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The Courts Censorship Your Rights Online

After Online Defamation Suit, Dismissal of Malicious Prosecution Claim Upheld 267

Posted by timothy
from the that's-a-shame dept.
Christoph writes "I'm the Slashdot user who was sued for defamation (and six other claims) by a corporation over negative statements on my website. I prevailed (pro-se) in 2008. The court found the other side forged evidence and lied. In 2009, I sued the other party's lawyers for malicious prosecution/abuse of process (the corporation itself is dissolved/broke). One defendant had stated in writing their client was lying, but the trial court dismissed my claim for lack of evidence. I appealed, and this Tuesday the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, completely ignoring the defendant's written admission (and other evidence). They further found it was not an abuse of process to sue to 'stop the publication of negative information and opinion.'"
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After Online Defamation Suit, Dismissal of Malicious Prosecution Claim Upheld

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @07:54PM (#34212128)

    I'm not entitled to what I want... WAHHHHH

  • Re:Okay. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:02PM (#34212188) Journal

    And it has far reaching implications.

    They further found it was not an abuse of process to sue to 'stop the publication of negative information and opinion.'"

    That line alone shows that they basically see suing people as a way to stop free speech - and that it should be allowed, even if the law isn't technically on their side. Basically, abusing the system to get people to stop saying things you don't like is considered legal.

    Can you imagine how many people have been in a situation like Chris, but haven't had the money to go into a legal battle with them?

    It sucks indeed.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:03PM (#34212202) Homepage
    Judges don't want the loser of every case suing for it.
  • Further evidence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:04PM (#34212204)

    That Jefferson was right.

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

  • oh, i get it (Score:0, Insightful)

    by MichaelKristopeit162 (1934888) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:05PM (#34212206)
    you want to make lying illegal.

    good luck with that...

    i especially like your confusion and hypocrisy over the court's rejection of your admission of a statement by an individual that he is a liar as PROOF that he is a liar...

    if you're still too dense to realize the obvious problem with your case: would a liar not be lying?

    stop your pouting and learn some logic.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:06PM (#34212216)

    I'm not entitled to what I want... WAHHHHH

    Huh? He got screwed by a criminal corporation and a gang of corrupt attorneys. He's "entitled" to some redress for what they put him through. Do you have a problem with that?

  • Re:Corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:07PM (#34212226)

    Plain and simple.

    We make fun of China and other places, but it seems that our judiciary is now pretty much bought in many places.

    Check out this article [nakedcapitalism.com] on how many businesses see corruption as a barrier to entry to markets.

    In this case it may simply have been incompetence. Seriously. We expect to be able to hold the judiciary to a higher standard, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. There's also the fact that he wasn't paying an expensive attorney.

    But ... yeah, when you get right down to it, he was suing lawyers. That's not so easy to do, especially if they have friends (or friends of friends) on the bench. This decision does seem pretty raw, I mean, the other side admitted wrongdoing. Something smells here.

  • Re:Okay. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jdpars (1480913) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:08PM (#34212240)
    People with lawyers use the system to hurt those who have no lawyers. News at 11.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:13PM (#34212276)

    He screwed himself by not hiring a lawyer. Defending pro-se is one thing, attempting to prosecute the same way is naive at best and dangerous at worst.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:13PM (#34212282)

    Am I missing something?

    Yes. This is Slashdot, and we don't much like judges who reach decisions that our cursory inspection of the article summary find wanting.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:15PM (#34212284) Homepage

    Lawyers aren't just allowed to believe their client, they're one or two hairs short of being required to. To be guilty of malicious prosecution, they'd have to have conspired with your particular nemesis to fabricate the case knowing full well there was no case. Except for factual claim #28 against Vladimir Kazaryan, none of your alleged facts, if found to be true, would support a finding of malicious prosecution. And you lose that one because count 5 (aiding and abetting malicious prosecution) only works if you can first prove that there was a malicious prosecution.

    I hate to tell you this but the judge got it right: "Appellants complaint did not set forth claims of abuse of process and vicarious liability for which relief could be granted."

    You should have tried something like, "[lawyer] could not have reasonably believed in the existence of Zubitskiy after [date] but failed to promptly terminate the case." The lawyer is both entitled and expected to believe his client, at least until the client's claim becomes utterly non-credible.

    Sucks to be falsely sued. I know from first-hand experience. But you can't bust the lawyer for doing his job representing the client.

  • Re:Okay. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:19PM (#34212312)

    Most folks would consider an admission from the court that the court is a venue for the rich to abuse the poor news. We already know it to be true, but for a judge to admit it sure seems like news.

    They further found it was not an abuse of process to sue to 'stop the publication of negative information and opinion.'"

    That looks pretty clear to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:21PM (#34212326)

    Naive for expecting the legal system to actually be concerned about the law and dangerous to lawyers that are mostly nothing more than copy/paste artists that think they deserve to get paid $15 an hour to tell the paralegals what to do.

  • Re:Okay. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdpars (1480913) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:25PM (#34212360)
    But the court didn't admit that the rich were abusing the poor. The court decided that the events that occurred did not constitute negative information and opinion in the legal sense. It did not decide, however, that the plaintiffs were wrong for filing. The end. No significant precedent set.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:27PM (#34212376)

    Naive for expecting the legal system to actually be concerned about the law and dangerous to lawyers that are mostly nothing more than copy/paste artists that think they deserve to get paid $15 an hour to tell the paralegals what to do.

    I'm guessing you meant $150 an hour. It's the paralegals that make the fifteen.

  • by noidentity (188756) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:34PM (#34212416)
    Thank you for summarizing things, but not injecting your opinion or cute sarcastic remarks about the companies involved. Slashdot needs more neutral summaries like this.
  • by DCFusor (1763438) on Friday November 12, 2010 @08:53PM (#34212538) Homepage
    Rats, you beat me to it. That's about how it works in reality. Or, you can get "busted" with such lousy evidence that by the time you and your lawyer get to court -- it's been decided to "null pros" it -- just like it never happened. Can you then recover your legal expenses? No. Do you get anything for living in fear that you're going to jail (and your family starve) for a felony for months while they hem and haw and put things off, meanwhile demanding you show up multiple times to find out you're "continued" -- sometimes being picked up by cops, and put in handcuffs again when a phone call would have sufficed to get you there? No.

    Can you then sue them for all this? GoodLuckWithThat. If a private firm broke that many laws, and caused you that much hassle and pain, you'd maybe not expect them to go to jail, but you could at least sue them and have a decent shot.

    Of course the (other) golden rule applies. Had I rooted even one box, I'd be in a lot more hurt than say, anyone at Sony, right?

    If corporations are legally people, and have "free speech" -- why don't we treat them like people ALL THE WAY -- things like the death penalty for heinous crimes, limited lifespans, jail time for officers (the buck should stop [i]somewhere[/i]), all the rest, when they do wrong? That's the problem.

    System broken.

  • Re:Corruption (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 12, 2010 @09:09PM (#34212634)

    He sued the wrong party, simple as that. The corporation should have been the one sued, but he admits that it was broke, so he sued someone with money who was involved in a way. The lawyers weren't under oath at the trial (though perhaps they should be). Quite simply, they didn't do anything illegal. You can argue it should be, but currently it isn't. Case closed.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Friday November 12, 2010 @09:16PM (#34212682) Homepage

    First, you misunderstand. The case wasn't dismissed because of evidence, it was dismissed because if all of the factual claims were proven to be 100% true they wouldn't add up to malicious prosecution.

    Second, check the timeline. The note was written 10/27/2007 by the head of the law firm, not the particular lawyer. Nearly all the claims had been dismissed months earlier and the rest of the case ended the following week. Even if you were to conclude that the lawyer could not have reasonably believed the client following the note, the case was over! There was no more prosecution!

    The OP probably has a decent tort against this Kazaryan fellow, since he was (allegedly) found to have participated in manufacturing the case. Libel or something, I don't know exactly the right tort. But the OP went after the folks with deep pockets instead.

    I can't say I blame him for wanting to be paid but you don't get to go after the lawyers for doing their jobs.

  • Re:Context... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rich0 (548339) on Friday November 12, 2010 @09:20PM (#34212706) Homepage

    Yup. The problem is that the legal system has gotten way out of hand.

    In theory the way it is supposed to work is that two parties with a disagreement go to court, and the court decides who is in the wrong. Maybe the person in the wrong gets punished by the court via damages of some kind depending on the nature of the dispute.

    The problem is that today simply going to court is effectively punishment, and the actual damages are just outrageous quite often. Courts do not value the time of participants, and a trial takes many hours of preparation and motion practice let alone showing up in court. The result is that simply being named in a suit is finacially ruinous. Even going pro se doesn't help a great deal, as it takes countless hours that you aren't paid for to go to trial. It might also cost you your job. If you go pro se you could end up messing up and paying sanctions for the other side's legal expenses. Oh, but if the other side messes up they won't pay for your legal bills since you don't have any, and your time is considered worthless since you aren't an attorney. When it comes to scheduling the opposing counsel can point out to the court various conflicts with other litigation that they need to pursue and the court will respect this, but the court will care little for a pro se defendant's other commitments, since they aren't court-related.

    They really need to switch to a system where legal costs are balanced. Courts should stipulate a budget for each side, and the court pays the expenses of all counsel. It will be illegal to pay a lawyer, and lawyers cannot parter with other services/etc as a way to get money in the back door. Lawyers will work for the court, and not for parties themselves, essentially. Then, after the trial the entire cost of the trial becomes one of the matters at issue and the loser generally pays. Oh, wealthy plaintiffs will have to put up security in advance.

    With such a system neither side can out-lawyer the other as the legal budgets of both sides are fixed and equal. Poor defendants are not subject to death-by-process either.

  • Re:Tough Call (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday November 12, 2010 @09:42PM (#34212844) Journal

    But chalking decisions like this up to "professional courtesy" or a broken legal system is overhasty.

    That might be the case but it is hard to have confidence in a system where the lawyers police themselves. Would you be happy going to a doctor if you knew that, no matter how badly he might mess up a treatment, you would only be successful in suing him if a panel of other doctors agreed he had mistreated you? If it is fine for lawyers to police themselves then how about all the other professions as well?

  • Re:Okay. (Score:3, Insightful)

    And it has far reaching implications.

    It's the Minnesota Court of Appeals, not the US Supreme Court. This decision is about as far reaching as the judgements of the Ennis District Court.

  • Re:Corruption (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @09:56PM (#34212890)

    Something that bothers me about the conspiracy/incompetence dichotomy is that it seems to ignore other possibilities such as run of the mill negligence.

    The net effect of incompetence on the part of the judiciary is much the same as negligence: justice is not done.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Friday November 12, 2010 @10:10PM (#34212960)

    Naive for expecting the legal system to actually be concerned about the law and dangerous to lawyers that are mostly nothing more than copy/paste artists that think they deserve to get paid $15 an hour to tell the paralegals what to do.

    On the other hand, I'm reminded of this story (there are many variations):

    There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired.

    Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion dollar machines.

    They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.

    The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "This is where your problem is." The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again.

    The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service.

    They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly:

    "One chalk mark $1. Knowing where to put it $49,999"


    Granted, most attorneys do make heavy use of boilerplate, but then again, most legal tasks are entirely routine. In any event, you're paying a professional for both his knowledge of the law, and knowing how to apply it to your situation. I know what you're saying and it's often true: many attorneys do milk the system. But I have lawyers in my family, and number them among my friends. Not all lawyers are crooks, most are honest and earn their keep.

    I would say a more correct complaint would be towards a legal system that requires attorneys to be such an integral part of our lives. That wasn't always the case, but as the law has increased in complexity and overall retardedness, the need for a competent lawyer to navigate it's intricacies is frequently a necessity.

  • by ogl_codemonkey (706920) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:35PM (#34213340)

    I'd just like to emphasise that boilerplate is used because it is language that has stood the test of the courts for explicitly defining the intent that is being expressed. Writing the same passage from scratch each time would be wasteful and legally dangerous.

  • Re:Well done! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by superdave80 (1226592) on Friday November 12, 2010 @11:36PM (#34213354)

    If the feds want you, you're theirs.

    Or, they only go after people against whom they have a lot of evidence?

  • and now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Saturday November 13, 2010 @12:42AM (#34213652) Homepage Journal

    and now you come to /. and whine because?

    No, seriously, I looked for the point, purpose, goal, meaning, whatever-you-want-to-call-it of this article, and I can't find one. You intend to do what by posting this? Wouldn't this blurb be much better as a Facebook wall posting?

  • by Patch86 (1465427) on Saturday November 13, 2010 @05:52AM (#34214542)

    What a depressing indictment of our system that the thought of an intelligent, dedicated layman attempting to navigate the courts without expensive guidance is considered "naive at best and dangerous and worst".

    You're right of course. But isn't that a horrible place for us to be in?

  • Re:Tough Call (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gcatullus (810326) on Saturday November 13, 2010 @06:45AM (#34214692)

    You know what - I would because it would cut down on the crazy medical malpractices awards and maybe, just maybe, make healthcare affordable.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday November 13, 2010 @11:52AM (#34215702)

    I'd just like to emphasise that boilerplate is used because it is language that has stood the test of the courts for explicitly defining the intent that is being expressed. Writing the same passage from scratch each time would be wasteful and legally dangerous.

    True. And for what lawyers typically charge, the "wasteful" part isn't anywhere near as important as the "legally dangerous" part.

    And you know what? Us programmers use boilerplate all the time. We call them "macros",or "scripts", or "libraries", pieces of code that we re-use because they do the job and have stood the test of time. Always writing code from scratch can be dangerous, especially when you have some good boilerplate libraries handy to do the work.

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

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