Roy Moore's Threat Letter To Sue The Press Is An Artform In Bad Lawyering
from the is-this-real-life? dept
By now it’s become something of a pattern over the past few months, after many of the recent accusations come out about sexual harassment, abuse (or worse), lawyers representing the powerful men accused of such horrible acts threaten or promise to sue, often on incredibly flimsy reasons. In most cases, no such lawsuits will ever be filed. This is, in part, because the accusers know they have no case and in part because they know that if the case gets that far, going through discovery is likely to backfire big time. But, of course, for decades people have (often falsely) believed that in place of a real basis for making a legal threat, pure bluster will suffice.
The bluster in these letters is often impressive, but we have a new entrant that I think may quickly shoot to the top of the list. Roy Moore, of course, was the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, which would lead you to believe he knows a lot of good lawyers. And, yet, somehow, he ended up with Trenton Garmon. Garmon made some news earlier this week when he went on CNN with Don Lemon and called him “Don Lemon Squeezy Keep It Easy” But then he followed it up by sending one of the most profoundly ridiculous threat letters we’ve ever seen to the Alabama Media Group, the publisher of al.com, which has been reporting on Moore. You can click the link, or see it embedded below. It’s fairly astounding. Beyond the poor grammar and the typos, it makes no sense.
It starts out by basically arguing that AL.com’s reporting was “careless” (a bit ironic, given the mistakes in the letter) but (as is typical of threat letters of this nature) without giving many specifics. It does claim that the reporting on Moore signing a high school yearbook was untrue, but does so in a weird way:
Your client as an outlet is carelessly and perhaps maliciously reporting that my client, Judge Roy S. Moore, noted and signed a Yearbook of an accuser as a “DA” and in a manner which experts, to include our own, have confirmed is not consistent with his handwriting (To wit: structure, strokes, slant, base alignment, etc.) and does not comport to his typical vernacular.
And then it makes bizarre and nonsensical arguments about spoliation, which isn’t exactly relevant here:
Please also note that per Alabama law there is a Third Party Tort for Spoliation. Thus, even if your client is not a held to have defamed or otherwise worked civil damages upon our clients, your client may remain responsible in a Court of law for damages caused by failure to preserve evidence. This is often times referred to as “Adversse Interference.”
“Worked civil damages upon our clients?” Huh?
And then the letter gets into defamation, first defining defamation (poorly) and then accuses the site of having “inteionally refused to advance the truth regarding our clients.” As to what, specifically, was defamatory… well, Garmon mentions that a report claimed five women have accused Moore, while Garmon says it was just two. No really. And who starts a paragraph (let alone a sentence) with the word “meaning”?
Meaning your client has used terms in reports maliciously or carelessly which has falsely portrayed our clients. Specifically your client’s reports have indicated there are five  women accusing Chief Justice Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when in fact only two  women have made accusations of sexual misconduct. And both of these women have made false statements which your client has yet to publish. The other ladies which were rounded up in the witch hunt merely allege they perceived him to have made advances, but do not accuse him of any sexual misconduct.
When your claim of defamation is based on the fact that some of the women only accused your client of being a creep, rather than a full-on abuser, you’re not in a very strong legal position. Also, is Garmon really suggesting that Al.com can be accused of defamation for not printing false statements? Huh?
pls find my comments on Moore's lawyer's letter attached pic.twitter.com/Ohfh80QYuh
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 15, 2017
Popehat won’t even touch it:
People are suggesting I write about Roy Moore's lawyer's threat letter. Write what? How would I begin? Would you footnote a sunset over the water? Would you airbrush a rose? That letter is the Mona Lisa of unselfconscious imbecility.
— Sign Popehat's Yearbook (@Popehat) November 15, 2017
Some on Twitter pointed out that Garmon had his law license suspended in the past.
He had his law license suspended in 2014 for being an ambulance-chasing liar trying to take advantage of the the family of a dead child. From "The Alabama Lawyer" Sept/14.. https://t.co/JozgTjprpD pic.twitter.com/jGyIAHV19N
— Brenda Of The North (@BrendaJeanCDN) November 15, 2017
Incredibly, Judge Roy Moore voted to uphold Garmon’s disbarment, and then just a few years later decided to bring him on as his lawyer?
7. Garmon appealed his disbarment to the Alabama Supreme Court.
That is when then-Chief Justice Roy Moore voted to uphold Garmon's suspension
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) November 16, 2017
Since the letter came out, Garmon has also appeared on MSNBC where he started making completely nonsensical comments about one of the hosts he was talking to, Ali Velshi, implying that because Velshi was born in Kenya (though raised in Canada) he understood why dating teenagers may be considered appropriate in some cultures. Beyond making no sense at all in trying to somehow pull Velshi into this, the comment, at the very least, appears to imply that Judge Moore did the very things the other letter sort of claims may be false, and… that it might be okay because some other cultures think something else entirely is okay. Or something. None of it makes sense at all.
?Culturally speaking there?s differences. I looked up Ali?s background, and wow, that?s awesome that you have got such a diverse background, it?s really cool to read through that,” attorney Trenton Garmon said when asked why Moore would need permission from girls’ mothers to date them.
?What does Ali Velshi?s background have to do with dating children, 14-year-old girls?? co-host Stephanie Ruhle interjected.
Velshi was born in Kenya, raised in Canada and graduated from Queen?s University in Ontario.
?In other countries, there?s arrangement through parents for what we would refer to as consensual marriage,? Garmon said.
?Ali?s from Canada,? Ruhle said.
?Ali?s also spent time in other countries,? Garmon said. ?So it?s not a bad thing.?
?I don?t know where you?re going with this, Trenton,? Velshi said.
I’m guessing that Alabama Media Group is not exactly worried. Indeed, it has responded succinctly:
Michelle Holmes, Vice President of Content for Alabama Media Group, responded Wednesday to the letter. “Roy Moore seeks election to the United States Senate. As such a public figure, he merits and can expect intense scrutiny by the electorate and the media on its behalf, including by Alabama Media Group, the state’s largest media outlet.”
“We stand behind our past reporting on Roy Moore, and vow to continue to doggedly pursue the truth on behalf of the people of Alabama. These threats will not silence us, and they will not slow us.”
Of course, as some have pointed out, it’s possible that Moore could file a lawsuit, just so he can claim that the articles about his actions are false… but then drop the case soon after the election next month (win or lose). That seems like a risky move and could backfire in all sorts of ways, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be arguing that Moore or Garmon are paragons of good decision making right now. Either way, this quickly runs up the rankings of the dumbest blustery legal threat letters we’ve seen — and we’ve seen a lot.