The SLAPP-Happy Story of Rakofsky v. Internet

By now, you've perhaps heard of the plight of one Joseph Rakofsky, the man who sued everyone who ever wrote about him on the Internet. In short: Man represents defendant in murder trial; judge declares mistrial; judge says scathing things about man's professional competence; newspaper covers the unusual mistrial; law bloggers pick up story; man brings 75-defendant lawsuit against everybody who wrote about him. CMLP's full run-down of the lawsuit is live; give it a click for the nitty gritty. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Got it? Good. As we point out in our threat entry, the case is starting to move: defendants are organizing into groups, and the first few motions to dismiss are starting to come through. Most of what can be said has already been said -- after all, that's why we have a lawsuit -- so I'd recommend checking out the links in our "Websites Involved" section of the case entry for some thoughtful points on what the Rakofsky affair says about the state of the legal profession, the over-supply of lawyers scrambling to piece together a practice, and so on.

There's one point I'd like to add, though. It's easy to have fun with the case, in large part because none of the defendants are really in any danger -- the defendants that aren't lawyers themselves are mostly big media companies, who can more-than-capably handle themselves when faced with a lawsuit. But that's no excuse to forget the SLAPP problems here.

Had this been, say, the education blogosphere instead of the blawgosphere, defendants would be scrambling to figure out how (and whether they need) to get a lawyer, whether there's any relevant anti-SLAPP help (hint: the New York law ain't it), whether they should just settle, and so on. And even the lawyers in the case (assumedly) have better things to do, like representing clients or raising kids or trying to catch up before Breaking Bad starts again. There's a judge that has to read a few dozen motions to dismiss. & cetera.

So, yeah: the defendants aren't rolling over (note to self: law bloggers tend to be lawyers; don't sue them lightly), and unless Rakofsky backs off, we're in for some fireworks. But it's not just fun and games -- the lesson is the need for more serious anti-SLAPP statutes.

John Sharkey is a CMLP blogger fresh off his first year at Harvard Law School, and still thinks the Twins have a chance.


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