defamatory comments posted at a different website — Gawker — “were written by employees of the Gawker defendants, posting under aliases.”
I don’t think we do that at Above the Law. My sense is that we have enough deranged people acting independently that we don’t have to simulate deranged people posting in the comments.
I’m not even sure that I believe that allegation. Do websites really do that — post comments to their own columns under aliases to pour gas on the fire that already rages in the comments? I’m such a piker. That never would have occurred to me.
No, wait! That’s not what I meant at all!
It’s time to out myself. After all these years, I now feel that I must come clean. After every one of my columns goes up, I actually lurk around in the comments trying to generate a discussion. If you ever see commenters named “Frozt” or “Brocaine Brady” or “Concerned Pastafarian” beating the living daylights out of me (and my kids, and my grandma, and her cat), that’s actually just me writing under some of my many aliases. I’m just poking a little gentle fun at myself so that other readers will think that I occasionally take abuse in the comments.
Ha! Now I’ll feel much better when I take that abuse next week.
Finally, in my role as reporter, I’ll tell you that the court granted most of ATL’s motion to dismiss, but held that parts of Counts I, III, and V survive.
I’d say “stay tuned,” but that would probably be misleading. I suspect you’ll never be reading any other details about this lawsuit here. The ATL gang may be snide, but they’re not crazy.
So that there is no later confusion or recriminations, Herrmann was only kidding when he claimed to be “Concerned Pastafarian.” That’s me.