In Which A London Solicitor Threatens Me
Late last week I learned of the case of Lesley Kemp. Ms. Kemp transcribes recordings. Ms. Kemp accepted a job from Qatar-based Resolution Productions. Ms. Kemp claims that she experienced delays in payment for her services and that Resolution's Managing Director, Mr. Kirby Kearns, made excuses. She wrote posts on Twitter about this experience, and later reported on Twitter when she was paid. She was quite shocked — understandably — when Kirby Kearns, through his solicitor Barjinder Sahota of Sahota Solicitors, sued her for libel in England. England's Libel Reform Campaign is supporting her, a donation page has been set up to assist her with costs, and top-notch attorneys are defending pro bono.
This sort of thing is relevant to my interests, and I decided to write to Resolution Productions seeking comment.
Dear Resolution Productions,
I am an attorney in Los Angeles, California and a writer on legal issues including free speech, legal threats, and abuse of the legal system. In that capacity, at my blog www.popehat.com, I often write about lawsuits calculated to chill speech, about threats directed at internet speech, and about the Streisand Effect and how it impacts legal threats.
I am investigating your lawsuit against Lesley Kemp, described here: http://www.libelreform.org/news/540-transcriber-libel-case, in preparation for writing about it and encouraging others to write about it and donate to Ms. Kemp's defense.
Would anyone with your business be willing to comment on the case, its merits, or Resolution Production's position for this story?
Thanks very much,
Early this morning I received the following response. All emphasis is in the original.
Dear Mr White,
PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION:
ACTIVE CASE: HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE (UK), QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION.
Claim number HQ12D05081 Mr Kirby Kearns and Mrs Lesley Kemp
I act for Mr Kirby Kearns, the Claimant in the above libel action and am responding to the email you sent to a company of which he is a Director – the company is not a party to the action.
As you will no doubt appreciate this case is the subject of ongoing and active litigation which will be determined judicially in a fair and proper manner in a court of law in England. We refuse to take part in any 'kangaroo court style media circus' that has being created by various groups.
You are expressly refused consent to publish any material that defames our client's good name. Our client reserves all his legal rights and remedies including commencing legal proceedings against yourselves as and when appropriate, should you take part in, or otherwise encourage, the continuing online vilification of our client. You are asked to resist and desist.
As an Attorney yourself you will know the implications of the above.
Once a proper court has adjudicated and reached a reasoned judgement based on the facts and the law, then, we will be more than happy to discuss the case with you – but until then our client declines all consents and issues due warning to you, via us, to resist and desist publication of any material, or the repetition of the same, that defames our client directly or by inference.
Solicitor-Advocate (Higher Courts, Civil)
[address omitted by Ken]
London WC2R 1AT
[phone numbers omitted by Ken]
Mr Sahota is a member of the Law Society of England and Wales (No.146085) and our practice is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority ('Sahota Solicitors' No. 74569) – we strive to be effective and professional, if you have any comments or questions please contact Mr Sahota in the first instance.
Unless otherwise requested please respond by email.
THIS EMAIL IS CONFIDENTIAL, IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED IT IN ERROR PLEASE NOTIFY US AND DELETE FROM YOUR SYSTEM. THANKYOU.
I decided to respond.
Dear Mr. Sahota,
What a pleasure to be threatened by you, and to meet you, in that order.
Mr. Sahota, I help clients respond to legal threats for a living, and write about defamation threats as a hobby. I am therefore quite familiar with them, almost to the point of tedium. Your pompous yet feckless bluster distinguishes you. Well done!
It is my experience, Mr. Sahota, that the more extravagant the threats, the less merit cringes behind them, and the more mewling and milky the moral character that spurs their utterance. Your tirade arouses my suspicions further and redoubles my determination to investigate and write about your client's case against Ms. Kemp. Even the modest exercise of diligence, good judgment, or professional competence on your part would have suggested this would be the result of your threats. I wonder whether, before you sent your letter, you advised your client of its natural and probable effect.
As a preliminary matter I reject your pretenses to the confidentiality of your communication. You have threatened me with suit if I write about a legal proceeding of public interest. You have no basis to demand that I keep such a threat confidential, and I will not do so. Rather, I will publish it, and this response, to help readers assess your client's case.
Moreover, I reject your threat. I write about defamation cases, legal threats, and abuses of legal process, and I will continue to do so, whether you threaten me or not. You reside in a great nation with a contemptible libel law — one that has made you notorious haven for libel tourists, a breed of privileged thugs who believe their money should protect them from criticism. Reform movements give me hope that situation will change. But for now, Mr. Sahota, I do not live in a haunt for libel tourists. Rather, I live in a country that has taken specific steps to thwart them. As I have written before (http://www.popehat.com/2010/08/27/speech-act-a-bulwark-against-buffoonish-brits/), the SPEECH Act is a shield that prevents enforcement of your unprincipled libel judgments here in America. If you seek to silence me through abusive suit in England, no judgment you secure will be enforceable here. If you seek to harass me in the United States, our vigorous protections for free speech will thwart you. One of my favorite hobbies is seeking pro bono assistance for frivolously threatened bloggers here (http://www.popehat.com/tag/popehat-signal/). I suspect that, should you attempt to silence me through abuse of the United States legal system, I will not have the least difficulty in securing effective representation in any jurisdiction you might select. I have, myself, had some success with anti-SLAPP motions; you might want to research them.
You believe that you and your client are entitled to select the sole venue in which Mr. Kirby Kearns' claims are evaluated. You, Mr. Sahota, are mistaken. Of course you deride public examination of your suit as a "kangaroo court style media circus." You have chosen a venue that favors the strong against the weak, the bully against the victim, the rich against the poor, and you seek to maintain that sole advantage. You will not do so, sir. I commit to researching your client's case, and the circumstances that led to it, and publishing every true fact and relevant document about it. What you call a "kangaroo court" others regard as the right of free people to educate themselves, evaluate behavior, and speak their minds. Your client is not entitled to have his reputation protected from the consequences of his own behavior.
I strive to discover true facts and to write only accurate statements about the case. I will always be willing to hear and evaluate claims and evidence suggesting what those true facts are. If you ever believe that I have reported anything incorrectly, I request that you let me know immediately, so that I can assess your claim and if appropriate make a correction.
But you do not intimidate me, sir. In threatening me you have made an error in judgment.
Very truly yours,
I will let you know if I receive a response. I will also research the case and write about it. In the meantime, follow the links at the start of the post to educate yourself about the case, and consider a modest donation to defray Ms. Kemp's court costs.
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