Lesson Learned: Part II

More lessons: a few months ago, I was brought into a lawsuit alleging defamation based on a blog post I wrote about another attorney’s mishaps during a murder trial. A few weeks ago, after a lot of soul searching, I published another post about the attorney with my thoughts about my own part in it and aspects of the matter that bothered me.

I have a few more thoughts.

Initially, the part that bothered me most was that the attorney, Joseph Rakofsky, was said to have committed his errors, was skewered across the blogosphere and in mainstream publications (I was one of those doing the skewering), filed his lawsuit claiming defamation, and then was subject to even more ridicule for availing himself of legal process. My sense is that Rakofsky engaged in the course of action dictated by our legal system. Won’t the court decide if there is merit to his points? Why should any complain if they are brought into court? Sure it causes aggravation, but if legal harm has been committed, it will be sussed out. So will innocence, or non-liability in the case of a civil matter. End of story.

There is something new that bothers me – the nastiness continues, settling defendants are mocked, and attorneys that have spoken out against the majority  have taken a beating. I really don’t understand this. Freedom of speech, sure, but the ill will across the Internet seems excessive, and the fact that sympathetic attorneys and settling defendants are falling under the knife is even more disturbing. Why is this happening?

Maybe the Internet is a magnification of the behavior often seen on the playground. Do we need new limits or rules of engagement on the Web to keep the level of discourse on the up and up?  Maybe it’s time to self-police.

There is no legal edict against public criticism, other than the limitations imposed by the limits of civil and criminal liability.  But there may be other limits absent in the post-lawsuit discourse, including concern for another person’s livelihood, deference to our legal process, common sense about when to leave well enough alone. Could there be any positive motive behind this? Should we be concerned about the chilling effect on the speech of those who may feel differently? I know of spectators that have opinions different from those expressed by the most vocal, but they aren’t talking. Why? Are they cowards or just protecting their interests and exercising common sense?

At this point, the matter seems more about tearing things down rather than building things up. And I fail to see the point of that. Protecting First Amendment rights by calling people names? Really?

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