No Good Deed: How Jose Arcaya Ph.D. Esq. Went From Suing a Client Over A Yelp Review To Complaining About Scott Greenfield

Jose Arcaya Ph.D., Esq., Etc. is a lawyer/psychotherapist in New York. Many lawyers have to assume the role of psychotherapist; Arcaya appears to have actual qualifications.

One of those qualifications is sensitivity, apparently. A former client left a negative review on Yelp. The review primarily complained about how Arcaya treated the client:

I hired Arcaya to help with a case. I asked him at the outset if he had handled these matters before and he said yes. The ensuing performance suggests otherwise.

When I mentioned his truly pitiful performance he implied that it was my fault. When i reminded him that he was the lawyer and hired to do a professional job he made fun of my medical issues. Absolute scum.

This is America, so you know what happened next: Arcaya sued the client for defamation, representing himself pro se. He demanded the removal of the Yelp review, $80,000, and the cost of his time. The complaint is a bitter denunciation of the client and a smirking recitation of his past misfortunes. Arcaya demands satisfaction for being called "absolute scum" and for the statement that he "made fun" of his client's medical issues.

The statement that Arcaya is "absolute scum" is a classic example of insult, rhetorical hyperbole, and opinion: it can't be proved true or false. The statement that Arcaya made fun of his client could be a potentially actionable statement of fact, though ultimately that's probably a matter of opinion as well. Arcaya represented his client in an attempt to get him academic accommodations based on the client's disabilities arising from brain damage. In the course of an email dispute about fees, Arcaya said:

In your dreams. You sorted me $2000. I got just $3k for the article 78. The deal had been $5K. Memory problems.


Was it over-sensitive of the client to interpret "memory problems" as a snide reference to his disability? Maybe. The tone of Arcaya's complaint certainly suggests he's the sort of person who would indulge in such an insult. Whether over-sensitive or not, it's certainly not as freakishly over-sensitive as Arcaya suing over this Yelp review.

The client reached out to me, and I reached out to my friend Scott Greenfield. Scott wanted to try to talk Mr. Arcaya back from the precipice. That effort was unsuccessful. Rather than grasping that he was engaged in a self-destructive flirtation with the Streisand Effect, Arcaya doubled down. He subpoened Scott Greenfield for a deposition. No, really. Here's the subpoena. Challenged, he filed a bizarre rant justifying the subpoena. He spun a tale that Scott threatened him with a "gang" of thousands of internet users. It sounds like a strange person's misunderstanding of a point Scott often makes: if you act like an ass in the effort to suppress speech, the Streisand Effect will treat you unkindly.

Arcaya also offered rather comical explanations for why his claims had merit. He argued that "absolute scumbag" is not opinion:

12. Regarding the matter of whether "absolute scum bag" should be deemed defamation per se rests with the present court. Mr. Boka tTots out a series of cases indicating the word "scum" and "scum bag" do not fall in that category. However, by adding the word "total" he impugns everything about me, including character and capacity to carry-out legal work. It coincides well with the Dillon standard of defamatjon per se: a maliciously intended attack on my professional capabilities, an all encompassing put-down (i.e., "absolute scum", not just "scum bag" Or "scum"), questionable evidence supporting the denunciation (my memory quip), and outlandishly using my statement "Memory problems" completely out of context.

Arcaya appears to be an asshole, but not, I emphasize for legal purposes, a total asshole.

But Arcaya wasn't done yet. Outraged by Scott's interference, he filed a bar complaint against him. The meat of that complaint is here. Assuming that there's no "disturbing querulous screed" font, Arcaya handwrote it. Aracaya speculates that when Scott Greenfield mentioned talking to a blogger who was interested in this story, he had invented the blogger.


I wrote to Mr. Arcaya, seeking comment. I feel comfortable saying it was unrewarding for both of us. He seemed paranoid:

I can't really give any comment since the matter is in court. Would like to know, however, how this information ended up in your hands. Perhaps later we can talk/write in greater detail.

When I asked whether that was a threat, he responded:

No I don't. I wouldn't subpoenaed you, but became curious as to who informed you of this case given that it hasn't even been heard? What was their point or intention?

The intention is simple: to call out bad behavior and deter censorious thuggery.

Maybe Mr. Arcaya is a good lawyer and a good therapist. I don't know. I do know that his bizarre course of conduct here makes him someone I would never hire or recommend under any circumstances whatsoever.

I feel guilty because I got Scott into this, hoping to help the client here. But Scott's a good man, and I'm sure he'll keep helping people. He just may remember a little quicker the maxim "no good deed goes unpunished."

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Mu says

    Reminds me of the old joke: "Why do psychiatrists were white lab coats?" "So that they can be distinguished from their patients."
    Looks like the good Dr needs to spend some time on the couch with himself.

  2. Andrew says

    I feel that, based on this information, it is clear that Mr. Arcaya can be properly termed as a total, complete, absolute, one hundred percent, sheer, outright, unmitigated, full-blown scumbag.

    In my opinion, of course.

  3. says

    You'd think a doctor-lawyer would be able to accept some advice from a colleague (even if Scott Greenfield isn't also a doctor). Or at least follow simple instructions like "PLEASE PRINT LEGIBLY."

  4. ZugTheMegasaurus says

    Maybe this is crazy, but I wouldn't think that "I was pursuing what I knew to be a frivolous suit" is something you'd want to spell out in detail to a court. Particularly in a really defensive way.

  5. Dr_Mike says

    Um, I don't know, is attorney client privilege waived if my attorney sues me?

    Because putting in a court document "21. During that process more than 500 email messages were transacted between us from 4/25 – 10/13/13. (Exhibit #3, sample only of the very many)" kinda looks like an attorney violating the piss out of attorney-client privilege.

    But I'm not a lawyer, I'm just a simple cave man.

  6. ZK says

    Are you willing to post Scott's responses, particularly to the subpena? It sounds like they might be quite interesting.

  7. Wyrm says

    Your quote seems to indicate that the truth is not sufficient defense against libel.
    Let me emphasize it: "In all criminal prosecutions for libel, the truth may be given in evidence to the jury, and if it shall appear to the jury, that the matter charged as libelous is true, and was published with good motives, and for justifiable ends, the party shall be acquitted."
    The "and" implies that you need to prove your words were the truth, but also that you didn't have malicious intent.
    It seems Truth is overrated…

  8. David C says

    @Nancy: Yes, that is a check. The subpoena itself is on the next page.

    The person is not a party to the case so I think they have to pay him for mileage to the place where the deposition is held. Such things would vary from state to state.

  9. John Barleycorn says

    It shouldn't set you back all that much to have a uniform sewn up. The accessories might be a little pricy but even that is a small price to pay.

    Admiral Scott H. Greenfield
    Supreme Commander
    Atlantic Intertube Naval Fleet


    Is there gonna be a party or what?

  10. Michael says

    @sta, I was getting into the comment thread to note his signature as well.

    What the hell is an "attorney per se"? Is that the title you use when "attorney at law" is not douchey enough? Is that how you get someone to govern themselves accordingly?

    Mr. Arcaya may not be a terrible lawyer, but in my opinion, this episode reflects so poorly on his judgment that any prospective client should be extremely hesitant before signing themselves up for this potential treatment.

  11. Woff 1965 says

    Oh my God, I'm in a gang!

    I had no idea. Do I have to start calling women bitches and deal crack now.

  12. Woff 1965 says

    I have to ask, if the client had such a poor case which was totally unwinnable, why would a reputable lawyer take on the case in the first place. Does the lure of cash outweigh ethical concerns? or is there some sort of rule that a lawyer has to take on a meritless case.

  13. nk says

    Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses. Or something like that. The occasional client will complain. The crazy client will always complain. The smart lawyer will treat it like the panhandler who cusses him because he did not give him "spare change". Even acknowledging it detracts from your credibility. (Well, ok, you need to acknowledge it if he makes a formal complaint but you know what I mean.)

  14. Fasolt says

    When does the link for the "Gang of Thousands" t-shirts and polo shirts go up? I want to show my "GOT" pride.

  15. Nicholas Weaver says

    Is the story incomplete? Did Scott squash the subpoena or just walk in and basically give em hell?

  16. Dan says

    What the hell is an "attorney per se"?

    Someone who's confused "Attorney for $PARTY" (the way an attorney typically signs and captions documents) and "$PARTY pro se" (a party appearing without an attorney), with a misspelling thrown in for good measure. Assuming he's not represented by another attorney, he should be using "Plaintiff pro se". This is really among the least of his errors.

  17. Penfold says

    @NIcholas Weaver – from what I read, Arcaya apparently abandoned his attempt to depose Scott Greenfield and instead chose to pursue a grievance complaint against him.

    His complaint is, generously, inartfully crafted. I don't have time to list the plethora of obvious defects in his complaint.

  18. Nat Gertler says

    Can I say that this guy absolutely needs a proofreader? (I mean, he uses the term "tilting windmills," as if Don Quixote was going around putting all of the mills at an 80 degree angle to the ground.)

  19. Fasolt says

    Assuming he's not represented by another attorney, …

    Let's hope he's not represented by another attorney. I know I wouldn't want my name anywhere near this absolute moon-bat.

  20. paigehi says

    Nat Gertler…you mean that's not what he did? Now you're going to tell me that "ect." isn't really a good abbreviation for Latin, aren't you…

  21. Fasolt says

    Hmm. Attorney per se. I think he should use Attorney, Caveat Emptor. Or, Attorney, asinus ad lyram.

    Anyway, a word of advice to you, Jose "absolutum scum" Arcaya, vir prudens non contra ventum mingit.

  22. Jim says

    Doesn't HIPAA govern health care providers' disclosure of health information gleaned during treatment? Might not the patient have a cause of action for this sort of disclosure?

  23. says

    Well, there is the theory that people go into the various psychiatric fields to try to figure out what's wrong with themselves. It would seem that Mr. Arcaya didn't succeed. Perhaps he should ask whatever school gave him his credentials for his money back? Certainly the client he is suing should.

  24. says

    It is well known that psychiatry and psychology have very high percentages of people, with, let's be nice and say, with people who have problems. A friend and Eli were talking about this long ago, and she pointed out that the fields are magnets for people who know they have problems and are smart enough to wonder why.

  25. albert, Per Se says

    The long quotations of the characters in your posts speak volumes about them, not that I don't enjoy your commentary, I do.
    I think it might be interesting to have some psychologists analyze these statements. It's scary to me that there are folks in such positions who think like this guy. And write like this guy. And practice law. And psychotherapy.
    No, I don't think Arcaya is a scumbag, but perhaps a douchebag…..IMO, of course.

  26. Quid Faciam says

    Arcaya is an unstable and crazy dude who advises police recruits/candidates on how to get around the psych evals.

    That alone should speak reams of his suitability to practice either of the professions he lays claim to.

  27. Carl says

    "Arcaya appears to be an asshole, but not, I emphasize for legal purposes, a total asshole."

    To paraphrase Guardians of the Galaxy, I don't believe anybody is a total asshole.

    Oh wait, yes I do.

  28. Colorado Bridge Baron says

    Excuse my ignorance, but isn't it unethical for a lawyer to take and argue a case if he thinks it is frivolous?

  29. flip says

    As a psychotherapist, Arcaya sounds utterly lacking in empathy. As a lawyer he comes off as illiterate and just a little paranoid. As both, unethical.

    I sincerely hope he gets put out of both his businesses.

  30. ysth says

    I think you mean "I would *absolutely* never hire or recommend under any circumstances whatsoever."

  31. Jack says

    "My complaint about Boka was his unfair characterization of my lawyerly skills" – I genuinely hope that quote lives in infamy to haunt the descendants of Arcaya for generations to come.

    And a serious question: as a technicality, does the NY Bar ignore anything below the signature line if the author forgets to draw an arrow from the last line to the commentary below?

  32. Dion Starfire says

    Arcaya's justification of the subpoena contains many grammatical mistakes, some of which are ambiguous. Is that common for this sort of document? How do judges handle this sort of thing (when the text as written is unintelligible, and could be interpreted different ways)?

    Here's just a few of the examples I found (exact wording from the document):
    "charges me making fun of …"
    "I should argued"
    "has actually helped rather diminished"

  33. Average Joe says

    No trigger warning for feminists? Arcaya's supporting affidavit says that Judge Rakower ruled against his client because of being "the bright woman that she is."

  34. Flipwilson says

    "I congratulate the ovary having person for having the good sense to rule against my position and client, the latter of whom I despise and used only for his money."

  35. andrews says

    if it shall appear to the jury,
    that the matter charged as libelous is
    true, and was published with good motives,
    and for justifiable ends, the party
    shall be acquitted.

    It would seem to me a much better arrangement to require that defamation claims, either civil or criminal, should require a false statement as an essential element. Making truth a defense shifts the burden and that alone could be fairly chilling.

  36. Colorado Bridge Baron says

    Elements of NY Defamation Law:

    a false statement;
    published to a third party without privilege or authorization;
    with fault amounting to at least negligence ;
    that caused special harm or defamation per se.

    Falsity is required. Opinions cannot be true or false, so you can't sue and claim that an opinion defamed you. Dillon v. City of NY, 261 A.D.2d 34, 704 N.Y.S.2d 1, 704 N.Y.S. (App. Div. 1999). If Arcaya had been accused of snorting coke off the counsel table, he might have a case, assuming he wasn't snorting coke off the counsel table.