Cynicism And Taking Clients Seriously

Let me tell you a story about taking clients seriously.

Years ago I had a young client who got into a summer program at Big Prestigious University, or BPU. The Client didn't go to BPU — he went to a community college, but was accepted by an on-campus summer program at BPU.

Client got arrested for having a gun and a bag of serious drugs in his dorm room at BPU. He was turned in by his roommate, a full-time BPU student, who found the gun and the drugs. Having a gun on any sort of campus is a very serious crime in California, and the DA was in the middle of a safe-schools kick, and Client was looking at hard time and a bad record.

Client swore to me the gun and drugs found in his dorm-room dresser weren't his. He said that someone — perhaps his roommate? — must have planted them. Sure, I thought. A BPU student acquired a gun and hard drugs and decided to use them to frame some rando — a rando who was, perhaps, not completely unfamiliar with drug culture. That makes perfect sense. Nothing in the evidence the DA turned over suggested any motive for the roommate to do any such thing. I was deeply skeptical, and planning for a very grim set of choices.

But Client's family had money, so I hired an investigator and had the investigator look into the roommate. Would I have found a way to acquire public money for an investigator if the Client hadn't had money? Good question.

Guess what the investigator found?

Turns out the roommate was fresh back at BPU after a stint in state prison. Roommate went to state prison because he had been stealing stuff — laptops, phones, and so forth — from classmates at BPU. When roommate was caught, he attempted to pin the thefts on friends, and when that failed blamed mental illness. He was currently on probation, and was having some trouble with his probation officer — and might be trying to curry favor.

No, BPU didn't warn Client that he was rooming with a recently released felon with a record of falsely implicating others in crimes and a pattern of blaming mental illness for his conduct against fellow students.

By the way, the same mid-sized DA's office that was prosecuting Client had recently prosecuted the roommate — and had withheld any information about the roommate's recent criminal activity, as had BPU in my discussions with them.

I subpoenaed roommate to the preliminary hearing and told the DA I was going to interrogate him. The roommate appeared, looking terrified. General counsel for BPU appeared, looking concerned. The judge looked angry — she felt it was my responsibility to arrange for a criminal defense attorney for the roommate if I knew that my questioning might trigger a Fifth Amendment assertion. Interesting theory, judge.

The DA had a long talk with a supervisor, and a long talk with the roommate, and came back to me with a deal: drop the gun charge and accept deferred entry of judgment on the drug charge. If Client completed probation successfully, the case would be dismissed, with no conviction. Notwithstanding how much Client and I wanted to put roommate on the stand and eviscerate him, or force him to take the Fifth and tank the DA's case, it was impossible to turn down the deal — the risks were too high. Client took the deal, completed probation successfully, and as far as I know has run into no problems since.

I would be lying if I said that I believed the client when he told me the gun and the drugs. But, thank God, I took him seriously — that is to say, I followed up on what he had to say with the resources available to me.

Just as prosecutors are captured by the system and its culture, so are defense attorneys. It is currently fashionable for defense attorneys to say "clients lie" and "most clients are guilty." I wouldn't agree with either proposition. Everybody lies; I don't think clients lie more than anyone else in terrifying and stressful circumstances. Humans tend to remember a version of events that puts them in the best light, something we normally regard as a mere venal sin. It's just that criminal defense scenarios require a level of precision and accuracy that most human interactions don't.

Being an effective and responsible criminal defense attorney doesn't require believing everything a client says, exactly. The policy could be better described as "trust, but verify." The key isn't to build a defense on the premise that everything the client says is perfectly accurate. The key is to take what the client says seriously and follow up on it, rather than dismissing them out of hand. If you don't, you're not defending the client — you're defending your stereotype of the client.

How To Write (Or Solicit) A Good Letter Supporting A Defendant At Sentencing

This week various political figures took some abuse for writing letters seeking leniency in the sentencing of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who got a 15-month sentence for monetary transactions designed to conceal that he was paying off victims of sexual abuse.

I've argued before that if you write a sentencing letter in support of a famous (or notorious) person, the media will report on it in an insipid and sensational way. That's inevitable, and media reaction isn't my focus. My focus is suggesting how to write a letter that furthers the best interests of the defendant and is most likely to move the judge towards a better result.

With that in mind, here are some rules:

This letter is not a vehicle for you to express yourself. A letter supporting a defendant is not an opportunity for you to posture, work out issues, or express yourself artistically. It is an opportunity to help the judge see the defendant as a human being. If you cannot stop yourself from making your letter about you instead of about the defendant, or if you find yourself focusing on how the letter makes you sound, please don't write the letter.

Nobody cares what you think about this case or the criminal justice system. Now is not the time to say that the criminal justice system is unjust or should be spending resources on other things or how far worse criminals get away or how this shouldn't be a crime or this is politically motivated. Go write that shit on your LiveJournal. It will annoy the judge.

For these purposes, the defendant is not innocent. Most likely the defendant pled guilty. Or maybe he or she was convicted by a jury. Either way, the judge is starting from the premise that the defendant is guilty. Appeals and habeas corpus motions — or, maybe, attorney arguments about residual doubt — are the place for discussions of innocence. A sentencing letter isn't. "I know he didn't do it" and "this must be a mistake" dramatically undermine a defendant's statements of contrition in plea cases, and simply annoy the judge in jury verdict cases. If the defendant has done his or her best to accept responsibility and covey their regret and you come in and write "I've talked to him and I know he didn't do it," you are undermining the defense. It's not persuasive.

Don't bother if you don't know the defendant fairly well. A good sentencing letter isn't like a letter of recommendation that a professor writes about one of the 150 students in a frosh cattle-call course. It's something you write if you know the person — if you have a connection to them. Letters by mere acquaintances are worthless at best and damaging at worst.

When you praise the defendant's character, bear in mind they are being sentenced for a crime. The core idea "I was shocked by this case because I know the defendant to be a good person" is okay, expressed carefully. So, for instance, if your friend is being sentenced for structuring monetary transactions to hide the fact he's paying off people he sexually abused as kids when he was a coach, saying "[w]e all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few" is appallingly tone-deaf and probably hurts the defendant. Praise of the defendant can't ignore the present circumstances, or it seems uninformed or stubbornly blind. "Defendant's behavior towards me has been so kind and decent that these serious charges were devastating" is the right tone.

Don't minimize the crime. Why do I have to tell you this? Don't suggest that the crime isn't a big deal. Even if it isn't. That's for the defense lawyer to argue, not you. You're going to undermine the defendant's attempt to show contrition.

Don't attack the victim. You utter moron.

Don't talk about your yacht. When you're talking about how well you know the defendant and how you and the defendant have interacted, avoid emphasizing things that highlight the defendant's life of privilege and/or power. First, it sounds like you're bragging, which is obnoxious. Second, it sounds like you are implying that rich or powerful people should get lower sentences, will will antagonize the judge. Third, it tends to make the defendant look worse: if he or she had so much, why did they do this? Downplay it.

Humanize the defendant, preferably with private conduct. It's fine to talk about how a defendant has led a life of public service. But the best stories to tell are the ones about how the defendant acted when nobody was looking. Some of the most powerful letters are about the defendant's small, private acts of humanity, compassion, and decency. You are, after all, asking a judge to see this defendant as an individual human being rather than as a statistic — to exercise mercy. What better way that to tell a story about such mercy exercised by the defendant? The letters I like best aren't the ones about how my client paid to attend a charity gala every year. They're the letters that tell the story about how the client visited the company's receptionist in the hospital and took her whole visiting family out to dinner, or about how he or she helped a stranger, or how he or she showed private kindness. "This Congressman supported the Family Leave Act" is not nearly as powerful as "when my mom died Bob stayed up with me all night and drove me to the funeral home and sat with me while I handled her affairs."

Don't tell the judge what to do. Some lawyers ask letter-writers to ask for a specific sentence, or to ask explicitly for leniency. I don't. I don't think it's effective. The judge knows what the defense is asking for — the defense lawyer is arguing it. Parroting the defense lawyer's talking points makes the letters sound too orchestrated. For most letter-writers, you're asking the judge to consider the type of person you know the defendant to be. The right tone is "I ask you to consider these experiences in sentencing my friend" or "when you consider the crime, I ask you also to consider these things my friend is done." The exception is a close family member who is directly impacted by the sentence — "I don't know how we can keep the house or keep the kids in school if my spouse goes to prison."

Not every lawyer agrees with these rules. But I find them more effective and the judges I've talked to find such letters more persuasive.

Legal Marketing Supergenius Patrick Zarrelli Finally Gets Around to Threatening Me

It's hurtful to be left out.

That's why I've been miffed at Patrick Zarrelli. Dude's threatened everybody who is anybody amongst mood-disordered middle-aged lawbloggers. Scott Greenfield. Mark Bennett. Brian Tannebaum. Keith Lee. But not me. What the fuck, Patrick Zarrelli? Am I not a man? Am I not a lawblogger? If you annoy me, am I not a prick?

But it's all better now. Patrick's sent me my own rant. I feel . . . pretty.

There's backstory, of course. It begins, as narrative convention requires, in Florida. Gary Ostrow is a lawyer, technically. He posted an amusingly buffoonish self-promoting press release, which drew derision from lawbloggers. A year later, Ostrow reacted with tragicomic threats and bluster against the lawbloggers, which is like attempting to deter a dog by throwing bacon at it.

Ostrow, showing the acumen that led him to bluster at lawbloggers in the first place, hired a cartoon character named Patrick Zarrelli to fix the situation. Patrick Zarrelli is what you would get if a spray tan achieved semi-sentience. Now remember: when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics and reputation. Zarrelli descends into an arm-flailing frenzy of bumptious threats, weird phone calls, demented state bar complaints, phantom criminal charges, and general dipshittery, nicely summarized here and here. Hiring Patrick Zarrelli to fix your online reputation is like hiring Mad Max to detail your car.

I didn't write about Patrick Zarrelli, in part because of a nagging suspicion that he's a hallucination resulting from certain pharmaceutical imbalances and preoccupations with bad marketing. But this go-around, after he threatened Keith Lee again, I decided to write him asking for a comment. I sent him a message on his Reddit account:

Dear Mr. Zarrelli,
I write about free speech issues, and especially the intersection of legal threats and online culture. I'm working on a story about your legal threats. I write to ask if you'd be interested in or willing to answer some questions or provide any comment.
Thank you,
Ken White

The result was everything I could have dreamed.

Lol Ken, you write for one of the sites who attacked me! In the attack the lawyers said I do cocaine, my mom is an alcoholic, my dad was arrested for cocaine trafficking lol. All of these are complete lies, and just the begging of the libelous speech they used against me. Moreover they did it on their official legal websites. Where they do not have free speech, they actually have heavily governed speech by their respective bar associations. We have multiple complaints in committee right now, a couple more in appeal. The attack against us was organized, but weak, the attorneys are not web developers, they are just blowhards, with nothing but blog posts in their arsenal. Which leaves them very vulnerable online. As far as I can tell my team online is much better than the loose affiliation of the people attacking me. Also my name is already ruined online and will never be completely fixed. So us retaliating has zero affect on me, just like your article will. As a matter of fact the more you guys write, the more it will begin to drown itself out online, and the more fuel you will provide our counter articles. So im not sure what you are trying to do here? Would you like to be included in this online war? Go ahead! Lets see what a mess we can make of everyone's good names online!!!

About the attack against me: The lawyers all know each other and work together online it was not an organic attack, it was manufactured.
Also as soon as the lawyers wrote with that language and misinformation on their official sites they were bar complaint worthy. Hence why some went all the way to committee.

As soon as they left their sites and began attacking me on my social media pages, and constantly calling my house and office, it became stalking and harassment. Hence why they have criminal charges sitting on the State Attorneys desk right now for their associates like Tim Cushings.
Also we own every attorneys name and every person who attacked us online even every commentator. As soon as the complaints are over we will be launching response websites for all of them. Then we are going to follow it up with mulitple national press release to tie these attorneys to their darkest blogs for life.

I do this for a living I have over 10,000 published blogs. I have programmers, designers, and an army of writes on staff. I own more sites than all of you combined and have over 80 other sites, with blogs, under mgmt. So you attack does not scare me and is pathetic. I have more than enough resources for a legal fight, and I have enough online resources to bury these attorneys and their fellow attackers in avalanche of press.

I only sat quit during the attack, because I wanted to let them all bury themselves and burn themselves out. Again I do this for a living. Now there is literally nothing else they can do to me. They have done their worse. Why do you think a blogger/programmer like me would sit and say "please stop attacking me?" I was letting them dig their hole. I could have battled with them right then and their but that would have been fools gold. Since I knew the bar complaints were coming out, I wanted my side clean, and I wanted to give the bar the fair chance to police its own. Those sanctioned by the bar will be left out of the responses. Those unsanctioned will receive multiple response articles and their very own website!

When the complaints are over, I will put up my responses in an organized and sweeping manor and since lawyers are always Googled before people use them it will cost the attorneys tens of thousands of dollars in cases. Moreover I'm going to be releasing a myriad of press releases including "Texas Bar Supports Cyber Bullying" "Said Lawyer Tries To cyber Bully Web Developer" "Pathetic Lawyers Try to Act Tough Online" Etc. I'm going to show everyone all the lies in these articles, then I'm going to tie the attorneys, and their bar associations to these blogs permanently online.

I have multiple attorneys and copy right agents I work with that will review everything before it goes up. I literally have probably 25 attorneys sites under management and have been sued by Charlie Sheen, Farrah the Teen Mom, and host of other people way more powerful than the people attacking me and have never lost a case. I cant even remember the last time I didn't have a case pending in federal or state court for one of my media sites. So I'm def not scared of a legal battle or these group of attorneys who are at the bottom of their respective fields. As far as I can see because Ive researched everyone involved. Im way more successful than any of them. I think because they keep sharing a Twitter pic from 20 years ago, and since they attacked me while I was breaking my PrintKiller.com site into The Print Killer Media Network (My site was ranked in the top 10% of the nation and had 40,000 articles on it, so it need to be smashed into multiple sites for greater success, traffic, and advertising revenue). That im weak online or just a kid. But, the reality is I'm much more successful than all of them combined, and am a 36 year old adult not a kid, running a top tier tech team. Mo rover we do this everyday, we get paid to do this, I can literally send out an email to my writers on a particular topic and easily publish 40+ articles a day. So i can bury each attacker with one days work. Not to mention we are online all day, so if they try to clean their name we will simply SEO our stuff back to the top. Im not looking at this like a a quick brawl online, I'm looking at this like a life long fight.
Meanwhile since the attack on me and my family from the attorneys I actually got more clients! So this whole thing is just going to feed me rep mgmt client after client, its going to be good free marketing for me. I got two clients that the attorneys attacked themselves being cleaned online as we speak! They called me after the initial attack and said they had been attacked by the attorneys as well lol. Thanks for the free $10k referral guys!!! That's really the only reason I didn't file the federal lawsuit against them. I knew I had them by the balls with the libel claim, but I had not damages. Literally no one I know has ever read their blogs, no one has ever even mentioned it to me.

You're older esteemed lawyer Ken White correct? I know you were referred form the other lawyer I spoke with yesterday. Because I never use this page. So why pose like your going to write an honest article, when you work with a site I filed a bar complaint on? Why pose like your writing an honest article when you were sent to this page by a lawyer attacking me? that seems pretty dishonest and unethical don't you think?

The company who organized this attack Tech Dirt. Is broke. Has written about leveraging and manufacturing the "Streisand affect" to bully people online. Which means they knew exactly what they were doing, that it was unethical, and most likely illegal. Its not free speech to organize against someone and spread libelous speech intentionally in an attempt to hurt them because they filed a bar complaint on you. When this all comes to light, and it will soon, You guys are going to be shows as a bunch of legal bully's, trying to protect their own, in a fraudulent and libelous attack on a lay person. And I'm pretty confident the public will take my side. I have meticulously tracked all of you, your affiliations, your firms, and this attack. I have documented and screen shot all communications including some on social media and in hidden online news rooms.

Here is a neat link on the company who started this attack Tech Dirt:

[link to even bigger lunatic's disturbing site omitted]

You guys are going to look really professional and honest attached to this press release.

And shortly thereafter:

Hey Ken, whats with you and the other guy ion reddits chins??? Whats in there liquid? Fat? What exactly do you have to eat to get a chin like that? Im just curious. I mean attack me if you want, I just feel sorry you guys have to live like that. Whens the last time a hot girl kissed you on the neck??? LMAO

The chins. It's always about the chins. (Patrick seems to be preoccupied with chins, actually.)

I replied:

Thank you for your comment.

Quoth he:

Your welcome!!! See you at the buffet table, you fat fuck!!!

Me:

Buffet tables are work. I prefer for people to carry food to me.

Him:

Im sure you do, then after they prolly wipe your ass cause you cant reach it!!! Lol Whens the last times you even saw your dick? 1979???

And so forth.

So, here come the phone threats and email threats and badly designed web sites and bizarre bar complaints, I'm sure.

Blusterbros tend to repeat some common themes that you can spot in Patrick's rant above:

1. There are huge things in motion that are going to crush you. HUGE. They are legal.
2. I have attorneys and developers and staff.
3. There is a conspiracy against me.
4. I am a super-genius and amazingly talented.
5. Celebrities adore me.
6. Here are some implausible numbers about my online activities.
7. Your criticism has resulted in me getting more positive attention and business.
8. Fuck spelling.

It's nice to be part of something. Thanks, Patrick!

Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization

Around a quarter-century ago I was slouching through Evidence class when the professor called on me and posed a question about the admissibility of some witness statement. I gave a rule-bound answer: the admissibility was governed by a particular rule and would turn on specific factors and in my view weighed in favor of excluding the statement. The professor made a face and said "that wasn't a particularly profound answer." "It wasn't a particularly profound question," I replied, and the class laughed and the professor threw a piece of chalk at me. That semester I got a B- in Evidence (which at that institution was the equivalent of hauling you behind the barracks and shooting you) and an A+ in Tax. Requiescat in pace, my ability to take grades seriously.

The professor was unhappy because he was looking for an answer that interrogated the arbitrary dichotomies between admissible and not-admissible and illuminated the ways that purportedly neutral rules are socially constructed in the context of various social hegemonies and so on and and so forth. I thought all of that was swell but mostly wanted to learn how to try cases. I went on to learn actual evidence elsewhere; the professor went on to have unfortunate experiences trying to apply the rules-don't-matter attitude to actual litigation.

I repeat this story because last week Scott Greenfield and Jordan Rushie curmudgeoned it up about law schools focusing on "social justice" as a subject of instruction. That ideological bent is far more common in modern law schools, but Scott and Jordan could also have talked about schools that seek to impart a Christian view of law or a law-and-economics perspective.

Consider this exhortation by UW students Jordan quotes:

We demand a curriculum more clearly focused on the mission of creating leaders for the global common good. Such courses will provide a foundation of social justice for graduates in careers of all types, and will work synergistically with the demands above.

. . . .

Create and incorporate a new “capstone” course into the 1L curriculum with more big-picture elements of history, philosophy, critical legal studies, implicit bias, and critical race/feminist theory. The traditional 1L curriculum focuses so intensely on the minutiae of case law that it is easy to lose sight of why many of us came to law school in the first place. This course would serve to break the cycle of indoctrination and redirect student focus to the global common good.

This was, more or less, the attitude of Professor Chuck-Chalk: rules and caselaw are mundane, a distraction from Big Ideas about the common good.

Now, I have no objection to students spending three years and $150,000 learning about Big Ideas. How else are we going to manufacture the next set of people to teach about Big Ideas?

But I do have a strong objection to law schools tolerating — let alone cultivating — a disdain of the nuts and bolts of competent law practice. I especially have an objection to that disdain being cultivated in the name of "social justice." People traditionally recognized as being in need of social justice are also the people in most dire need of competent legal representation. When they have a few days to contest an eviction or they've been arrested and may lose their job, they don't need someone who is exquisitely prepared to explain and denounce the racist and oppressive structures that led to their unfortunate predicament. They need someone who knows what he or she is doing. They need someone who knows all of the petty substantive and procedural rules of landlord-tenant law and how the local court actually operates. They need someone who can swiftly assess whether an arrest or interrogation was unlawful and formulate a plausible and effective plan for dealing with it. They need someone who knows how to get things into evidence in court even under pressure on their feet when the judge is being difficult and the opposing counsel is making nonsensical objections. They need a grubby little practitioner.

People are quicker to understand this in other contexts. If a hairdresser could argue movingly that gendered hairstyles are based on antiquated stereotypes, but had no idea how to cut hair, people would generally accept that he was a poor hairdresser. If you encountered a woman in labor experiencing dangerous complications who had been too poor to get prenatal care, you'd seek a skilled high-risk pregnancy physician, not someone who had focused on learning what socioeconomic forces deprive poor women of adequate care. But for some reason — perhaps because so many dramatic social changes have come through the legal system — people don't seem to understand that lawyering requires actual tradesman skills too. Thurgood Marshall appealed to social justice when he successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, but he didn't get there by Big Ideas alone; he got there by developing the sort of meticulous legal skills that led to an almost unprecedented win record before the court. He worked, and he didn't think he was too good to grub around with rules and precedents.

Our system is mediocre at best at delivering justice to society's least powerful. Do you want to be able to explain why? That's fine, go do that. But if you plan to address social injustice as a lawyer by actually representing its victims, it is absolutely perverse and self-indulgent to focus on theory rather than skills and rules.

Living To Make A Difference

I was over 40 the first time something I wrote was published. The first thing I did was send an email to my high-school English teacher, Kathi Condell.

Ms. Condell — that's how I continue to think of her, even after she married again and demanded that I call her Kathi — taught several of my literature and writing classes. That was 30 years ago now. Her lessons remain. I remember them when I think about what I read and when I consider how and what to write.

Kathi Condell had a gift for connecting with teens. She was supportive without being indulgent, and age-appropriate without being condescending. She had high expectations, and conveyed a quiet confidence that those expectations were reasonable and achievable.

More than that, she taught literature and writing not as means, but as ends. Everyone knew you had to write well and get good grades to get into a good college, and get a good job, and so forth. Everyone understood the grind, particularly at a school like mine. But Kathi Condell believed we should be well-read because we loved reading, that we should reflect on what we read because it was meaningful and pleasurable, and that we should treat writing as a form of artistic expression, not merely a tool. She helped teach me that writing could be useful and expressive at the same time.

I wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age. She was always respectful of that goal, but always encouraged me to think about writing as an art whatever I did as a job. As I graduated college, and law school, and moved from job to job, she congratulated me but always asked me "but what are you doing to write?" For many years I wasn't doing much. That's why it felt so good to tell her that I was making an effort to write for writing's sake. I wanted her to know that she'd been right, and that I remembered.

Kathi Condell Herroon passed away Monday. I love to write, and that's because of two people — Kathi Condell, and my father. Thank you.

What if we could all live so that thirty years down the road, people we've touched want to share news with us about what we've helped them achieve?

Judge Lisa Gorcyca Doesn't Hate Kids. Judge Lisa Gorcyca Hates Failure To Submit.

Judge Lisa Gorcyca, a judge in Oakland County, Michigan, is getting quite a lot of press this week for sending three kids to juvenile detention.

Judge Gorcyca doesn't preside in criminal court. She doesn't rule on delinquency petitions in juvenile court. She's a judge in the Family Division. And she sent three kids to juvenile detention — and specifically ordered them separated — because they didn't obey her orders to cultivate a warm relationship with their estranged father.

[Read more…]

Incessant Sewer-Dweller LegalMatch Has A Cunning Plan To Get My Business

Late yesterday I saw a new email in my inbox. The subject line caught my eye:

Son under indictment

A new case? One never knows. I opened it.

I found not a new client, but an old friend: one Steve Kramer of LegalMatch, a "service" that purports to help match clients to lawyers. I've written before about emails from Steve Kramer and LegalMatch in unflattering terms. For reasons I cannot recall I previously did not name them; I referred to them with thematic accuracy as Feculent Q. Pus-Crust of the Society for Cornholing Unsuspecting Children. I'm naming them now.

Feculent — pardon me, Steve — has continued to spam me even after threatening me with litigation for criticizing him and even after I reminded him that he was spamming someone he had previously threatened.

Here are some of the email subject lines Steve Kramer has sent over the last two years:

Son under indictment (3/11/15)

My son has been charged with statutory rape (11/25/14)

intent to distribute (11/13/12)

felony arrest (1/4/12)

No, Steve Kramer's son is not — so far as I know — a one-man crime wave. Rather, Steve Kramer and LegalMatch use deceitful clickbait email subjects to get lawyers to look at their spam. As his latest says:

Ken

Let me know whether the following snap shot of some of our recent financially capable LA area criminal defense clients looks like a fit.

Cordially,

Steve Kramer
For Legal Match
310-990-3026

It's nice that Steve Kramer is so forgiving that he's still first-naming me after I've sassed him and written mean posts about him.

Emails from Steve-O and Legal Match contain a sort of list of client inquiries that consumers have apparently left on LegalMatch.

EX FELON WITH POSSESSION OF FIREARM
BELL, CA 02/16/2015 C154733487378

FREE MY SON
AUGUST F. HAW, CA 02/16/2015 ✔ C154721465270

VIOLATION OF PROVATION
SAN FERNANDO, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154646769498

LEAVING THE SCENE OF A ACCIDENT
LYNWOOD, CA 02/15/2015 ✔ C154643116086

2SUSPECTS TRAFFICKING 48LBS OF DRUGS
LOS ANGELES, CA 02/14/2015 ✔ C154536359337

Steve and LegalMatch represent in their solicitation that somehow they have determined that these people are "financially capable" — meaning, I guess, that they can afford to hire a lawyer. In any litigation I look forward to discovering what methodology they used to evaluate the assets of the "violation of provation" guy. They also represent that these are "criminal defense clients." Yet the emailed lists includes entries like this:

FREON EXPOSURE WORKING AT GENERAL DYNAMICS 80'S.
WALNUT, CA 02/09/2015 C154071310246

Perhaps this person has been criminally charged with exposing himself or herself to freon at General Dynamics in the 1980s. I presume they will explore a statute of limitations defense.

LegalMatch views its system — where people describe their cases, to be reviewed by potential lawyers — as a service to the lawyer-seeking community. Whether it is also a boon to the law enforcement community remains to be seen. It encourages customers to leave entries like this one in the most recent solicitation email:

ACCUSED OF MURDER OCCURRED IN SELF-DEFENSE ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, CA 02/10/2015 ✔ C154102776952

Who read that? Well, apparently, any LegalMatch lawyer with access to that client database, and any prospective LegalMatch lawyer to whom Steve Kramer sent the email. All of those people now know that there is a person accused of murder in or near Rolling Hills Estates, California, in February of 2015, who says they did kill the person but did so in self-defense. Did they get legal advice before making that disclosure? Did they think that the disclosure would be kept confidential? Did they know it would be sent out in spam emails? Would a court treat such an entry as privileged, despite how recklessly it is being bandied about? Is LegalMatch certain that it didn't sent this information to anyone with connections to the victim, or the victim's family's lawyers, or the prosecutors, or the investigating officers, or the media? Do you think that — assuming this is a real case — the media would be interested in hearing that the accused was admitting to having killed the victim but was asserting self-defense?

Of course, if that entry is entirely fabricated, I suppose it's not so much an amoral and reckless disclosure by LegalMatch as it is false advertising.

I've written to Steve Kramer, LegalMatch's press office, and their general counsel asking some questions.1 Among them is this question — does LegalMatch think that it is not bound by the CAN-SPAM Act, which (as LegalMatch's blog will tell you) prohibits misleading subject lines and requires clear opt-out-of-this-spam systems?

LegalMatch is not the only turd in the beclouded punchbowl of the legal marketing community. But, despite vigorous competition, it is one of the oldest, most noisome, and most persistent turds. Steve Kramer has been pestering the unwilling about LegalMatch for years, and LegalMatch has been using sleazy tactics (and promising to improve them) for a decade.

Yet LegalMatch continues to thrive. That means some lawyers out there are paying them. Those lawyers are equally responsible for perpetuating these practices. And the clients — oh, the clients. Citizens, know this: if you hire someone through LegalMatch, you're hiring someone desperate or stupid or cynical enough to accept this bad behavior.

Back in 2012 I told Steve Kramer "Remove me from your spam list forthwith." Perhaps this post will help get results.

Why Is a British-Recognized Esquire Asking Questions in an American Court?

I think I've mentioned that I don't acknowledge the legitimacy of the US government for Spooner-like reasons, and I consider most LEOs thugs.

…and yet, after watching this, I find that there's a part of me – a very small part – that really just wants to curb-stomp Natural Law protesters.

Get off my lawn side, you damned hippie kids!