What Do They Say About The Lawyer Who Represents Himself?

from the crash-landing dept

Not quite sure where to start on this one, but I will just say that while the embedded (below) legal filing clocks in at 100 pages, it's worth taking the time to read it, just to get a sense of the legal filing stylings of one Arthur Alan Wolk, a lawyer who apparently has made quite a name for himself over the years as a trial lawyer specializing in aviation accidents. In April of 2007, the blog Overlawyered published a post with some speculation about some of Wolk's activities in a particular case -- speculation that Wolk insists is false.

In April of 2009, Wolk came across that blog post, and sued for defamation in state court on May 12th. It was quickly kicked up to federal court, and last summer the case was dismissed (pdf), with the court noting that the statute of limitations on defamation is one year, and more than that had passed by the time Wolk filed his suit. Wolk apparently tried to argue that he only discovered the blog posts in April of 2009, and thus he could still file. The judge disagreed. The blogger who was sued, and some other blogs, posted about the dismissal, properly noting that the court had dismissed Wolk's lawsuit, with some claiming it was a "victory" for free speech.

Wolk is apparently not one to give up easily. First, he has asked the judge to set aside the dismissal order, claiming that because Overlawyered changed blogging platforms in 2008, and it changed the URLs for stories, this counts as "republishing" the original story, and the statute of limitations shot clock was restarted. He also argued that because Overlawyered engaged in search engine optimization via the new platform and that SEO helped "thrust [the story] to the forefront of all internet search engine results and infiltrated every search performed of Plaintiff by anyone...," his original lawsuit was within the statute of limitations. It seems that this would be a rather unique interpretation of the single publication rule, which most states use to set the statute of limitations on defamation claims at the time of first publishing.

However, even more ridiculous is that he has now filed a new lawsuit against the same defendants and a lot more people, including the lawyers of the original defendants. In this filing, Wolk is representing himself. On what basis is he suing again for a case already dismissed? Well... sit right back and take the time to read. There are a number of interesting theories, starting, of course, with again claiming that the original post was defamatory, based on what he now believes is the relevant date. Though, um, that date is in 2008, so even if he gets the court to buy that as the date of publication, I don't see how it passes the statute of limitations test (again).

Next up... he puts forth a series of conspiracy claims. Apparently, Wolk believes that everyone on the long list of people he sued is against what he stands for, and all of the articles published about him were part of a conspiracy to discredit Wolk because people disagree with his views on tort law. Earlier in the filing, there are many attempts to paint some of the defendants with very broad brushes -- claiming certain sites are "partners" and also labeling certain websites and institutions (such as Reason and the CATO Institute) as being "ultra right wing," which is funny if you know much about Reason or Cato.

The series of conspiracy claims get stranger and stranger as you read each one, but it seems that they can be summed up as... a lot of people online have been making fun of Wolk, and that continues because the original post remains online, and these new posts have continued to draw attention to the original post. Absent all of these claims is the recognition from Wolk that (a) his initial lawsuit made the original story -- defamatory or not -- newsworthy again, long after it had gone into the archives (b) the judge did, in fact, dismiss his original lawsuit, whether rightly or wrongly and (c) bloggers and other journalists highlighting this fact are highlighting this fact, not engaging in some conspiracy.

But Wolk seems to be insisting that because he believes the dismissal was incorrect, it's defamation to report on it. He also alleges that even though the statute of limitations has passed, everyone is required to remove the original post. Separately, he claims that some of the blog posts reporting on the dismissal are themselves defamatory. For example, he's suing Reason for reporting that he "missed the deadline" to file his original lawsuit -- even though that's exactly what the court said. That Wolk believes that ruling was in error doesn't change the fact that Reason accurately reported the ruling. Furthermore, he claims that these other blogs posts served to "encourage and incite" readers to "further defame" Wolk, though I don't see any specific points where readers are specifically encouraged to defame Wolk.

Not surprisingly, he also sues a bunch of pseudonymous commenters on these blog posts, who made statements about Wolk, but also claims that the comments on these blogs shows that the Trustees of the Reason Foundation need "to cease and desist their abdication of their legal responsibilities to manage and supervise Manhattan and Reason for solely charitable or educational purposes..." He also claims that this is a violation of their non-profit (501(c)(3)) status. Huh? Really? Having commenters mock you is a violation of their non-profit status? How?

It gets better.

Next up, Wolk notes that he, himself, hired someone to go on Wikipedia and "place truthful, favorable information about the plaintiff." But... you see, everyone else got in the way:
The defendants, hell bent on torpedoing the Wikipedia attempt to minimize their conduct's impact on the plaintiff's reputation, by themselves or some of their incited adherents or their own employees, including but not limited to Frank and Olson, edited the site with their false and defamatory logs so plaintiff could not effectively restore in some small way his reputation.
This, apparently, means they're guilty of "Internet Stalking and Bullying."

Next up... he claims that they're guilty of extortion. Extortion?!? Yes, extortion:
The defendants are attempting to extort something of value from the plaintiff, his reputation to enhance the visibility and credibility of their websites and to use that destruction as a means to obtain more illegal tax deductible contributions.

They are continuing to libel him so they can cause him to sue them, and thus make them appear as victims on the internet and thus enhance and encourage others to contribute to their tort reform causes.

The defendants want to publish the sorrow of their plight being sued repeatedly for their libel so their membership can blog more and more hate against the plaintiff.
Separately, Wolk hasn't just sued the original defendants and some others who wrote about the case, but has also sued the original defendants' lawyers, claiming that their own blog posts about the original ruling were defamatory. Paul Alan Levy (whose writeup on this case we linked to above) explains why he finds this part to be problematic:
But to my mind, the most obnoxious aspect of the new lawsuit is the transparent attempt to interfere with the defense of the libel suit by joining the defense lawyers as defendants in the case. Not only does this create a potential conflict of interest between the defendants and their lawyers, but it also poses the possibility of making the lawyers witnesses in the case. Yet it appears that the lawyers were doing no more than providing zealous representation to their clients by making reasonable legal arguments in defense of their clientsí free speech. The date of the blog post was set forth in the complaint; defendants were entitled to argue for dismissal based on that date. Nor is such litigation necessary: if Wolk believes the lawyers engaged in litigation misconduct, he is free to seek sanctions against them from the judge before whom the alleged misconduct took place.
There's a lot more in the filing itself. As I said, it's well worth the read. Whether or not the original blog post was defamatory, it seems that Wolk's response to it has not done himself or his reputation any favors. Furthermore, it seems to me that throughout the lawsuit filing itself, Wolk makes statements about the various defendants that could be deemed as defamatory as well, regularly referring to defendants as "Internet bullies," and making direct statements of fact like saying that Overlawyered.com has a "sole purpose to misrepresent, lie and present a warped view of lawyers, judges and the law to undermine the civil justice system of the United States." There's also this amazing paragraph about Reason:
Defendant Reason.com is another Internet bullying site organized under the laws of the State of California, with its principal place of business in Los Angeles, California. It is one of the mouthpieces for Overlawyered.com and its mentors, Manhattan, Cato and Enterprise, which are co-conspirators, and is the attack dog for inter alia, The Reason Foundation, a euphemism for the policies and goals of the Libertarian Party, a right wing fringe element that espouses what amounts to an abandonment of the institutions of our Republic and its substitution with a Govermnent by putative journalists, self appointed intellectuals and right wing pundits but whose real goal is to work with Overlawyered.com and Olson, Frank, Manhattan, Cato and Enterprise, and their respective trustees to assassinate the character of individuals chosen for that purpose because they are a threat to the America without laws Reason Foundation wants. Reason Foundation raises funds for their anti-consumer, anti-Government, anti-court, anti-judge and often anti-Semitic, anarchistic views by proving to their donors how vicious they can be on their various media sites including Reason television, Reason.com and Reason magazine Reason.com attempts to accomplish these ends by re-publishing with new commentary publications of Overlawyered, Frank and Olson for the purpose undermining the civil justice system in the United States, by forming an Internet tag team so if one of them is silenced for their falsity, the other simply republishes with more false and defamatory comment to keep the libel alive. The idea is to whip up a frenzy to prove their dedication to the causes of the Libertarian party, much like the Nazi's of the early 1930s, which will cull more donations from their very rich donors and blind them to the dangers to American institutions of their radicalism. It is believed and therefore averred that employees or agents of Reason. com are the anonymous bloggers.
Um. Yeah. Later, he claims that the "Trustees" of these various organizations "continue to suck the blood of the American people," which is quite a statement. He later says of the defendants: "These leaches on our society who take the tax money of the poor, impoverished, less fortunate, those struggling just to make it and use it to achieve their goals to ensure they retain their billions have selected the plaintiff Arthur Alan Wolk as their next victim, a big mistake."

For someone who appears to be so sensitive about the mere suggestion that, as was stated by a judge, he filed a lawsuit too late, it seems slightly odd that he engages in such vitriol against them in the lawsuit filing in response. From my vantage point, it appears that he goes significantly further in his statements than did the folks he accuses of various things in statements against him.

On top of that, as Paul Alan Levy also points out in his post, Wolk appears to undermine his own case in this filing, by claiming that the defendants did not check the facts before publishing the original blog post. As Levy notes: "Wolk is unquestionably a public figure, and a failure to investigate is negligence, not the actual malice that is needed to sustain a libel suit by a public figure." Oops.

Honestly, there's much more in this lawsuit than I've covered here, so have fun reading it. And, to be quite explicit, given Wolk's actions here, I am not in any way affiliated with Overlawyered or Reason, though I'm sure we've linked to them in the past on stories. Furthermore, because Wolk appears to claim that a blog post like this could be seen as inducement to post defamatory information, I would like to be very explicit in saying that if you are going to post a comment about Wolk, certainly consider the libel implications of what you say. Or else, it is entirely possible that you could wind up subject to a lawsuit, whether or not you believe it's legit.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:19am

    Two words:

    Barbara Streisand.

     

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    •  
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      A Dan (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:17am

      Re: Two words:

      Did you mean "Barbra Streisand"?

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:47am

      Re: Two words:

      I don't think he can represent himself, he needs to hire someone else.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        DogBreath, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 12:07pm

        Re: Re: Two words:

        Well, if he find them, perhaps he can hire "The A-Team", or maybe he could look into getting Jonathan Lee Riches to represent him. He has tons of experience and sounds like just the man for this kind of job.

         

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        GeneralEmergency (profile), Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 11:39am

        Re: Re: Two words:

        .

        Wolk -may- be the planet's ultimate legal genius.

        Bear with me here...

        If Wolk looses this case big time, he can then turn around and sue himself for malpractice for millions. Then when he looses the malpractice case against himself, he can turn around again and jack up the lawsuit amount to cover the judgment and legal fees from the previous loss. The cycle is potentially endless.

        Oh my God.

        He could end up being owed all the money in the Universe.

        .

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:20am

    Techdirt linked to the original blog post. Guess that restarted the statute of limitations counter?

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:24am

    This is the most amazing sentence I've read all year

    They are continuing to libel him so they can cause him to sue them, and thus make them appear as victims on the internet and thus enhance and encourage others to contribute to their tort reform causes.

    Discuss.

     

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    identicon
    HothMonster, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:25am

    Wolk is a REDACTED

     

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    Donnicton, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:30am

    Wow, from the skill at which he can throw anything and everything that can even remotely be considered tenuously linked at the defendant, I'm surprised the RIAA hasn't immediately offered him a job among their attorney roster.

     

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    AG Wright (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:31am

    Idiot for a client.

    Is he going to sue me now?

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:37am

    Jack Thompson

    This reminds me of ole Jack Thompson. The world was against him and he ended up representing himself as the Florida State Bar tried him for 32 counts of misconduct and eventually ruled that he was guilty of 29 of those and was permanently disbarred. I am not sure if he was unwilling to find someone to represent him or if no one wanted to.

    Fun times.

     

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    DSchneider (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:39am

    quote

    I know some judges like to quote movies when responding to filings. I think this one is appropriate:

    "Mr. Wolk, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

    The above is of course is not intended to imply an factual information about Mr Wolk's intellect.

    Billy Madison FTW

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:41am

    Godwin's Law

    He Godwinned his own legal filing. Nice!

     

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    Wayne (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:44am

    darnit, somebody mentioned Jack Thompson before I could.

     

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    Anonymous Poster, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:46am

    What a sad, strange little man.

    (Come at me, Wolk.)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Gosh, I sure don't want to be sued. So, I'll limit my comment to quoting someone else. This is from the Wikipedia discussion about whether or not to delete Arthur Alan Wolk.
    This commenter argues not to delete the article because he is, in fact, notable.

    "An aviation tort lawyer who crashes his own plane and then sues the National Transportation Safety Board over the report of his crash is unique and very notable."

     

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    Barbra Streisand, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Sheep

    Wolk was mad that the Reason commenters said that there was no evidence that Wolk fucks sheep, so no one should imply that there is any evidence that Wolk fucks sheep or forge a photo of Wolk having intercourse with a sheep. I agree with Wolk that these accusations of Wolk fucking sheep are false. I would not hesitate to leave any sheep I cared about in Wolk's care, that's how confident I am that the accusations are false.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 10:03am

    Godwin's Law

    I did not think Godwin's law applied to court filings.

    I was wrong.

     

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    Pickle Monger (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Well...

    "[...]and also labeling certain websites and institutions (such as Reason and the CATO Institute) as being "ultra right wing," which is funny if you know much about Reason or Cato."

    Though this whole thing is wholly insane, the Libertarian politics are generally associated with right-wing politics and ideology. If anything, the majority of libertarian politics can be described as anti-state right-wing. One can easily be forgiven for thinking of the Cato Institute as right-wing given their association with the Koch brothers and opposition to climate change/global warming science.

     

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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:09am

      Re: Well...

      Depends on what you mean by "right wing". Sure, they want limited government which is supposedly a "right wing" ideal but they also think gays should be allowed to marry a "lefty" ideal. I think they are still back and forth on the abortion thing.

       

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        Pickle Monger (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 1:03pm

        Re: Re: Well...

        True but the marriage issue is mostly conservative vs non-conservative issue. I use the term non-conservative as it encompasses both the liberals and large swaths of the libertarian movement. In fact, libertarians often dislike the "conservative" label.

         

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    Vidiot (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Think of the children...

    Okay, so he didn't drag "the children" into it; but I thought it especially brilliant to play the Nazi card. That pretty much rounds out the conspiracy memes.

     

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    cgt (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:14am

    Cato and Reason

    Yes, his comments are Cato and Reason are quite funny. Even among libertarians Cato and Reason (and the US Libertarian Party) is quite moderate.

     

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    trish, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:25am

    lol

    [This comment is awaiting approval from commenter's lawyer]

     

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    identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 11:31am

    For the Record...

    As of reading this article, and the bit of boilerplate that Mr. Masnick bolted at the end to cover himself from Mr. Arthur Alan Wolk's wrath, let me throw Mr. Masnick bit of cover with the following disclaimer:

    My name is Matthew A. Sawtell. The views and opinions expressed in this comment are mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Mr. Mike Masnick, or any other employee, contributor, or commenter here at the TechDirt Website. Assumptions made by me, Matthew A. Sawtell, are not reflective of the position of any TechDirt entity, affiliate, or sponsor.

    Start of Comment

    I have seen my share of bullshyte over the years, pro and con, about the question of 'cyber-libel', from more than a few corners of the world. Quite frankly Mr. Wolk - you have become the very thing that you claim to be against.

    Furthermore, after attempting to read your rather lengthy and banal brief to the court - if you truly believe that the law is suppose to do what you want, then to quote/paraphrase Charles Dickens:

    If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass - a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience.

    From of the looks of it, 'your eye' is either firmly closed or blind from the start.

    End of Comment

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Aug 2nd, 2011 @ 8:24pm

    To paraphrase Marcus Tullius Cicero

    There is no opinion so stupid that it canít be expressed by some dumbass attorney.

     

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      The Devil's Coachman (profile), Aug 3rd, 2011 @ 8:29am

      Re:

      No truer words were ever spoken. And lest we forget, any attorney who has had a 34-inch, 31-ounce ash baseball bat applied to the occiput will generally realize the error of their ways, and quickly change them........should they still be capable of doing so.

       

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    identicon
    Wow, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:43am

    Wolk has now sued Paul Alan Levy and Public Citizen. Is Ralph Nader part of the right-wing conspiracy?

     

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    identicon
    Justin, Aug 14th, 2011 @ 12:09am

    Wolk is a fucking piece of work

    Wolk has a history of defamation or conspiracy to defame suits. It also doesn't bother him to talk shit in public about others when it suits him as evidenced by his blog. Prior to having the internet defendants in this case, Wolk did the following:

    1. Wolk personally sued Teledyne Industries, Inc. and 5 others for defamation because they allegedly revealed a court order that named Wolk personally as the cause of some litigation abuse. However, the suit failed because Wolk couldn't state in his complaint what the defendants said that was disparaging since Wolk had gotten the original order sealed. http://tiny.tw/8sN (He should've proceeded with caution against Teledyne or they could have sent the terminator to "talk" to him.

    2. Wolk personally and professionally sued his former liability insurance company for defamation, TWICE. His defamation claim in that case also failed, as it did with Olson, because it was time-barred. http://tiny.tw/8sQ

    3. Wolk filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the USA because the FBI refused to turn over District Julie Judge Carnes' investigative file without having a privacy waiver from Judge Carnes. He lost. http://tiny.tw/8sY

    4. Wolk filed confidential proceedings with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding district court Judge Carnes supposed bias against him because of some of the motions he was denied (probably since she was appointed by G. H. W. Bush). http://tiny.tw/8sY

    5. Wolk also sought "the impeachment of Judge Carnes and has encouraged Congress to pass legislation, dubbed "The Carnes Bill," which would create certain procedures to review the conduct of federal judges." http://tiny.tw/8sY

    6. Wolk was 'also writing a book entitled "The Judge," which is "about the corruption of power that is possible for a federal judge and how the system is designed to overlook the predilection to engage in such conduct, the subject being the litany of personal attacks by Judge Carnes on a man even she admits apparently was not the lawyer handling the case."' http://tiny.tw/8sY

    7. Wolk sued the NTSB over its report about his airplane crash, which he had caused (NTSB report at http://tiny.tw/8t8).

    8. Finally, Wolk posted last year on his blog that his "private parts" had been groped by a TSA agent and he wasn't sure if he should be happy or sad. (I don't believe the agent was a sheep).

     

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