Transcript Of Senate Judiciary Committee Proceedings: February 5, 2013

The Sergeant at Arms having called the Committee to order, the first speaker was Chairperson Feinstein.

Senator Feinstein: We continue our hearing on Senate Bill 13-367, the Firearms Safety Act, with today's witness Mr. Wayne Lapierre of the National Rifle Association. Mr. Lapierre, I understand you're here today on behalf of your organization, to testify on ideas for preventing future tragedies such as those which occurred at Newtown and Aurora.

Mr. Lapierre: That is correct, Madame Chair.

Senator Feinstein: Let the witness be sworn.

The witness was duly sworn.

Mr. Lapierre: Madame Chair, may it please the Committee, I would like to begin with a statement. On behalf of the National Rifle Association and its four million members, and the thirteen million active sportsmen and hunters we represent, let me say that we all deplore the breakdown in our nation's morals, and mental health care system, that led to these tragedies…

Mr. Thompson: Objection! Out of order, irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous! Madame Chair, on behalf those alleged to suffer from mental health disorders, I move that the witness's last remark be struck.

Senator Feinstein: Mr. Lapierre, who is this man?

Mr. Thompson: I can answer that! May it please the Committee, and even if it may not, I am Jack Thompson. You probably know that Jack Thompson is one of the most outspoken opponents of sexuality and violence in video games. Along with other notables such as Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore, Jack Thompson has sent literally hundreds of letters, made dozens of media appearances in such respected venues as Hannity and Colmes and The O'Reilly Factor, and even filed several law suits, all attempting to restrict harmful video games from reaching the hands of youth. In addition, it is my pleasure to serve as General Counsel and Media Relations Advisor for the National Rifle Association, and the witness's counsel before this tribunal.

Mr. Lapierre: That's correct. Mr. Thompson's appointment became effective on December 20, Madame Chair. As I was saying, it has long been apparent to our members that this great nation suffers from a sickness of the soul, and that millions of Americans who suffer from mental disease go untreated…

Mr. Thompson: Objection! Sustained! I will caution this witness not to confuse this honorable committee with LIBEL SLANDERS or he shall receive NOTICE! Our Process Servers will be UNLEASHED! Let the record reflect that!

Mr. Lapierre: … and from the deadly scourge of violent and pornographic videogames, which afflict and trouble the youth who commit these rampages.

Mr. Thompson: Now we're talkin'!

Senator Franken: Madame Chairwoman, may I suggest to the witness that his counsel's antics are highly disruptive of this Committee's work, and ask that…

Mr. Thompson: I don't have to take that from a drug pusher like you, Senator!

Senator Feinstein: <gavels> Order in the hearing room!

Mr. Thompson: You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole Committee is out of order! They're out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he'd like to do it again! He told me so! It's just a show! It's a show! It's "Let's Make A Deal"! "Let's Make A Deal"! Hey Frank, you wanna make A Deal? I got an insane Senator who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna give me Frank, three weeks probation? You, son of a bitch, you! You're supposed to stand for something! You're supposed to protect people! But instead you rape and murder them! You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!

Senator Feinstein: <gavels> One more outburst from counsel and the Committee will adjourn for contempt proceedings!

Mr. Thompson: Ah hah! But the strawberries that's where I had them. They LAUGHED AT ME and made jokes, but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with GEOMETRIC LOGIC that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist.

Senator Feinstein:  The Committee will adjourn. Mister Sergeant!

Mr. Thompson:  And I'd have produced that key if the Florida Supreme Court hadn't put me out of action. I know now they were only trying to protect Electronic Arts and Activision!

 Whereupon the Committee adjourned.

Jack Thompson: Still A Deluded Ass

You remember good old Jack Thompson, don't you? Jack Thompson, the demented, disbarred former anti-video-game crusading attorney who did things like use rebuses to communicate with appellate courts and sue Facebook because people were being mean to him there?

All of the dank, murky depths of hard-earned obscurity could not hold Jack Thompson forever. A reliable media whore, he's seized upon the Casey Anthony circus as his chance to ride back into the limelight. Specifically, he's sent — and is now touting — a complaint to the Florida State Bar because Casey Anthony attorney Cheney Mason flipped the bird to a pack of loutish paparazzi. Thompson still has his clutching-pearls and fainting-couch from his glory days:

“Please note that Florida Bar Rule 4-8, ‘Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession,’ has been interpreted and applied by the Bar to bring within the scope of its disciplinary, regulatory powers the acts of lawyers outside a judicial proceeding," Thompson wrote. "In other words, the Bar’s current regulatory policy is that even actions by lawyers in a private setting that reflect poorly on the profession are disciplinable. This was an obscene activity in a public setting.

“Indeed, current Florida Bar President Scott Hawkins stated, at his swearing-in at last week’s annual Bar convention right in Orlando: ‘As lawyers we need to be mindful of how we talk to a waitress. Boys and girls are watching,’ added Thompson. “In that vein, Mr. Mason has made two obscene gestures in a public restaurant, with the whole world, including boys and girls, watching. Does this promote a salutary public perception of lawyers? Is the Bar going to look the other way and not enforce its rules as it has applied them to others, just because Mr. Mason won his case? Or is it going to do what it has to others, even to the point of disbarring lawyers for warning the public of a safety hazard by telling the truth on CBS’s '60 Minutes'?

“The whole world is watching the Florida Bar on this one,” insisted Thompson in closing.

This takes a certain amount of either mental illness or chutzpah. Thompson himself, who is fond of things like including gay porn in his court filings, has done to the "salutary public perception of lawyers" roughly what the clap has done to sex. He's got no business complaining about the niceties of any other lawyer's conduct.

Besides, Cheney Mason was right. The madding crowds and verminous media did far worse to the reputation of the legal system than any hand gesture ever could. They deserve more than middle finger. They deserve to get cock-slapped by Charlie Sheen.

Rhode Island Achieves The Impossible

Via Game Politics comes news of a bill introduced in the Rhode Island Senate, and strongly backed by such "it's all for the children" censors as the Parents Television Council, which would make it a crime to sell a violent videogame (in this case one rated "M" (mature) or "AO" (adults only) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board) to a person under the age of 18.

The bill, sponsored by Senators Frank Ciccone, Paul Jabour, Beatrice Lanzi, and Michael McCaffrey (all Democrats) is utterly and blatantly unconstitutional for reasons which should be obvious.  But in case they aren't, here's a quick rundown of the law:

Restraint of artistic speech (and videogames, like movies and books, are considered art and speech) is prima facie unconstitutional unless the speech is considered "obscene," that is prurient, offensive to community standards, and having absolutely no redeeming artistic value.  This presumption applies, with some caveats, even to laws which make it a crime to show or disseminate offensive material to minors, which is why no state makes it a crime to admit a minor to an R-rated movie.

In fact, just this week an Indiana prosecutor who threatened to prosecute the people who run those "red box" dvd rental kiosks for offering R-rated movies to anyone who could pay backed down from his threats, evidently concluding that he would be made a national laughingstock if he went further.

Yet this bill would do just that.  It would make the State of Rhode Island a national laughingstock, more so than it already is.  Another rason the bill is problematic, that is to say unconstitutional, is that it makes the ESRB, a voluntary trade association with no governing power whatsoever, the sole arbiter of what is and is not a crime in Rhode Island.  Just because some prude at ESRB considers Headshot II: the Columbine Simulator offensive, doesn't make it obscene.  Rhode Island would not only be violating the First Amendment; It would be unconstitutionally delegating sovereign power to a private corporation.

Just how misguided is this bill, constitutionally speaking?  It's so unconstitutional that even Jack Thompson, the disbarred crank Florida lawyer famous for his anti-videogame crusades (and sending gay porn to federal judges, agrees with me:

On December 11, 2005, about a similar federal bill which never passed Congress, Thompson wrote:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton recently introduced her "Family Entertainment Protection Act" in a purported attempt to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors. Will it work? Not a chance.

Clinton's FEPA, as proposed, is completely unconstitutional.

U.S. law is clear: A private-sector standard for rating entertainment products cannot be enforced by the government. This has been settled constitutional law for decades.

Yet this is precisely what Clinton's bill would do. It seeks to convert the industry's Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) game ratings into the law of the land.  Such an approach has been unconstitutional since local communities in the early 1900s created private-sector "obscenity councils" in an attempt to dictate to state juries which books were "obscene."

It wasn't constitutional then, and it isn't constitutional now.

The mistake that various states have made in formulating a governmental standard for games has been to vaguely define how much and what kind of sex and violence can be in interactive media sold to minors. Such an approach utterly fails on constitutional "vagueness" grounds. I've been in those legislative fights that wind up in the courts. I've been paying attention.

[Source: Fort Worth Star Telegram, December 11, 2005, "What Kind of Game is Hillary Clinton Playing?", not available for free online, archive purchased by me and excerpted as fair use for its value as political commentary from a respected scholar of the First Amendment.]

Rhode Island's Senate has achieved what we thought could never be done:  They've made Jack Thompson look like a thoughtful and judicious defender of free speech.

Jack Thompson Sues Facebook

Some posts need a clever title to carry them. Some require a thoughtful lede. But some posts simply point the reader in the direction of sheer awesomeness, and all I need to do is step out of the way.

This is such a post.

Jack Thompson — the anti-gaming crusader and justifiably disbarred lawyer, who has made a name for himself by consistently exhibiting a level of crazy that makes him stand out even in Florida, has sued Facebook. Why? Well, basically, he's mad that Facebook won't make its users stop being mean to him. No, really.

Thompson asserts that he is the victim of bullying by the video gaming industry and gamers, and that he has received death threats as a result. He is unable to describe these threats without indulging in his anti-video-game rant:

And the harassing phone calls have been so continuous and so disruptive that Thompson has to take his phone off the hook each evening or he will be awakened, as he is when he forgets to do so, by miscreants who think that the First Amendment protects not only the predatory and illegal marketing and sale of adult porn and violence to kids but the criminal harassment of a citizen who has the courage to say what 90% of the American people know-that families are under siege by corporate predators who mentally molest minors for money.

And so on. Facebook failed to take down some groups that are mean to Jack. One offers someone $50 to punch him in the face. Another says he should be "removed from the populace." Another suggests smacking him across the face with an Atari 2600. Thompson also complains of groups that simply say "I hate Jack Thompson."

I've uploaded Thompson's pro se federal complaint here. Given the amount of joy it will give us, it almost seems unfair to expose it to a rigorous legal analysis. That would be like having a professor of modern art criticize your three-year-old's finger-painting. Suffice it to say that Thompson has not lost his talent for crazy, nor has he developed any more of an understanding of the law. Jack sues for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision. Jack is all wet. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Facebook can't be held liable for what its users post on it, or for its refusal to take those posts down. Moreover, because the posts are so patently satirical, Thompson can't make out a case of infliction of emotional distress anyway. The posts are not, by any stretch of the imagination, "true threats," as no rational person would think they show a genuine intent to inflict harm. The standard is what a reasonable person would think, not what a deranged disbarred attorney would think.

Read the complaint, with Jack's tale of woe. But then, if you don't already know it, be sure to read Thompson's history, particularly the things he did to get disbarred, lest you feel any sympathy for him. Jack Thompson is a litigation terrorist.

Jack's mad, as he usually is, because those Facebook posts make him look like an ass. But if Jack is going to sue everything that contributes to making him look like an ass, then I advise logic, sentience, written language, and God to contact their insurance carriers.

By the way, Paragraph 9 of Thompson's complaint suggests that he was inspired to sue Facebook because Facebook responded so quickly to take down the "should Obama be killed" poll, yet did not heed his entreaties to take down the mean things people said about him. That's amusing.

Edited to add: More amusement: Andrew Eisen of GamePolitics, which is very critical of Thompson but gets press releases from him anyway, asks Thompson if he tried using the "report group" function. Thompson calls Eisen a "total moron." So Eisen clicks on "report group" for the "$50 to punch Thompson" group, and the group is removed within a day. Eisen didn't even have to file a federal suit! Lesson to Thompson: you catch more flies with the honey of a site's established fly-catching procedures than you do with the vinegar of being a raving lunatic.

Haiku, Twitter Insufficient to Contain Jack Thompson

Some people save lives. Some people succor the weak. Some people defend the downtrodden. All of these people bring goodness and light into the world.

And then there's the people who bring happiness into the world by being entertaining, by which I mean "a big sack of crazy." Here I'm thinking of our old pal and frequent blogging subject Jack Thompson.

Thompson, as our readers (and gamers, and people fond of Fox News) know, is a disbarred lawyer who has spent the last ten years freaking out at judges over video games. Prior to video games, he spent a career freaking out about rap music and hating Janet Reno for the wrong reasons.

What's new with Jacko, you ask? Well, there are still people who are freaked out about video games, and still people who like watching train wrecks. So Jack still gets invites to speak and columns and such. And recently he agreed to appear at a gaming convention in Texas and debate a gamer/lawyer named Mark Menthenitis. And then came more crazy.

* he objected to a one- or two-line introduction ("I have never been introduced with 1 or 2 sentences. Nobody can be introduced in that fashion…")
* he objected to a user-created parody video posted (and since removed) on the [gaming convention] site; Thompson may have believed the video, "Questions Not to Ask Jack Thompson" at SGC," was official [gaming convention] content

So now maybe it's on again. Or maybe not. Right now apparently he's pissed about another post about him. And it's not clear if anyone can agree on an appropriate number of sentences to introduce what Jack Thompson is all about, or if the parties can agree upon an introduction that is accurate without using terms that Jack won't like ("Thorazine" "vexatious" "otherworldly"). There's certainly no way that any group of gamers is going to refrain from making fun of him. So it may remain uncertain, right up to the moment of the debate, right up to the moment of any future debates, whether or not Jack will be there. Jack Thompson is the Schrodinger's Cat of crazy — you can tell where he is, or what he'll be doing, but never both at once.

A Disingenuous Attribution

Do you trust this man to look out for your kids?  The Deseret News trusts him with its editorial page:

Jack Thompson, a former practicing attorney who lives in Miami, Fla., is the author of "Out of Harm's Way," which recounts his efforts against the entertainment industry.

That should read:

Jack Thompson, a disbarred attorney who lives in Miami, Fla, is the author of numerous frivolous pleadings and lawsuits, including one in which he sent gay porn to a United States District Court judge.

Even Fox News has, more or less, given up on holding Thompson out as some moral paragon.  Surely the Deseret News could have chosen one of the many scolds who've yet to suffer the ultimate professional disgrace to peddle their alarmist "save the children" agenda?

It's not as though there's such a shortage of petty tyrants in this country that only Jack Thompson can write a guest editorial warning parents of the threat that movies and games pose to children.

In Texas, They Don't Need Six Degrees of Separation

As long as I'm cheerfully pimping Patrick's posts, I would be remiss not to call your attention to this excellent piece about how the circle of life works in the Lone Star State — drunk driver causes fatal crash, she ups and sues the driver she rear ended, the lawyer who represents her gets cases appointed to her by her daddy, who happens to be a judge . . . . you get the picture. Texas lawblogger Mark Bennett has a great follow-up.

While you are at it, take a look and see how a discussion of the blame-the-video-game industry culminates in Patrick committing a Unabomberesque federal crime against me.

Freedom's Just Another Word For Imminent Involuntary Institutionalization

Jack Thompson: American Hero of Freedom.

Wait, what?

You heard that right. Jack Thompson, crusading (constantly) lawyer (for the moment), whose batshit insane antics we've frequently discussed here, is going to be honored as an America pro-freedom hero. The award is to be bestowed by something called America's Freedom Festival in Utah.

The purpose of the festival is to commemorate our Day of Independence and celebrate the spirit of America by creating festivities that instill a deeper sense of patriotism in the hearts of those involved.

Jack Thompson's purpose, on the other hand, is to file frivolous lawsuits, insult judges, file legal briefs comprised primarily of rebuses, demand the indictment of public officials who disagree with him, blather about loyalty oaths, and invoke Jesus Christ in an effort to ward off his imminent disbarment.

Those things are totally patriotic. A lot of our greatest Americans, icons of patriotism, were complete vexatious litigant whackjobs. Abraham Lincoln? Clinically depressed lawyer. Joe McCarthy? Paranoid-schitzo drunk. And so on.

So best of luck to the good citizens of Utah in celebrating Mr. Thompson. Make sure none of the carnival games encourages violence.