Is Above the Law editor David Lat facing a frivolous lawsuit? We’re not sure, but some blog-o-pundits are certainly seeing it that way. For now, the quick background. Donald Marvin Jones, a University of Miami professor last week sued Lat, ATL publisher David Minkin, and parent company Dead Horse Media Inc. In his complaint, Jones alleges three causes of action arising from a series of posts ATL did after Jones was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of trying to solicit sex from a prostitute. Jones maintained his innocence and the charges were ultimately dropped. Click here to read the ATL posts at issue. Click here for the NLJ story. In his complaint, filed in federal court in Miami, Jones puts forth three causes of action: 1) that he was portrayed in a false light; 2) that ATL invaded his privacy; and 3) that ATL infringed his copyrights in posting pictures of him. He asked for a total of $44 million.
A whopping US$ 44 million, wow. In any event, the complaint was burned down by wasn't well received among co-bloggers. Via the WSJ Law Blog:
So far, the blogosphere has not been kind to Jones. Over at the Copyrights & Campaigns blog, lawyer and former journalist Ben Sheffner has this to say:
Above the Law is one of the nation’s foremost chroniclers of the wackiness of the American legal system. And now, Above the Law is an involuntary participant in a lawsuit that demonstrates the wackiness of the American legal system — and the American legal academy. . . . On what grounds may Jones’ lawsuit be dismissed? Let us count the ways (and, please, feel free to suggest more in the comments):
In short, writes Sheffner, the first cause of action, false light, doesn’t exist in Florida; the Communications Decency Act protects ATL from non-IP-related claims concerning a photo-montage in which Jones was depicted; and that the privacy and copyright claims aren’t likely to carry weight, either. At Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh writes: “I agree with Sheffner that the lawsuit (see the Complaint) is a loser. In part, it’s even downright frivolous . . . ”. Jones has declined repeated requests for comment. Lat, over at ATL, has stated that “[w]e feel the lawsuit has no merit, but we will not comment further on this ongoing litigation.”
Hmm, what to make of all this? Well, not much really, as the claimant has apparently already voluntarily pulled the plug from the complaint and terminated the case. So all in all, this looks like a non-starter. It is, however, a subtle reminder that the slogan "anything goes" doesn't apply in the blogosphere either.
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