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Spam The Courts Idle

Spamming a Judge Is Contempt of Court 280

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'll-have-your-spam-I-love-it dept.
eldavojohn writes "TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau was sentenced to 30 days in jail because he urged his fans and followers to spam a judge. Apparently the judge (who was deluged with emails) decided that this was an act of contempt of court on the court's 'virtual presence' since nothing happened while the court was in session in regards to Trudeau's courtroom behavior. US Marshals are now trudging through those emails to decide if any are threatening."
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Spamming a Judge Is Contempt of Court

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  • Harassment sounds more like it.
    • Maybe he's not stupid for doing this? If he loses the civil suit then he may have grounds to appeal the decision because he feels the judge was obviously against him?
    • by Knara (9377)

      Yeah, I dunno if the convoluted reasoning for making it contempt of court is justified, but it's spamming, so it should be discouraged at least.

      The fact that its Kevin Trudeau isn't making me all that sympathetic, either.

  • by drDugan (219551) * on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:00PM (#31792308) Homepage

    Lots of times "spam" represents an attack, DDS, harassment, unsolicited advertising etc. These are a problem, and people rightly want this controlled.

    But if I ask all my friends to send emails, and thousands of individuals all reply, I would think that is more like speech, a la "free speech". Nothing in TFA says the emails were threatening or trying to harm the judge.

    • by paeanblack (191171) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:12PM (#31792516)

      But if I ask all my friends to send emails, and thousands of individuals all reply, I would think that is more like speech, a la "free speech". Nothing in TFA says the emails were threatening or trying to harm the judge

      Free speech guarantees you the opportunity to say what you wish, but it does not let you force the audience to listen. The content of what you say is protected, but the manner in which you say it is not. If you are choosing your delivery method in a manner specifically to harass others, you are not eligible for free speech protections.

      Your rights only go so far as they do not impinge on the rights of others...you cannot force people to listen to you.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:14PM (#31792534)

      What if you were on trial and asked your friends to fill the presiding judge's mailbox or worse, congregate and protest in front of his house. The message isn't being restricted, just this very targeted delivery.

    • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:14PM (#31792536)

      It's not free speech in a public forum, and the public doesn't have a right to address the court, at least not without going through certain channels. They need to be able to file an amicus brief under the rules of the jurisdiction if they want to speak to the judge on the issue the court is deciding. But the judge doesn't have to listen; courts aren't democratic. If you want to overturn a court democratically, you're supposed to do it through the legislature.

    • by pavon (30274) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:45PM (#31793018)

      My understanding of contempt of court, which wikipedia confirms is that the following have to be shown
      * Existence of a lawful order
      * The contemnor's knowledge of the order
      * The contemnor's ability to comply
      * The contemnor's failure to comply

      The lawful order can be a specific order by the judge, or an existing rule or law concerning the operation of the court. There is such a rule in place - except in limited circumstances, discussing the case with the judge outside of the official proceedings of the court is not allowed. This is to prevent biasing the judge, putting forth arguments to which the other side cannot respond, and limiting opportunities for bribery or blackmail. The judge can be punished if he allows any of this sort of communication to occur, and repeated attempts to contact the judge outside of court have resulted in contempt of court rulings in the past. Furthermore, inciting someone to break the rules of the court can absolutely land you contempt charges yourself.

      The second criteria is where I think there may be problems. Lawyers are assumed to know the rules of court and can be issued contempt charges without warning. However, it is not generally assumed that the defendant does, and it is customary to warn them and only charge them with contempt if they continue. If the judge can't prove that that Trudeau was aware that this action was breaking a rule of the court, then it may likely be overturned in appeal (which is being heard right now).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by B1oodAnge1 (1485419)

      I agree, how is a whole bunch of real people sending emails in any way related to spam.

      Wikipedia defines spam as "the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately."

      As far as I can tell, these messages were not "bulk," or "indiscriminate."
      Furthermore, the people sending them were hardly "abusing" the system.

  • TV pitchman? (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:02PM (#31792358)

    Unfortunately, Kevin Trudeau [wikipedia.org] has another title which no one mentions when he goes on the air: Convicted felon. In fact he was barred by the FTC in 2004 of promoting products on TV ever again. That's why he's now an "author" because he can't sell products. His books however had raised warnings from multiple consumer protection agencies. Most noting that his book Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About contains no actual cures.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      Your signature line is especially appropriate for this discussion. :)
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      While interesting, past criminal history actually has no direct bearing as to guilt. It can affect someone's credibility if they're called as a witness, but if, for instance, a defendant never takes the stand, their past criminal history cannot be put to a jury.

      And I've been on a jury where I found out after we'd convicted the defendant that he had a long criminal history that the prosecution had never mentioned during the trial. Believe me, if he could have told us, he would have.

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:07PM (#31792424) Journal

    I remember that guy, from TV-Shop, many years ago. When I was young and impressionable (read: stupid).

    I bought a set of 8 tapes, called Mega-Memory. Kevin gave a few smart "initial pointers" on how you could memorise things really quickly by using the "peg system", associating an item or a "doing" with something (an item) etc, or a situation. And he used catchy sentences like this:

    "Everyone remembers faces, right, but names? Oh - I remember his name, but what's his face like? (Everyone in the audience laughs and agrees)" And goes on by telling us we can remember anything by using his mega-mind system. Which is utterly bullshit, because once you get to advanced formulas, actual stories etc. you won't remember squat anyway, not anything extra with his system. With his system, you may improve to remember 20 SIMPLE items instead of ...say 10...

    He's well known for scams like this, take some 10% truth things (which most people agree too, and understand immediately) to sell something thats a complete lie - based on that 10% of truth (which you got for free, in the infomercial in the first place).

    It's like people who win because they tell HALF-truths, because everyone understands the first part, the second part must also be true? Right? Wrong! Thats how people like him scams millions across the world.

  • This sounds more like a care of civil disobedience and protest. As long as he didn't encourage people to threaten the judge, I don't see anything wrong here. If your filters can't handle this, sounds like a personal problem. How many times have you heard something like, "Let your voice be heard. Contact your local Representative, Senator, etc.?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      How many times have you heard something like, "Let your voice be heard. Contact your local Representative, Senator, etc.?"

      But such campaigns such as that is using an official channel to voice your complaints. Kevin Trudeau gave out the private email of the judge and was telling people to spam it. Do you see the difference now?

      • No. A Judge's email address is an official channel, unless it's his personal email account (in which case, I could understand the problem).
  • I'm sorry, schmucks like Kevin Trudeau need to be in jail for the same reason you put violent offenders in jail.
    To protect the public from their predatory behavior.
    And make no mistake, that's all Kevin Trudeau is about. You cut off one avenue of exploitation for him, he simply rolls over into another. And another. And another.
    Until they physically stop this jackass, he'll continue preying on gullible people via any and every means possible.

  • Trudo is a blowhard fraud AND a spammer. That's probably why the judge got pissed. See:
    http://www.skepdic.com/trudeau.html [skepdic.com]

    "The New York state Consumer Protection Board warns those who follow Kevin Trudeau's advice to call a toll-free number for information that Trudeau is selling their name and contact information to telemarketers and junk mailers."

    and...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Trudeau#2010:_Arrest_and_imprisonment_for_criminal_contempt_of_court [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0323064.shtm [ftc.gov]
    http:// [ftc.gov]

  • Why it's contempt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Proteus (1926) on Friday April 09, 2010 @01:41PM (#31792946) Homepage Journal
    I'm not a lawyer, blah, blah.

    All the folks on here saying "wha? But he just asked people to e-mail support, that's not spam!" are entirely missing the point.

    You are not allowed to approach the Judge, or ask anyone else to approach the Judge, outside of court and certain other specially-sanctioned venues. It's called ex parte [thefreedictionary.com], and is only appropriate in very specific circumstances, because - duh - that's likely to be unfair. That's the basis for the contempt charge.

    Now, if it had been a friend or two that e-mailed the judge, he might have just warned them off with a "that's not appropriate." But when enough people e-mail to fill his Inbox, it's quite clearly an attempt to influence the judge, and that's not OK .

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Culture20 (968837)

      Now, if it had been a friend or two that e-mailed the judge, he might have just warned them off with a "that's not appropriate." But when enough people e-mail to fill his Inbox, it's quite clearly an attempt to influence the judge, and that's not OK .

      Well, maybe judges need to be sequestered away from society like juries if they're so easily influenced.

      • by warkda rrior (23694) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:24PM (#31794306) Homepage

        Now, if it had been a friend or two that e-mailed the judge, he might have just warned them off with a "that's not appropriate." But when enough people e-mail to fill his Inbox, it's quite clearly an attempt to influence the judge, and that's not OK .

        Well, maybe judges need to be sequestered away from society like juries if they're so easily influenced.

        It's not that a judge is easily influenced, it's that he cannot prove to the other party that he was not influenced.

  • So does the judiciary now have absolute power to jail anyone on whim even outside of the court room? Not even your president or constitutional monarchs have that power.

    There must be limits on the powers of the judiciary. No judge should have the power to jail anyone for contempt except those who are appearing before the court. If you are in the audience, all the judge should be able to do is throw you out of the court room or file a complaint of disturbing the peace with the local police. To suggest that

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Friday April 09, 2010 @02:53PM (#31793894) Homepage

    The Constitution specifically protects the right to petition your government. It does not specify any restrictions. It doesn't exempt the judiciary. Don't want to be petitioned? Easily taken care of, resign from government.

    Doing this sort of thing might be rude, but it's not illegal. Being part of the government means that you don't have the same standing as a member of the general public with respect to shielding yourself from contact.

    And a contempt citation/jail is certainly an abuse of power by this judge. But it is an indication of how members of the judiciary view themselves, as above reproach. They are unelected, they serve for life. This contempt citation should be overturned because the judge has no authority to cite anyone for behavior not done in his courtroom, or in violation of one of his orders.

    Frankly, I think the whole concept of contempt of court, as being able to be absolutely applied by one person with absolute authority is something that should be outlawed. No one should be able to be sentenced to jail without due process of being charged, tried by jury, and convicted.

  • by richcsst (1092331) on Friday April 09, 2010 @03:16PM (#31794202)
    He's lucky it was only Contempt of Court and just 30 days. This could have been considered threatening a judge, attempting to extort a judge, bullying a judge, attacking the court etc. Criminal charges could certainly have been levied against the idiot. You do not orchestrate an "attack" on a judge, especially one that is hearing your own case. Severe punishments are attached to such things simply to keep the impartiality intact (don't bother whining about that to me). The law upholds the integrity of the court and violating that integrity carries severe punishments.

    No, this guy got off easy.

    I am a Constitutionalist, and those claiming it was a violation of the Constitution have not read it. Grievances, petitions, etc. are allowed to be given to the GOVERNING body, not the judicial. The judicial branch is tasked with deciding based on the given laws. It is not to be swayed nor influenced by public opinion. The decisions are to be made based on the law and the evidence, period. The US is a Republic based on law. It is not (contrary to common belief) a Democracy based on the whims of the mob. Judges decide if you violated the law. They do not make law. Public petitions to sway decision have no legal place in the courts. Public petitions are for the Legislative branch.

    This isolation of the judicial was designed to shield it from politics and the whims of special interests and the public. If the public didn't like a ruling or law, then it was their responsibility to petition the legislature to change the law. That is what the legislature is for. Judges are not there to change the law. Judges can only rule for the plaintiff or the defendant with only one possible third option, declare a law unconstitutional. That's it. The Constitution laid it out that way to preserve justice and keep it safe from the mob.

    This idiot was attempting to usurp justice and bully the judge into deciding not based upon law and evidence but by public opinion and intimidation. If he feels the judge's decision was wrong, the law gives him the right to appeal that decision.

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