Act One is tragedy, Act Two is farce. In Act Three the foul vultures descend, smacking their beaks.
Today's vultures are Torrance Brown Jr. and his attorney, Donald Karpel.
Mr. Brown was present at the horrific Aurora theater shooting last Friday. His friend was killed, but he was not injured. His experience was undoubtedly life-changing and awful.
But not content to survive, Mr. Brown has hired Beverly Hills attorney Donal Karpel to threaten to sue various defendants, including (1) the theater, for not guarding and alarming the emergency exit doors the shooter allegedly used, (2) the shooter's doctors, for not adequately controlling the shooter, and (3) Warner Brothers, for making a movie with violence in it. Karpel said to TMZ:
Karpel says "Dark Knight Rises" was particularly violent and Holmes mimicked some of the action. The attorney says theater goers were helpless because they thought the shooter was part of the movie. Karpel tells TMZ, "Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today."
I recognize that I open myself up to criticism by using TMZ as a source. I can only say, in response that (1) though the story is breaking elsewhere, TMZ appears to be the primary source, (2) Mr. Karpel is the sort of lawyer, and Mr. Brown the sort of client, to give TMZ a statement about a contemplated lawsuit, which is relevant to determining their character and the quality of their legal theories, and (3) TMZ seems like one of the better resources for stories about Karpel anyway.
Leaving aside Karpel's and Brown's theory of liability against doctors is a fairly straightforward Tarasoff duty argument; their argument against the theater is similarly unimaginative (though it's a classic case of a double-edged-sword liability theory that, if accepted, could increase risk — anything that makes it harder to use an emergency exit quite likely poses more of a risk than failure to guard an emergency exit from the rare crazed gunman).
But Karpel's and Brown's theory of liability against Warner Brothers, as explained by Karpel to a tabloid, is pandering, unprincipled, censorious, and verminous. Every time this nation faces a tragedy, vile opportunists crawl out from beneath their oily rocks to urge censorship of expression. Sometimes it's music, sometimes it's video games, sometimes it's movies, sometimes it's political rhetoric — but the vapid messages are always the same. "Somebody [meaning my personal hobgoblin, hated by my target audience] has to be held accountable." "Think of the children!" "How much longer will we let this continue!"
If we restrict expression — whether it is movies or television or comic books or music or games — because of what some maniac might do when exposed to it, then no expression is safe. There is no theory compliant with the First Amendment — or with fundamental American values — under which Warner Brothers may be sued for the Aurora shooting because they produced this film. The only reason to do it is tawdry attention-seeking and mere thuggery. Brown should have our sympathy for enduring such a terrible event, but should also have the open contempt of his peers for engaging an attorney to indulge in such behavior. And Karpel deserves to be regarded as the worst sort of bottom-feeder.
In fact, I put it to you that Torrance Brown Jr. and Donald Karpel are responsible for rampant violence in America. Why? Well, their actions convey to potential mass killers across America that if they engage in a brutal assault, their story will not only be told, it will be prolonged and re-told and hyped by opportunists. This encourages the deranged lone gunmen.
Does that theory of responsibility sound far-fetched, even bizarre? Sure. It is. But it's just as credible as Brown's and Karpel's theory of liability against Warner Brothers. And, as Karpel says, somebody has to be held responsible.
(Hat tip to tipster Peter)
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- A Response To Marc: Institutions, Agendas, and the "Culture War" - January 13th, 2016
- Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization - January 11th, 2016
- Lawsplainer: Was FAU Prof. James Tracy Fired in Violation of His First Amendment Rights? - January 7th, 2016
- Defy, Defy, Defy. - January 7th, 2016
- President Obama And The Rhetoric Of Rights - January 5th, 2016