Joseph Rakofsky and Matthew H. Goldsmith: When “Keeping It Real” Goes Wrong

You may remember Joseph Rakofsky. In 2011, a D.C. Superior Court said his trial “performance was not up to par under any reasonable standard of competence under the Sixth Amendment” while defending a man accused of murder, and declared a mistrial. This was particularly notable because it was Rakofsky’s first trial. Not just his first murder trial, but his first trial. The court also had ethical concerns about an email Rakofsky wrote to a private investigator instructing him to “trick” a witness. Rakofsky’s blunders were picked up and written about by the Washington Post.

The legal blogosphere was intrigued. What kind of young lawyer would take on a murder case as their first trial? Soon they would find out.

Amazingly, it turns out Rakofsky had declared a personal victory in the trial on his Facebook page:

rakofskyfbstatus

The legal blogosphere did some more investigating and found it got worse. Much worse. Despite being licensed for only a very short period of time and in New Jersey only, Rakofsky held out that he had offices in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and Connecticut. His letterhead even listed offices where he is not licensed to practice.

Rakofsky described his law firm:

My name is Joseph Rakofsky, and I founded this firm on a commitment to set the standard for criminal defense in New York City. When you need an experienced attorney to make sure your rights are protected, no one will fight more aggressively on your behalf than we will. We have an extensive and intricate understanding of legal procedures and loopholes, as well as federal and state trial experience, especially in all areas of white collar crime including: * Embezzlement * Tax Evasion * Identity Theft * Securities & Bank Fraud * Grand Larceny * Drug Trafficking

Not only is Rakofsky unlicensed to practice in New York, but that is pretty ambitious for someone who had been licensed for such a short period of time. It seemed like at every turn, the story got worse and worse.

At this point, Rakofsky had a choice to make. He could take his licks and learn from it, and move on with some hard earned experience and perhaps a little humility.

He could have done that, but instead Joseph Rakofsky decided to keep it real.

First, Rakofsky sued 78 defendants in a New York state court in a suit aptly dubbed “Rakofsky v. The Internet.” Then when bloggers blogged about his SLAPP suit, he decided to add them in by filing an Amended Complaint. Rakofsky’s Amended Complaint weighed in at 82 pages with 218 paragraphs.

What, exactly, is the theory of Rakofsky’s defamation case?

  • There was no “mistrial” – the judge slandered Rakofsky from the bench after he voluntarily withdrew from the case due to a conflict with his client. Not only is this downright silly (and an outright lie), it’s also contradicted by Rakofsky’s own Facebook page declaring “MISTRIAL!”. It’s further, shall we say, problamatic because the judge said he granted a motion for a new trial based on Rakofsky’s incompetence three times:

    it was apparent to the Court that there was not a good grasp of legal principles and legal procedure of what was admissible and what was not admissible that iured, I think, to the detriment of [Rakofsky's client]. And had there been – If there had been a conviction in this case, based on what I had seen so far, I would have granted a motion for a new trial under 23.110.  I would find that there are based on my observation of the conduct of the trial manifest necessity. I believe that the performance was below what any reasonable person could expect in a murder trial.

    So I am going to grant Mr. Deaner’s request for new counsel. 

    Alternatively, I would find that they are based on my observation of the conduct of the t al manifest necessity. I believe that the performance was below what any reasonable person could expect in a murder trial.

    So I’m going to grant the motion for new trial. 

    I believe that, based on my observations and, as I said, not just the fact that lead trial had not tried a case before; any case. It wasn’t his first murder trial, it was his first trial. As I said, it became readily apparent that the performance was not up to par under any reasonable standard of competence under the Sixth Amendment.

    So I’m going to grant the motion.

  • Why would the judge say such mean things about Rakofsky on the record? According to Rakofsky:

    [Judge Jackson's] anger may have been prompted by the diligence and zeal with which Mr. Rakofsky conducted his defense in the interest of the client as much as anything else, rather than any shortcoming in defense counsels’ knowledge of court procedure. (p.16)

    Rakofsky contends that the Judge was embarassed he was “out-thought by a first-time trial lawyer who just graduated from law school and was just sworn in. What might a judge do in those circumstances? Perhaps what Judge Jackson did.” P. 67.”[Rakofsky] was guilty, if of anything, of over-competence, as Judge Jackson discovered and, having discovered it, sought to take him down.” (p. 52)

  • Rakofsky also claims he didn’t write an email asking a private investigator to “trick” a witness, at one point even calling it a forgery (P. 23, 26 of Rakofsky Affidavit), but later admits in the same affidavit that he authored the “trick email” but now contends it was taken out of context. (P. 42, 44 of Rakofsky Affidavit). So he didn’t write that email, but he did.

Okay…

So what do you do with such terrible facts, contradicted by your own words and a trial transcript?

Simple. You demand $5000 from each defendant, otherwise Rakofsky will keep it real.

When that cunning plan failed, keep it real he did. During the litigation, Rakofsky:

This suit has lingered on the docket for almost two years and there has never been a determination on the merits. Rakofsky now wants to amend his complaint a second time, further delaying the court from making a decision. Endless amendments to avoid ever having to determine the case on the merits, while making your opponent spend money and waste time, has come to be known as “The Rakofsky Effect.”

Fairly recently, Rakofsky decided to retain counsel, Matthew H. Goldsmith of “Goldsmith & Associates, PLLC.” Did Goldsmith tell him this is a bad idea? That maybe he should back down, and reconsider his course?

Would the it all stop?

No. Goldsmith and Rakofsky decided to keep it real. Goldsmith showed up to oral argument and actually argued Rakofsky’s case before the judge. This is what the court said about Rakofsky’s claims (click to make it bigger):

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(Entire transcript found here)

The court in no uncertain terms asked them to withdraw the silly lawsuit, otherwise there could be consequences. And not just consequences with the court in the form of sanctions, but additional scrutiny from “other agencies.”

Keep in mind that the judge has not even addressed any other Rakofsky’s other shenanigans. Yet…

So at that point, was it time to turn around and retreat? Learn his lesson and move on?

No. Rakofsky and Goldsmith couldn’t do that. They were determined to keep it real.

On July 1, 2012, Rakofsky (not his lawyer, Matthew Goldsmith) wrote Justice Hagler a letter explaining why the Justice is wrong:

View this document on Scribd

But this is where keeping it real goes wrong.

The American Bar Association has moved for sanctions against both Rakofsky and his attorney, Matthew H. Goldsmith to the tune of $30,000.00. Marc Randazza’s group has also moved for sanctions to the tune of $94,000.00. I suspect most of the other defendants will do the same.

Goldsmith filed a reply (actually signed by Goldsmith and not “written by Joseph Rakofsky”) that argues it wasn’t filed “in bad faith” and the defendants are asking for too heavy a demand in sanctions.

Today, Joseph Rakofsky and his lawyer Matthew H. Goldsmith are looking at hundreds and thousands of dollars in sanctions and legal fees, in addition to scrutiny from “other agencies.” All of the blog posts about Rakofsky remain on the internet, and more have been written since he filed this frivolous lawsuit and continued to maintain it. The court may also decide to scrutinize Rakofsky’s other shenanigans a little more closely.

It’s as real as it can be.

Joseph Rakofsky and Matthew Goldsmith, formerly young lawyers with careers ahead of them. Today sparkling examples of when keeping it real goes wrong.

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12 Responses to Joseph Rakofsky and Matthew H. Goldsmith: When “Keeping It Real” Goes Wrong

  1. MarkL says:

    I was a bit shocked to see on p64 of the transcript that in two years none of the applicable Ethics Committees have contacted Mr. Rakofsky.

    • My guess is they are waiting for an adjudication on the merits. Any potential discipline would be premature at this point. As an NJ attorney, I suspect they will take action on this one.

      • MarkL says:

        But the DC Bar? Wouldn’t the judge have sent that transcript over? Wouldn’t someone have picked up a copy of the paper with the news article? It’s not just the Deaner case – he also advertised for work in DC. The DC bar goes after contract attorneys who aren’t specifically licensed in the city. I can’t imagine they’re ok with non-lawyers trolling for criminal cases.

        I’ve reached out to the DC bar (where I am a member). Hopefully they take some action soon and protect the citizens of the District.

  2. shg says:

    The only bar association with current jurisdiction over Rakofsky is New Jersey, as that’s the only state where he’s admitted. To D.C., the sole question is the unauthorized practice of law, as a they have no say over an unadmitted lawyer.

    In NY, his admission has been pending for a long time. He passed the NY bar before this started, but apparently has had some problems with approval of his character and fitness.

    As for NJ, the problem is that none of this happened within that state, and they may have no interest in pursuing things he did in other states. In other words, this may well slip through the cracks as far as NJ is concerned, and it’s the only state in which he’s admitted.

  3. Jay says:

    Was this letter even sent to opposing counsel? Normally, I would think a lawyer would know better than to send an ex parte letter on the merits of a case to the judge. But then again, I would think a lawyer would know better than to send the letter in the first place.

    Do you think Rakofsky has realized yet that if he just had let this go and didn’t file suit, time would have moved it from the internet’s mind and people would have forgotten about it by now? He could be building a small practice in New Jersey with almost 2 years of extra experience. Instead, he’s still pissing on electric fences.

  4. This story seemed far-felched at first, but after some research it behooves me to pony up to the fact that my neighsaying was premature. If these two young attorneys don’t cease their mulish determination to file tarrants of frivolous lawsuits it’s going to wind up costing them a lot of hay.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What a letter. What an idiot. Judge was basically given the lawyer one huge assed hint to drop the Neg claim. So, out he goes to find cases … but there are none in the state of NY. And yet, a young inexperienced lawyer then says in essence, hey judge if YOU THE COURT want me to dismiss those charges, that may work.

    Idiot. Now it’s too late, the motion for sanctions has been filed, and it’s too late to dismiss the neg claims. 6 months too late.

    This is an example of a guy reading law books and sitting around a starbucks talking law. Your neg case is a loser, and the judge basically told you that.

    Reading the tscript it looks like the defamation counts have some shot of surviving at least some of the MTD’s. maybe.

    but no, you want to make new law on a case of first impression here?

    Man, you have decades of learning ahead of you. if you survive

  6. [...] neighborhood and publish the Philly Law Blog.  If you haven’t read their synopsis of the procedural posture of that peculiar method of attorney career suicide that attorney Scott Greenfield of New York named [...]

  7. […] Rakofsky, Esq. The Philly Law Blog has a really thorough and engaging write-up about his case HERE, but the gist is this: Joe Rakofsky graduated from law school in 2009, passed the bar, and very […]

  8. tom killeen says:

    he is trying to receive goods on eBay without paying. his poor little brain came up with the grand plan to leave me negative feedback, which he did. taking such delight in his conquest of ripping off a person on disability. only thing he is committed to is his lack of character.

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