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, 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’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 [5] women accusing Chief Justice Roy Moore of sexual misconduct when in fact only two [2] 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 can be accused of defamation for not printing false statements? Huh?

Legal Twitter has been having a blast in response to this, though my favorite has been the pseudonymous legal blogger Tweeter @nycsouthpaw, who marked up the letter:

Popehat won’t even touch it:

Some on Twitter pointed out that Garmon had his law license suspended in the past.

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?

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.

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Comments on “Roy Moore's Threat Letter To Sue The Press Is An Artform In Bad Lawyering”

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Anonymous Coward says:

You innuendo but don't dare say that the allegations are true...

Look, there’s the manifestly different color ink, and today is statement by mother of a “victim” that the girl didn’t have a telephone in her room at the time as claimed.

These allegations are not only weak after FOUR decades, but FAR from Weinstein — not even denying — the hiring of Mossad agents to offer McGowan (I think it is) a $60,000 fee just to get in private and record.

So until more is claimed and PROVEN, it must clearly be judged as ginned-up by Them.

Now, please try to find SOME topic which is tech and doesn’t attack “conservatives” without evidence.

By the way, both Drudge Report and Infowars are now accused of being Russian outlets. HA, HA! You people are getting hilarious when desperate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You innuendo but don't dare say that the allegations are true...

I believe Moore’s accusers.

I believe Weinstein’s accusers.

I believe Trump’s accusers.

I believe Franken’s accuser(s).

I believe all of them because — so far — I can find no reason not to. I also believe them because the nature of their accounts is consistent with what we expect to hear from victims. And I believe them because it seems extremely unlikely that multiple women would decide to expose themselves to the kind of backlash they’re getting (which is it’s own horrible story) for any reason other than truth.

Incidentally, it’s not “innuendo”. These are on-the-record statements by the participants in the events.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You innuendo but don't dare say that the allegations are true...

That might have applied to Franken – only one accuser so far – were it not for the photo.

As for Moore, Weinstein and Trump, each have multiple independent accusers many witnesses to their behavior, all giving a consistent story. In Trump’s case – “grab her by the pussy” and walking in on teenage models while they were naked – proudly corroborated by Trump himself.

Grow up.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: You innuendo but don't dare say that the allegations are true...

Who the fuck is “you people”?

Never mind. Let’s just look at the fact that prior Republican elected officials and opponents also knew there was something up with this guy in the past. Current Senate conservatives have said they have a problem with him. He was also suspended because he can’t manage to do his job. Beyond that, he’s clearly a moron and i think we have a glut of those in Congress already. There, how is that for an attack?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is. He has also apologized and his apology has been accepted.

None of which excuses his actions, of course, and none of which should be the end of the matter. Nobody gets a pass on this stuff. Doesn’t matter what party, age, color, politics, etc.: nobody gets a pass. Yes, it’s painful when it’s someone on “your team”, whatever that happens to mean, but it’s necessary.

That said, let’s not lump all of this together. Harassment is not the same as sexual assault is not the same as a consensual affair is not the same as rape is not the same as any of the other things that could be listed in this sentence. It’s important to distinguish these so that we don’t devalue the more serious ones by equating them with the less serious ones.

For example, I’m furious with Franken for what he did. But it’s NOT the same as Moore’s serial pedophilia, sexual assault, and attempted rape. (I doubt we’ve heard from all of his victims. We never will hear from some of them.) It’s also not the same as Weinstein’s threats, spying, and intimidation. Nor is it the same as Trump’s proclivity for underage girls (which I’m sure we will find out much more about once the Russians decide he’s no longer a useful idiot). It is possible to be outraged about all of these men and their actions while simultaneously seeing distinctions between them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

“Actress With DNA Evidence of Her Rape [by Weinstein] at Golden Globes Mysteriously Fell Off a Cliff and Died”

Or images and exact details like with Franken now?

No? Well then, why make so much of this? — Other than a “conservative” whom you fervently wish not elected?

Masnick is just taking cheap shots while ignoring Weinstein and today a former ally, Franken — having made token notice of more likely charges.

By the way: it’s difficult to refute allegations that come from out of the blue, that’s why the letter is flailing. One doesn’t know what the charge is or who one is fighting.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

Oh, he’s far sleazier than that.

  • The rape allegation he mentions wasn’t against Weinstein, but against a member of the production crew.
  • He accuses Masnick of "ignoring Weinstein and Franken." This after Techdirt stories criticizing both. In the case of Franken, one just a couple hours earlier.
  • The allegations against Moore are as substantiated as the allegations against Weinstein. Multiple women, plus multiple others who saw what was going on. And yet he obviously believes those against Weinstein while dismissing those against Moore.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

Whataboutism is just a pathetic wall to hide behind for people that just had their hypocrisy revealed.

Both the Rs and Ds are stupid little bitches full of the shit. You silly fucks both deserve each and every bit of whataboutism you sling at each other. Fucking hypocrites!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations?

He could always sue. Then there’s be discovery, and we would see who’s the liar.

I’m sure the reason he hasn’t sued is the same reason the orange retard isn’t. Discovery will fuck him like a prison bitch.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

Masnick is taking cheap (and entertaining) shots at an incredibly bad lawyer. All y’all can go right ahead and keep making whatever you want to out of that.

Also, i think Putin’s toll army is hiring and looking for advisors. You guys could teach them a thing or two.

hij (profile) says:

Re: Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

Okay, since I have your permission, what can I make out of this?

  1. Justice Moore has incredibly bad judgement.
    I did not intend for the irony to be so explicit, yet there it is.
  2. The local media in Alabama has failed to do their job. His political career should have never come this far.
  3. The idea that Justice Moore’s political career includes his time as a judge speaks volumes about the whole situation.
Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

By the way: it’s difficult to refute allegations that come from out of the blue, that’s why the letter is flailing. One doesn’t know what the charge is or who one is fighting.

"One doesn’t know what the charge is"? So far as I can tell, the charges are sexual assault and sexual advances on underage girls. He could simply say "I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, nor have I ever made sexual advances towards any underage girls".

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Is there ANY evidence against Moore besides allegations? LIKE THIS:

By the way: it’s difficult to refute allegations that come from out of the blue, that’s why the letter is flailing. One doesn’t know what the charge is or who one is fighting.

I don’t know about that; most of the allegations I’ve seen out of the blue make have seemed trivially easy to refute. (Some of them may have been so blatantly obvious as to basically refute themselves.)

The revelator says:

Let me explain the conspiracy for you

Alabama is actually a sleight of hand for Al Obama, thus revealing his links to Kenya, because Velshi is really His Veil (note the stealth extra “i” which ᛊᛈᛈᛖᛊ to be missing, but it’s really an embedded redundancy) with which he masks the fact that Roy Moore and Trenton Garmon are playing the spin to the max as I now reveal that their names are an anagram of “momentary goner on rotor”, hence the spin.

A ha! But don’t fall for that trick, it’s designed to distract you from the truth that the names are in fact “Mormon roentgen oratory”, so you’ll need to use Joseph Smith’s special stones and an X-ray machine to expose the REAL truth behind this smokescreen.

Although Garmon’s grammatical peccadilloes appear to be a cry for help, the lawyer is really saying “I’m best at litigating through interpretive dance, but like Men Without Hats, I’m really invoking POEtic license, and in the words of Edgar Allen, these tales of mystery and allegation shall be “Nevermore”!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No mention of any possible faked evidence

Curiously the article does not mention the problems with the only evidence presented against Moore

Signature in different ink color than rest of yearbook statement
Different handwriting
The number 7 is different in two places
Moore was never a DA, so wouldn’t have signed DA
Yearbook person claims she never saw Moore again, yet Moore years later was the judge at her divorce

And the Piece of Resistance

Gloria Allred her lawyer refuses to let an independent expert look at the yearbook to verify it is not fake.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: That doesn't count and nothing else does either!

It’s a good thing that’s the only possible scrap of evidence against him then. And it’s definitely a good thing he hasn’t tried to defend himself in a phone interview, refused to give a hard ‘no’ to ‘were you dating teenage girls?’ and all but admitted his actions by stating that he never dated any girl ‘without the permission of her mother’.

Seriously, what’s it feel like to be defending someone that even fellow republicans are asking to step down because they believe the allegations against him?

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