A big round of applause for Marc Randazza and Eric Turkewitz – the attorneys who defended 33 bloggers accused of defaming Joseph Rakofsky. Yesterday the New York Supreme Court dismissed Rakofsky’s ridiculously stupid lawsuit for a number of reasons. A bunch of other talented attorneys also defended the case, including John H. Teschner and David Brickman. (Teschner is too cool for a lawyer website.) Kudos to them, too.
Of course, another huge round of applause for bloggers Scott Greenfield, Brian Tannebaum, Carolyn Elefant, Canada’s Antonin Pribetic, George Wallace, Jeff Gamso, Mark Bennett, Above the Law, Philadelphia’s own Maxwell Steed Kennerly, Mirriam Seddiq, Eric Mayer, Jamie Koehler, bannination.com, and others who chose to fight this silly lawsuit instead of paying Rakofsky $5000 and saying they’re sorry like, say, Lori Palmeri did. By fighting the case instead of paying a settlement because such a thing would be convenient, the bloggers put their personal lives on the line when push came to shove in defense of the First Amendment.
It’s always nice to see that integrity still matters to some.
So… what happened? The court dismissed the case but did not sanction Rakofsky. In dismissing the case, the court found that:
Rakofsky does not deny Judge Jackson made several comments that he was not competent and too inexperienced to provide a proper defense to Deaner in a murder trial. In fact, during the trial, Judge Jackson had two side-bar discussions with Deaner pointedly inquiring whether he was satisfied with Rakofsky’s competence and lack of trial experience. The gravamen of Rakofsky’s argument is that there was no causal connection between the mistrial.and his competence and inexperience.
The clear import of Judge Jackson’s rulings was to excuse Rakofsky due to his lack of competence and inexperience to defend Deaner in a murder trial. It is acknowledged that the Deaner murder trial was Rakofsky’s first trial in a foreign jurisdiction and with which he was totally unfamiliar, and Judge Jackson was vigilant in protecting Deaner’s right to effective assistance of counsel. Significantly, the reported fact that Judge Jackson declared a mistrial in the Deaner case was not defamatory because even Rakofsky initially celebrated the mistrial as a positive development in his career. In other words, defendants’ report that a mistrial occurred does not constitute defamation.
Like Scott Greenfield, I was initially a bit underwhelmed by the court’s decision not to impose sanctions. Scott wrote that:
the notoriety of this matter, from its inception to the litigation, offered enormous opportunity for a court, a judge, to explain to a new generation of young lawyers, digital natives who see what was once a learned and honorable profession devolve into the gutter of deceit for their own self-interest, and who will use the courts to burden, if not shut down, criticism of their ways, that the law will not tolerate them.
But Greenfield goes on:
Yes, Rakofsky burdened the defendants with the expense of having to defend against his gazillion allegations, and except for the handful of defendants who lacked the fortitude to put integrity ahead of convenience, the rest of us were prepared to suffer the cost and annoyance because integrity matters. And so the defendants won.
Maybe, just maybe, the court determined that Rakofsky had sanctioned himself far worse than a judge could.
The big question is this – is Rakofsky any better off now than he was now that fateful day in April 1, 2011, when the Washington Post published it’s story saying “D.C. Superior Court judge declares mistrial over attorney’s competence in murder case”?
Did his lawsuit do anything except attract more negative attention to himself?
Well, remember Marc Randazza’s brilliant Motion to Dismiss? Marc argued:
This case has been dubbed “Rakofsky v. The Internet” by the media and has grabbed headlines nationwide, launching a flood of Internet memes. The absurdity of this case is the stuff of permanent legend, and it is certain to take its place in history as the butt of lawyer jokes and tales mocking the American legal system.
Two years after filing suit, in addition to all his earlier notoriety associated with the Deaner mistrial, Rakofsky will now forever be known as the young lawyer who sued the internet and lost. While the Deaner trial would have been all but forgotten by this point, Rakofsky v. The Internet will remain infamous for many, many years to come.
The score: The Internet: 1, Rakofsky -2.
Great job, Joseph.
I am very sorry that the Streisand Effect rained on your parade.