Aspiring Actor Forges Court Order To Delist Content, Gets Busted By Judge, Forges Court Order To Delist Article About Contempt Charges
from the love-to-be-wrong-on-the-internet-all-the-time dept
Eugene Volokh (along with Public Citizen’s Paul Levy) has made a cottage industry of sniffing out bogus/fraudulently-obtained court orders demanding the delisting of unflattering content. Much of this seemed to be the work of desperate reputation management “gurus,” who had over-promised and under-delivered in the past. Abusing the DMCA process only goes so far. Sometimes you need to lie to judges to get things done.
Sometimes you just need to pretend you’re the judge. Convicted sex offender Abraham Motamedi forged a court order awarding himself legal fees and the delisting of content indicating he was a convicted sex offender. When called on it, Motamedi claimed he had nothing to do with it while also claiming the order was legit. These two viewpoints cannot be resolved logically. If it was legit, Motamedi would have had to appear in court to obtain it. If it wasn’t legit, then assertions otherwise won’t suddenly make a nonexistent case appear on a Michigan court’s docket.
Forgeries continue, as Eugene Volokh reports. A man who attempted to use a forged court order to vanish content from the internet appears to have doubled down.
In April, I mentioned two prosecutions for such forgeries, including a prosecution of one Garner Ted Aukerman, who was convicted of contempt of court based on a judge’s finding that he was responsible for “a fraudulent court order [that] has never been entered by [the] court”:
“Apparently Mr. Aukerman has taken [an] order setting the matter for hearing and deleted the middle section of that order in which he generated [in context, I think this means “inserted” -EV] the detail concerning the court’s findings and orders. A hearing was never held, those findings were never made and the order is completely fraudulent.”
Then, Monday, I saw that someone had submitted a takedown request to Google, asking that it remove (among other things) my April post, a copy of the forged court order, and a court order from a different Ohio court that declared Aukerman to be a vexatious litigant and thus requiring him to get leave of court before filing lawsuits.
Perhaps no layperson understands the flow of legal documents quite like a vexatious pro se litigant. By “understand,” I mean, has at least a passing familiarity with their general appearance and what they should contain. Still, even the most vexatious of litigants isn’t going to be able to produce a fake court order targeting actual legal experts and get away with it.
Garner Aukerman apparently tried to muddle his judicial interlopment by trying to make the fake court order look like it was part of Aukerman’s criminal prosecution. Aukerman’s case has a sealed docket which makes it a little tougher to determine which of the several documents accompanying his takedown request doesn’t belong. Unfortunately for Aukerman, his supposed delisting order confuses two legal issues in a way no real judge would.
The first part of the order provides for the sealing of criminal records after a certain amount of time has passed. This is legitimate. But the order goes on to demand the “sealing” of Volokh posts and posted documents about Aukerman’s past bogus legal work, calling them “defamatory.” Well, there are defamation cases and post-release criminal record expungement, but they aren’t interchangeable and no judge is going to randomly declare some internet content to be defamatory for the hell of it while reminding a convict of his expungement rights.
Even if that part were struck, post-release expungement would only remove the government’s official records pertaining to Aukerman’s conviction. It has no power to demand the rest of internet participate in the expungement. There’s no right to be forgotten law in the United States and, for better or worse, the internet tends to remember things long past the point the government itself has officially forgotten about them.
Volokh contacted the issuing court and discovered (to no one’s surprise) the court hadn’t actually issued this order. He also spoke to Aukerman, who claimed what he sent to Google was nothing more than a proposed order. Even if true, there’s no point submitting a proposed order because no one’s under any legal obligation to do anything until a judge approves it… unless the real point is to try to push one past Google’s takedown review team and hope it doesn’t notice the obvious fakery.