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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 4:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 4:09pm

    Lawyers suing eachother...

    ...is like monkeys hurling their feces at eachother. It's the only thing they know how to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Willton, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Lawyers suing eachother...

    We'll see how you feel about lawyers when you actually need one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    NFG, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 4:57pm


    Of course lawyers are suing each other. The law is probably the single biggest thing in their lives, it's all they know. "When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Lawyers...

    Yeah. Damn hammers

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Lawyers suing eachother...

    Yes, well when I need one I'll hire a good one who doesn't file frivolous lawsuits every time they have a snit because it's the only thing they can do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Jake, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 5:34pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    It Wasnt me, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 5:36pm


    i agree with 1st poster i think Anthony Ciolli actually has a case.

    the again even when/if he wins his case its unlikely that will Help him in his job search.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Re: Lawyers suing eachother...

    "We'll see how you feel about lawyers when you actually need one."

    The pisser is, when you need one you've already lost. At that point it's about how much you're going to lose.

    The more they sue each other, the happier I am.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Bob, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 6:35pm

    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 :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jonathan, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 6:40pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Robert Cannon, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 6:59pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Super Anonymous Ultra Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 7:06pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 7:20pm

    Best Outcome:

    We can only hope that more lawyers join in this. Eventually, as more and more layers are added, the structure will collapse, and they will all be sucked into oblivion.

    Then, one day, we will wake up, look at the devastation, and rejoice, for there will be no more lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 7:25pm

    What is it with these GenX-ers and their scorched-earth theories?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    José Luis, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 8:02pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Law, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 8:22pm

    Re: Let's not hang them all

    Not ALL of us are assholes....

    Just, well... lots... That's due to market pressure though: Non-assholes are less likely to be hired.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    John Doe, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 10:09pm

    Good Article and Commenter 1 Has a Good Point.

    IF I were the girls, I would watch who you sue because every action has an opposite or equal reaction.

    Those two girls should think before they sue next time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Mar 10th, 2008 @ 10:39pm

    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. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Another Bob, Mar 11th, 2008 @ 7:45am


    Re: Lawyers suing eachother... by Willton on Mar 10th, 2008 @ 4:11pm
    We'll see how you feel about lawyers when you actually need one.

    Wilton, give me a break. What law school did you go to?

    True, lets not hang them all. The rest we can feed to the pigs.

    Lawyers are the only reason we need lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Nittany Lion, Mar 11th, 2008 @ 9:57am

    not Penn State!

    Fact check please! Ciolli graduated from University of Pennsylvania Law School, which is at "UPenn", not "Penn State". Our football team could eat theirs for breakfast.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    koresho, Mar 11th, 2008 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Lawyers suing eachother...

    yeah, I'll admit that there are times when you need a lawyer but you gotta admit that America is suit-happy. Seems like people will sue about their food being a little cold in a restaurant now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Stop bitching about lawyers. Their clients are the ones that tell them to sue, you want them to tell their clients, after advising them not to sue, to FO when they are told to file a lawsuit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    A. L. Flanagan, Mar 12th, 2008 @ 3:49am

    Re: Let's not hang them all

    You're absolutely right! Like they say, "it's only about 99% of lawyers that give all the rest a bad name!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Willton, Mar 12th, 2008 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Let's not hang them all

    Like they say, "it's only about 99% of lawyers that give all the rest a bad name!"

    Who says that? You?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    DanC, Mar 12th, 2008 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Let's not hang them all

    Actually, it's a fairly famous Steven Wright quote.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    glen, Apr 19th, 2008 @ 12:00pm

    We'll see how you feel about lawyers when you actually need one.

    Same way we feel about proctologists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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