Ridiculous Lawsuit Filed (And Now Dropped) Against Tor Project Gets Even More Ridiculous: Now Involving Hate Group Leader

from the wait,-what? dept

So, yesterday we wrote about the already bizarre lawsuit filed by Jason Lee Van Dyke, a Texas lawyer, on behalf of Shelby Conklin, against a revenge porn site, Pinkmeth, and (even more ridiculous), the Tor Project. There were many, many problems with the lawsuit, starting with the cluelessness of Van Dyke in going after the Tor Project, when he clearly had no idea what it was or did, or any idea about how Section 230 of the CDA works (in fact, it appears he misrepresented a similar case, in which GoDaddy was protected by Section 230). There were also some problems with the First Amendment aspects of this, and Van Dyke’s argument that aiding someone in being anonymous was some sort of aiding and abetting of law-breaking. Thankfully, this morning Van Dyke admitted that he was dropping the Tor Project from the lawsuit — though he doesn’t appear to have apologized or admitted to his own errors. Instead, it appears he’s been doubling down — which we’ll get to later in this post.

But first, the story has taken a different twist, as Jay Wolman in our comments pointed to something even more bizarre: Van Dyke claimed that Pinkmeth’s “address” (also where he had the lawsuit served) was the same address as Kyle Bristow, Esq. Pinkmeth had previously facetiously indicated that Bristow was its attorney (and uses a picture of Bristow on its Twitter account). But it’s clear that whoever is behind Pinkmeth is joking. Bristow and Van Dyke have worked together to try to shut down revenge porn sites like Pinkmeth in the past, and Pinkmeth is clearly mocking Van Dyke by claiming that Bristow is its lawyer.

But Van Dyke still “served” Pinkmeth at Bristow’s offices, knowing that it’s bogus. As Wolman notes, since Van Dyke knows this is not actually Pinkmeth’s offices, what he’s done clearly borders on “fraud on the court.” Meanwhile, our friends at Above the Law have even more on this situation, including the fact that Bristow was declared the leader of a hate group while he was in college, who has openly advocated racist and homophobic positions.

As for why Bristow, who appears to have rather stone-aged views of the world, is now focused on fighting revenge porn? Well, his argument kind of speaks for itself:

?Revenge pornography is nothing more than a manifestation of liberalism,? Bristow said. ?Most victims on revenge pornography websites are young, white, blonde, middle class, American women. Women who the pornographers can link to conservatism or Christianity are especially targeted for harassment.?

Yes, as Above the Law notes, Bristow is against revenge porn because it’s “defiling white blondes in an effort to undermine Christianity.” As bad as we think revenge porn sites and their operators are, somehow I doubt that’s the goal. Either way, Van Dyke pretending to believe that his buddy Bristow actually represents Pinkmeth is just the latest in a long line of problems with the lawsuit…

Meanwhile, as another commenter on our original story pointed out, Van Dyke appears to be freaking out on Facebook, threatening to sue people who are posting negative reviews of his firm:

Sometimes, combined with the threats of lawsuits, he directly threatens physical harm on people:
And, much of the rest of the time, he’s displaying just the sort of “professionalism” we’re sure that the Texas bar approves of:
Separately, when someone sent him a copy of my original article, he laid out his own “legal strategy,” in which he explains that he’s filing this on the expectation that Pinkmeth will default and then he’ll get his injunction (some of the companies that he’s seeking the injunction to apply to may have a word or two to say about that). Oh, and at the end, he flat out admits that “it’s my job to violate the civil rights of people like you.” Lovely.

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Companies: pinkmeth, tor project

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Comments on “Ridiculous Lawsuit Filed (And Now Dropped) Against Tor Project Gets Even More Ridiculous: Now Involving Hate Group Leader”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Aha, sorry I offended you or something but it’s common to joke around like that when somebody has some inexplicable hatred against something or someone. It’s specially funny when it’s someone much older ranting about someone younger (think Justin Bieber and some old person) and time machines are involved ๐Ÿ˜‰

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“i am all for joking” THAT I APPROVE OF…
there, FTFY…

(sorry Josh, but if you are not for the free speech of your worst enemy spouting his most vile speech, you are -alas- not for free speech at all… it turns out -like MOST sheeple who do not understand the concept- you are for speech ‘you like’…)

further, i would only say i think it is HIGHLY instructive how often it turns out that the most vehement -for example- anti-gay crusaders turn out to be tapping their toes in a wide stance in public restrooms… funny how often that turns out to be the case…

thus, ninja’s joking speculation may have more validity to it than a simple insult to the guy… would NOT surprise me given how many times that turns out to be so…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

” if you are not for the free speech of your worst enemy spouting his most vile speech, you are -alas- not for free speech at all…”

I didn’t see Josh demanding that the joke be suppressed, only expressing that he found it offensive. That’s fair. I don’t see a contradiction with the notion of valuing free speech at all: he was just using that same freedom to express his reaction to another’s speech.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

‘I’d enjoy messing up that pretty boy face of yours with the toe of my boot’

Sounds like a pretty clear indication of a desire for violence to me. Combine that with his offers of cash payouts for personal information of the various posters, and seems like it would be pretty easy to convince a judge he’s asking for that information for… ‘less than legal’ reasons.

Possibly enough for a restraining order at least, and wouldn’t that be fun if he had a bunch of those attached to his name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Saul Goodman” is more professional than this. And by what the show told me, it’s a lot better to be a sweet talker full of analogies and being sneaky if you want to be a crooked, but successful lawyer. Yes fictional, sure, but I’m sure it’s still more effective than this grade 10 jock bullshit behavior that’s for sure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Probably because it was the only private message screenshot, and the others were public messages.

Also, whoever sent the link (and had his name redacted) was probably not Mike or one of the other techdirt authors, but some bystander who sent the lawyer the link for the lulz and then took screenshots (sending them to Mike) for even more lulz.

SolkeshNaranek (profile) says:

Re: Has anyone filed a grievance yet?

I did send them an email (with links to various articles about Van Dyke) earlier today.

It bounced around their offices and ended up with a nice lady suggesting I file a formal grievance.

I replied that since I am not a client of his, nor a resident of Texas, I don’t think I have standing to file.

I have yet to hear back from her.

Too bad…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Has anyone filed a grievance yet?

I don’t think I have standing to file.

The State Bar of Texas publishes “Grievance and Ethics Information“.

Under that topic, there is a page on “Grievance Procedure“.

Grievance Procedure

Those who believe they have been a witness to attorney misconduct โ€” clients, members of the public, members of the legal community, and judges โ€” have the right to file a grievance against a Texas attorney. . . .

You must, of course, determine whether this published information applies to your situation. If you need assistance, you may wish to engage the services of a qualified professional.

Anonymous Coward says:

From the Texas Lawyer’s Creed (texasbar.com)

“Order of The Supreme Court of Texas and The Court of Criminal Appeals

The conduct of a lawyer should be characterized at all times by honesty, candor, and fairness. In fulfilling his or her primary duty to a client, a lawyer must be ever mindful of the profession’s broader duty to the legal system.

The Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals are committed to eliminating a practice in our State by a minority of lawyers of abusive tactics which have surfaced in many parts of our country. We believe such tactics are a disservice to our citizens, harmful to clients, and demeaning to our profession. The abusive tactics range from lack of civility to outright hostility and obstructionism. Such behavior does not serve justice but tends to delay and often deny justice. The lawyers who use abusive tactics instead of being part of the solution have become part of the problem.

The desire for respect and confidence by lawyers from the public should provide the members of our profession with the necessary incentive to attain the highest degree of ethical and professional conduct. These rules are primarily aspirational. Compliance with the rules depends primarily upon understanding and voluntary compliance, secondarily upon reinforcement by peer pressure and public opinion, and finally when necessary by enforcement by the courts through their inherent powers and rules already in existence.”

Anonymous Coward says:

What Van Dyke Needs...

Poor Mr. Jason Lee Van Dyke just needs a nice over sized big black butt-plug.

I’m confident that a prostate milking orgasm resulting from a behemoth of a butt-plug will finally give him the relief he’s unconsciously yearning for.

Oh…and don’t forget the anal ease Mr. Van Dyke…that initial penetration can sting a bit.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Too bad

I don’t support the “loony” as you call him. I think he is a dick. However, I do think that at least some of the things he is trying to argue legally are at least interesting and someone will argue them at some point, hopefully in a better case.

I don’t support him. Please work on your reading skills, I thought I made that very plain.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Service

Maybe he has never heard of a case being dismissed because of “No Service.”

In case he doesn’t know, that means if the sherriff can’t find the defendant’s house, then he can’t serve the notice by handing it to the person or taping it to the door with scotch tape.

Then when you get into court, the judge asks where the defendant is, and the plaintiff says they couldn’t find him.

Then the case is dismissed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: No Service

Unfortunately, that’s where the ‘On the internet’ modifier comes into play.

Far too often, if you’re talking about something going on ‘on the internet’, they don’t dismiss the case, instead they hand the prosecution everything they asked for, no matter how outlandish it is.

As a recent example, not too long ago there was a case where a judge allowed Microsoft to seize a ton of domains from another company, because they managed to convince the judge that they were of ‘imminent danger’ and needed to be dealt with immediately, all without informing the company that was running/owned them.

Jay Wolman (profile) says:

Thank you

First, thank you for the shout-out.

I’m not sure on the chronology, but it appears he’s trying to explain away the service on Bristow in the ATL article (page 3). He admits he knows it is bogus and seems to be asserting that their joke acts to appoint Bristow as an agent for service of process.

In the law of agency, that would be apparent authority. However, apparent authority is not a tenet of due process of which proper service is a part. Further, even if it were, actual knowledge of the alleged agent’s true status and lack of actual authority would defeat any claim of apparent authority. No reasonable person with that knowledge would rely on the listing of Bristow.

Plaintiff cannot or should not get a default judgment where the defendant has not been served. It should not survive a motion to dismiss and my bet is Texas does have mechanisms to protect a defendant’s anonymity. Nor would a default judgment do any good–if you cannot identify a real or legal person, then you have a worthless piece of paper. The method to enforce an injunction is a contempt proceeding against a person you cannot find. It is a waste of effort.

You have a revenge porn claim? Call Adam Steinbaugh. He’ll put you in touch with a good attorney.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Thank you

It should not survive a motion to dismiss and my bet is Texas does have mechanisms to protect a defendant’s anonymity.

Who would make such a motion? Answer: The defendant. Since that person (or persons) chooses to be unreachable, they end up with no voice in court. At that point, it’s totally up to the judge what to do, and most of them appear to give the plaintiff everything they are looking for, even if it is an unenforceable judgement because they have no way to make it work.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Thank you

Who would make such a motion? Answer: The defendant. Since that person (or persons) chooses to be unreachable…

If that person is actually unknown and unable to be served how is there a actually a case in the first place? In this case, a default judgement against some unnamed John Doe isn’t going to get the website taken down anyways, so I’m not sure of point of it all.

And just out of curiosity, how do you reconcile the use of Tor with the firm stance the courts have held on allowing anonymity? In SCOTUS’s own words:

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

Wouldn’t removing the shield that Tor and similar projects provide undermine the doctrines we have always held concerning anonymity?

When SCOTUS wrote that, I’m sure they had to realize that anonymity does allow some people to do bad things, but they still held that allowing anonymity is more important to our society.

RobDeleu says:

This girl must be dumb, since now everybody will want to see her naked stuff and share them. The only thing she’s doing is giving that porno website more exposure.

How did she find out about that adult site in the first place? I thought you needed a special tool to visit sites on TOR and who says her video/pictures ain’t on sites like eporner, http://theporndude.com/, xvideos, etc. What’s so special about this pink meth site? Does anybody have an image or something, since I don’t feel like installing TOR.

Looks like this girl is trying to golddig from her own stupidity, but it’s a lost case. Others chicks would follow her example and the courts would be doing overtime big time.

Bill L says:

They may have a problem because when they put the petition on their website to dox him Pink Meth showed that they got the lawsuit which means they can’t complain about not getting served and even if the service could have been ineffective there is a chance the Pink Meth might have made it effective. I think the whole lawsuit is a trick to try to get the Pink Meth people arrested because he has written in other places that it is not about the money and he is working for free in this case.

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