Gleeful Troll Todd Kincannon Files First Amendment Suit Against South Carolina Attorney Authorities

Todd Kincannon is a performance artist working in the medium of outrage — his own, and that of easily gulled critics. Surely you've heard of him. Perhaps you noticed him the time he got Salon in a tizzy over his obnoxious tweets about Wendy Davis, or the time he agitated the Huffington Post with his grotesque tweets about Trayvon Martin, or the time he enraged Daily Kos (and, for that matter, nearly everyone else) by saying transgendered people should be put in camps. Todd Kincannon would like to be Ann Coulter if he grows up, but lacks the subtle charm. Like Coulter — or like a dilatory burglar who only robs the homes of people who leave their doors unlocked — Kincannon relies on people agreeing to be outraged by someone whose purpose is outraging them for lulz, political advantage, and profit.

Now Kincannon, an attorney, claims he is being censored by South Carolina attorney discipline authorities. He's filed what I will very generously describe as a federal lawsuit over it.

Kincannon announced the lawsuit in an email to people who had pre-purchased his upcoming book entitled "Useless Idiots: The Proper Care and Feeding of Liberals." Apparently it's a think piece. Anyway, in his email, Kincannon (in addition to explicitly suggesting "talking points" to his readers) asserts that South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct and the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel have been investigating him for two years because of his speech on social and political issues. And he says it's gotten worse:

The reason for my silence about this matter until now is that I truly thought they would come to their senses about all of this. In fact, they indicated to me more than once that they would not punish me for political or religious commentary that was not to their liking, after initially demanding that I stop saying anything offensive on Twitter. (That was why I briefly stopped using profanity on Twitter in late 2012, in case you were wondering what that was all about.)

However, in early June, just as I was preparing to send out my book, I received an unexpected notice from the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel that the investigation was going to continue because of comments I made on Twitter regarding a left wing political activist named Col. Morris Davis, a frequent guest on MSNBC. (I have no indication that Col. Davis has anything to do with this—it appears a supporter of his filed a bar complaint on me, the seventh or eighth complaint filed on me in recent times.)

I've confirmed through PACER that Kincannon has, in fact, filed a federal lawsuit in the District of South Carolina. He's sued the South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct and the South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel, as well as individuals apparently associated with the investigation of him.

The complaint does not read like the work of a lawyer, at least not a competent one. It reads like a press release or a blog post, or perhaps the work of a federal prisoner. It doesn't have any of the elements you would expect in a complaint, like jurisdictional allegations or clear causes of action or even specific identification of the parties. Moreover, the complaint is very conspicuously vague; it does not say with any specificity which disciplinary authorities said exactly what, or when. I recognize it is fashionable to say that legalese is bad and plain speech is good, but there are things you ought to put in your complaint if you don't want it dismissed and you want it to be taken seriously. Todd Kincannon likes to call himself "the Honey Badger of politics," thus bolstering his reputation by reference to an internet meme briefly popular in 2011, after Sad Keanu but before that awful "Call Me Maybe" thing. But though you can go through life like Honey Badger not giving a shit, you can't litigate in federal court that way.

One line suggests that Kincannon might have been rushed to file the lawsuit because he thinks the statute of limitations is running out, and that he will amend the complaint. Nevertheless, it's not something I would file under my name in any court. It's the sort of thing I'd expect from, say, Crystal Cox.

Have South Carolina attorney discipline authorities actually attempted to censor Todd Kincannon's political speech? I don't know. His odd vagueness makes me skeptical. I would expect any First Amendment complaint to include specific details, like quotes from the threatening communications. But there's no question that state bar authorities across America have attempted to use the disciplinary system to censor speech. State bars have gone after lawyers based on claims that their blog posts constituted regulated advertising, pursued lawyers for criticizing judges in private emails or in public, and attempted to bar attorney advertising entirely. It would not surprise me to learn that authorities misused their power to limit speech they don't like. That's what authorities do. But if Kincannon wants to convince anyone but his sycophants — let alone survive a motion to dismiss — he's going to have to be much more specific.

Todd Kincannon doesn't strike me as a particularly convincing free speech hero. He's the sort who blusters that a soldier who voices an incorrect views about war ought to come home in a body bag. But we rarely need the First Amendment to protect likeable people saying nice things. We need it to protect unlikable assholes, like Kinncannon. If South Carolina authorities have tried to silence him by threatening to discipline him for his speech, I hope that he kicks their asses. His trolling is clearly protected by the First Amendment. It's not a close call.

But for pity's sake stop feeding him.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. trebuchet says

    Off-topic, but this post is displaying in a format utterly unlike the usual. Full screen width for the text and no graphics. Chrome browser on Win 7. I've reloaded it a couple of times, it's consistent.

    ETA: Now that my post comes up, the appearance is normal.

  2. Tom says

    Wow. That doesn't even look like the work of a competent jailhouse lawyer. They'd at least invoke the court's jurisdiction at some point.

    Also, this is among the funniest things I've ever seen in a document allegedly drafted by a lawyer:

    [signed, J. Todd Kincannon]
    Attorney for Plaintiff [J. Todd Kincannon] (Appearing Pro Se)

  3. Dave says

    "offends someone bad enough"? I don't care if this is some sort of first draft or "placeholder" suit. I wouldn't let him draw up a will for my cat (and I don't even own a cat).

  4. Chris says

    Nice piece about a true douche, but I think you mean "indolent" where you have "dilatory".

  5. Fasolt says

    @trebuchet:
    I'm seeing the same thing with Chrome and Firefox. Posting up to see if it reverts back to normal for me like it did for you.

  6. ZarroTsu says

    Kincannon, Kincannon, Kincannon, Kincannon
    Argh! Snake, a snake!
    Snaaake! A snaaaake, oooh its a snake!

  7. says

    I don't want to out myself as an enemy of the first amendment or anything, but I'm not actually sure that allowing attorneys to advertise has improved the practice of law.

  8. says

    It's been a few weeks since Todd tweeted anything. I guess he was too busy putting together this complaint to go on the interwebz and be stupid.

  9. Connie says

    Reading the complaint came across as the equivalent of someone saying 'They're being mean to me' and sulking over his book rather than documenting specific instances and providing valid exaples.

  10. Nancy says

    Partway through the complaint I remembered the quote, "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client."

  11. Sarah says

    I'm no fan of Kincannon but I am a big fan of the 1st Amendment along with the rest of the bill of rights. We are allowed to have political and social opinions that offend others. I really don't see a lot of difference between Todd and the average progressive… except that Kincannon actually supports the rights of all people to hold opinions that are offensive without being punished by the government.

  12. Trent says

    The new site theme thing is random, it comes and goes. It's been happening to me for about a week. For example I get it if I go in the top post, but not the second. I'm not sure if they are beta testing a new site or if this is accidental script injection on the part of wordpress. Either way it's definitely just another theme on top of wordpress as most of the same info is still there. It would be interesting if Ken commented on whether this is intentional on their part, that is if he's even aware it's happening.

  13. Resolute says

    How much does it cost to file the paperwork to start such a case? Probably the cheapest, easiest means of promoting his book he could find. And it will no doubt resonate well with his target audience.

  14. CJK Fossman says

    @sarah

    Kincannon actually supports the rights of all people to hold opinions that are offensive without being punished by the government.

    How you can write that after reading about his body bag statement?

    What are you thinking?

  15. says

    Todd Kincannon is indeed an idiot. But writers in publications like Salon who wax indignant had little to say when Sarah Palin was regularly pelted with obscene and misogynistic comments, included references to her "retard" children. Indeed, they cheered. I'm not impressed with their feminist ethics.

  16. Anonymous Coward says

    Performance artist? You're too generous. He's just a troll. Don't feed the trolls.

  17. L says

    "But writers in publications like Salon who wax indignant had little to say when Sarah Palin was regularly pelted with obscene and misogynistic comments, included references to her "retard" children. Indeed, they cheered."

    Citation?

  18. Arthur Kirkland says

    Mr. Kincannon (who claims to have been a Law Review member at South Carolina, which if true indicates South Carolina's law school possesses no legitimate reason to exist) asserts that his income from awesome law-talking dudery already exceeds $1 million this year and is expected to reach $3 million.

    Which should be more amusing: (1) the discovery regarding this point, or (2) the inquiries from the Internal Revenue Service if someone alerts the revenuers to Mr. Kincannon's income claims?

  19. Liz says

    And here I thought the complaint would be about him sending pictures of his junk to random women he met on Twitter (note: he was engaged at the time, now he is married). I guess the bar association has no comment about him distributing dick pictures but his crude and insulting comments warrant investigation.

  20. Niall says

    @Arthur Kirkland: I saw that, but my thought was more that it seemed to have no merit in such a filing, unless having a "lucrative" law office somehow made the threat of loss of income more important than that of a less lucrative firm, whose actual existence would then be in peril, making the threat more important in this case, so Boom Goes The Logic. Plus, having a lucrative law office has zero connection to having a good practice; that's just false implication.

  21. Canuckamuk says

    Liz July 22, 2014 at 4:18 am
    And here I thought the complaint would be about him sending pictures of his junk to random women he met on Twitter

    A little research would find that this was discredited long again as a smear done by left wnger on Twitter trying to shut him up. Google Jason Wade Taylor AKA Randy Hahn for classic creepiness

    Even if the man does take his shtick to the nth degree, I thought free speech was one of the U.S. great principles?

    The cheering in the comments section here for coordinated attacks having his twitter accounts banned multiple times; multiple frivolous complaints to the Bar to jeopardize his ability to earn a living; as well as book banning seems to prove numerous of Kincannon points that there is a discriminatory posture when it comes to liberal\conservatives and free speech.

    And for L, a citation example – http://www.politico.com/story/2013/06/sarah-palin-bill-maher-trig-comment-92706.html