March 6, 2008

The Sue Me, Sue You Blues.

George Harrison once sang: "You serve me and I'll serve you/Swing your partners, all get screwed/Bring your lawyer and I'll bring mine/Get together, and we could have a bad time."

If you sue me, I'm going to do my best to figure out how I can sue you. You want to think about that dynamic before you sue somebody.

So, anyway, Anthony Ciolli was sued by 2 Yale law students who were upset about comments on the AutoAdmit website that he used to work on, and now he's suing them and their lawyer — "seeking at least $50,000 in damages for abuse of process, libel and false light that he alleges cost him a job offer at a Boston law firm."
"This case is not about defending or exonerating anyone for the absolutely reprehensible comments that were made about the female law students on AutoAdmit," [Ciolli's lawyer Mark] Jakubik said. “It’s about what are the appropriate boundaries for seeking redress for those comments, and we think those boundaries were crossed to Anthony’s great detriment.”...

Federal law immunizes Web site administrators from liability for content posted by others...

The complaint alleges that the law students and their lawyers wrongfully initiated civil proceeding against Ciolli, that the students and a Web site they solicited to help restore their reputations libeled and slandered him and that the publicity they directed toward him placed him in a false light, with the result that he lost his job offer.
This new lawsuit has been filed in state court in Pennsylvania. (Quick, class, why does the court have personal jurisdiction over the Yale law students?) The complaint also uses the real names of the students, who used pseudonyms in the lawsuit against the pseudonymous AutoAdmit commenters.
"There was no real big secret about who they were," [Ciolli's former lawyer Marc] Randazza said.

Unlike the original suit, Ciolli’s complaint contains nothing that would be considered scandalous or would justify withholding the students’ names, Jakubik said.

"When folks engage in the kind of conduct that is outlined in the complaint, I’m not sure they should be given the cloak of anonymity," he said.
The decision to file a lawsuit is a momentous one. Think hard and think many steps ahead before you bring the courts into your life. Don't sue angry.

(Link via How Appealing.)

ADDED: Here's a PDF of the complaint.

20 comments:

MadisonMan said...

I'm glad to note the lack of the Law Suits I hope Will Fail tag.

former law student said...

Personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania was proper because that's where the harm to Ciolli occurred. Further, the Yale Law students had minimum contacts with Pennsylvania by purposely availing themselves of the benefits and protections of Pennsylvania, because they served Ciolli with process in Pennsylvania.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

The law students were too young to realise that a bad settlement is almost always better than a good trial.

Middle Class Guy said...

Law students suing law students. Never under estimate proper training and early experience.

former law student said...

Law students suing law students. Never under estimate proper training and early experience.

Who's representing them? Not some rookies, I'd imagine.

Middle Class Guy said...

former law student said...
Who's representing them? Not some rookies, I'd imagine.



Nah, solid pros who know how to follow the $$$$$$$. It is always about the $$$$$$$$$.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

rhhardin said...

Stanley Cavell points out an often missed fact about suing

Well, it's too long. Key part

...If I do [take it to court], I have not decided to let the court tell me whether enough is enough : taking the matter to court is an expression of my judgment that enough is enough. Whatever the court (or anyone in the office of umpire) decides does not enforce my judgment of your (e.g., that you are morally incompetent) but replaces my need to judge. It is another ballgame. You may feel my decision to go to court shows moral incompetency in me. Sue me. Recourse to court might not replace my need for revenge, but it modifies the form revenge may take.

Original longer cite put up here

Daryl said...

No matter how much a jerk someone is, if you don't have a meritorious cause of action, filing suit against them just to bring bad publicity down on their heads is wrong.

They could have "named him" in the complaint in a literal sense--in one of the paragraphs detailing the allegations--without naming him as a defendant.

Abuse the courts --> get sued. Works for me.

MadisonMan said...

Hey!

MadisonMan said...

I guess I should add: if you want this lawsuit to fail, how can you also want the original one to fail?

Richard Fagin said...

FLS - once the plaintiffs filed suit in PA state court, they waived any defense to personal jurisdiction of the PA state courts against the defendant's counterclaim. The only question is whether the PA state courts had personal jurisdiction over the original defendant.

Defendant may have been a PA resident while enrolled in law school in CT.

D said...

I've found that a paying couple of crackheads with basball bats is more effective than suing someone. Doesn't work against corporations or governments of course, but when an ***hole is screwing with your life, letting them know they are mortal is more powerful than a pile of paper.

JBlog said...

Speaking as someone who is not in the law profession, I sort of always thought this is how it worked -- you sue someone, they sue you back.

One of the reason I've generally tried to avoid lawsuits as much as possible.

My only experience in lawsuits was in evicting a couple of deadbeat tenants who refused to pay their rent.

In that case, they didn't need to countersue me, since they law pretty much stacked the deck against me from the start. It took months to get them out, during which they continued refusing to pay the rent, and I was never able to fully recover either my legal fees or the rent.

Seerak said...

I have long wondered about what would happen to our litigious culture if retaliatory suits could be directed against the lawyers involved, for willfully enabling frivolous/harassing/intimidating/shakedown legal actions.

IANAL so I imagine there are sound legal reasons why that usually doesn't happen and shouldn't... but still...

Fat Man said...

I used to tell my clients that there are two winners and two losers in every lawsuit. The losers are the plaintiff and the defendant.

PatHMV said...

Can one really file a separate action against a party based solely on their filing a lawsuit against you? Or is he alleging libel outside the context the allegations of the original pleading?

I remember the litigation, but I don't remember what's happened to it up to this point. Has it been dismissed as a frivolous complaint? If you allowed a separate suit claiming that the FIRST suit was abuse of process, wouldn't there be a serious risk of contradictory results? What if the judge/jury in the current suit decided that the first suit was an abuse of process, but the judge/jury in that case held in favor of the plaintiffs?

As I recall, that AutoAdmit site was a really nasty piece of work which appeared to have been set up primarily to encourage the spread of malicious gossip about fellow students. While the original plaintiffs should perhaps have had a thicker skin and overlooked it, I hope the guy who started it gets what's coming to him. I wouldn't want to be in a law practice with anybody with morals that low.

former law student said...

Or is he alleging libel outside the context the allegations of the original pleading?

Yup. David Lat's site has the complaint. The elements of abuse of process also seem to be satisfied. He's also suing the people who set up the rate the top fourteen website.

http://abovethelaw.com/images/IravaniComplaint.pdf

former law student said...

As I recall, the AutoAdmit site was set up as a law school admissions discussion group. Apparently law students need adult supervision, to keep their ids from taking over.

I wouldn't talk about Mr. Ciolli's morals lest you become a named libel defendant. I'm sure Ann would give up your ip in a second.

Revenant said...

It looks like Iravani and Heller are in seriously deep shit.

Good.

Ann Althouse said...

On the "hope will fail" tag -- it refers to the original lawsuit, not the one that fights back. Like many tags, it refers to one element of the post.