When Law Students Get Angry… Lawsuits Get Filed

from the and-so-it-goes dept

A year ago, we wrote about a popular law student message board/forum called AutoAdmit that was making some female law students upset, as they claimed sexist messages on those boards were making it difficult for them to find a job. The reasoning didn’t make that much sense. The messages, while certainly crude, seemed unlikely to be the sort that would keep an employer from hiring. They basically just made comments about the women’s appearances. There was no evidence at all that the postings kept the women from getting jobs. Not surprisingly, though, considering that we’re talking about law students, it didn’t take long for lawsuits to be filed, including one against a Penn State law student named Anthony Ciolli, who was an editor of AutoAdmit, but had no direct involvement with the content that upset the women. In November, Ciolli was dropped from the lawsuit, but not before all of the attention had cost him his job at a high-paying law firm.

Once again, given that we’re talking about a bunch of lawyers, it will probably surprise no one to discover that Ciolli has now filed a lawsuit against the two women who had sued him originally, charging them with libel for falsely dragging his name into the mess. The whole thing seems like a giant disaster that’s only likely to get worse before it works itself out. So far, the lesson seems to be that some lawyers are pretty thin-skinned and likely to file lawsuits over just about anything. But, perhaps we already knew that. Perhaps we should be happy that they’re just filing lawsuits against each other, rather than bothering everyone else with unnecessary lawsuits.

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Comments on “When Law Students Get Angry… Lawsuits Get Filed”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Since Ciolli got fired because of their bullshit lawsuit, and given the the fact that it was only dropped after he lost his job, I don’t see how the case couldn’t be made that the suit against him was malicious in intent. If they had a case against him they shouldn’t have dropped it. Since they did drop it, but only after they got revenge on him, I think libel is a bit too weak. They shouldn’t be allowed to practice law.

Jake says:

On The Other Hand...

AutoAdmit almost certainly has the same terms of use as any other forum or other networking site, banning abusive or defamatory comments, and the women named in the comments have a right to be aggrieved if the rules are not being properly enforced.
Nevertheless, AutoAdmit’s responsibilities end with deleting the offending comments and banning whoever posted them; by no stretch of the imagination could they be considered accomplices.

Bob (user link) says:

Let's not hang them all

I can certainly understand how many here tire of this society of suing we seem to be in. Seems like everyday you hear another dumb story about someone suing someone else for pissing on the wrong tree or spitting on the street.

With that said though, let’s not hang ALL the Lawyers for this. Please remember that some attorney’s aren’t the MONEY HUNGRY sharks as others appear to be. There are quite a number of attorney’s that do Pro-Bono work in either criminal and civil cases, without ever taking a cent for their time and effort.

So, yes sure, yell at the idiot laywers, but try not to hang them all with the same rope 🙂

Jonathan says:

I have to agree with some of the other comments. Ciolli not only has a case, but has every right to sue.

It’s been discussed numerous times here that web service providers aren’t generally responsible for the posts of their users, especially if they have a valid set of TOS in place. I can only imagine the type of TOS a site for lawyers would put out.

That all being said, if Ciolli lost his job as a direct result of the lawsuit against him and attention that came with it, and was later dropped from the suit, it seems that he should have some recourse.

Since he was dropped, it seems like somebody didn’t do their homework early on and just slapped his name on the paperwork, but later found out they didn’t have a case against him.

I have a tendency to agree that Americans have become far to litigious, but this is one of the cases where I don’t fully agree with TD’s sentiments.

Robert Cannon (user link) says:

Good Samaritan

Yes, the title is relevant. Sec 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects website owners and editors from liability for third party content. It’s known as the Good Samaritan Provision. The owner of the website is not the “publisher” of third party content and therefore cannot be liable for third party content. Assuming all the facts line up, yes the defendant potentially had a complete defense and the complaint was potentially frivolous. (notice all the “potentiallies”)

One great thing about law students – they come out of law school just raring to sue SOMEBODY. Well, first stop out of law school is your Bar Exam, and studying for the Bar Exam with a test prep company. Guess what all those lawyer wannabees do when they (~50% of them) fail the bar exam. That’s right! The Bar Test Prep companies are some of the most sued companies! Boy, there’s a business plan for you!

A similar website where third parties post comments about things they want to, well comment on, is Rip Off Report. For fun, read their webpage, “Want to Sue RipOffReport?” Based on Sec. 230, they claim to have never lost a case.

Super Anonymous Ultra Coward (user link) says:

Damn them all

I am not a lawyer, but I have a morbid fascination with torts, and criminal law. It never ceases to amaze me the profound, opinionated arrogance of people who know little about the facts of a case and even less about the law.

1) It appears that the women not only have a case against the posters of the inflammatory remarks, it appears to be a strong one. All of the elements of libel and defamation as defined in most states are blatantly present, and it would be facile to state that it would not influence their ability to get a job. You truly have to be a simpleton not to believe that law firms are VERY IMAGE CONSCIOUS, and vulgar comments about you appear on the first page of Google is going to have a strong and reasonably anticipated negative affect on your employment. Most employers “google” prospective employees.

2) Ciolli’s may have a case ONLY if either the law suit was frivolous (and then probably only for costs) or malicious, but not because he was wrongly named in a legitimate suit. He may also have a case if they women made defamatory and/or libelous remarks themselves (which in most states have to be knowingly materially false, be intended solely or primarily to cause harm, and must have actually caused harm), the first and second elements don’t seem to apply. It appears likely to me that a skilled lawyer would have Ciolli’s case dismissed or adjudicated against him on summary judgement. The fact that Ciolli failed to enforce his TOS bodes poorly on him, but would not preclude him from filing a defamation/libel suit – it just makes him look bad.

Everyone may ultimately lose in this, but it is certain that the women have lost a lot.

José Luis (profile) says:

It's bad on so many levels....

All this BS lawsuits cost money (not just to the direct parts in the lawsuit, but also to the justice system).

You (US) are going into an economic recession and the government is planing to give money to alleviate the problem. Granted this is probably state (non federal) tax money, but it is money anyway, that could go to infrastructure, health, social services, etc.

Related to this are all the bogus patent lawsuits filed in WHO-KNOWS-WHERE/Texas. Maybe the best strategy to stop the hoarders is to raise awareness of the costs to Texas citizens.

-I will sue you if i don’t like your answer to this comment.
-This comment is copyrighted.

Rose M. Welch says:

I like most lawyers...

My idiot ex-husband has sued me for custody several times. He’s broke but his parents fund it and he’s lost every time.

The first time, a Legal Aid lawyer helped for free.

The second time, I handled it myself, under the direction of an attorney who gave me the legal advice for free.

The third time, they hired a dirty lawyer who very neatly lost to my attorney, who took my case despite the fact that she could not be paid until I received my income tax refund the following year (and whom probably believed that she wouldn’t ever see a dime of it). Great lawyer, by the way.

Now I have a local attorney that I used when I sued a crappy landlord. He spent an hour on the phone explaining exactly what I needed to do, and then said have a nice day, you don’t need an attorney… And then tried to refuse payment for his hour.

Eventually, I did need an attorney with the landlord, and he took what I’d already paid him out of the agreed price for his services. (I won. Yay.)

So some attorney are shitheads, just like some doctors and salespeople are shitheads. And some waitstaff are shitheads and some mechanics are shitheads and some celebrities are shitheads.

There are bad apples in every bunch. Lawyers and celebrities are just very visible shitheads. 🙂

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