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

January 6, 2013

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.

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