Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

FTR, you *CAN* be sued for outing a creeper on the internet

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

twistpeach@LiveJournal recently published a 100% awesome journal entry, which went viral, about her experience with a creeper at Arisia 2014 and what she did about it. There is so much good in what she did, and what she wrote about it, that if you have anything to do with SFF Fandom, and probably even if you don’t, you should go read it right now if you haven’t already.

However, I feel I must take issue with one thing she wrote in a follow-up journal entry:

3) There was much discussion of libel and slander in the discussion of the deleting, which honestly made me laugh. I support anyone who doesn’t want to host a discussion of my blog on their blog. But the idea that someone who DOES wish to host this discussion might be in legal trouble for slander is ludicrous. First of all, I don’t have to prove that my version of events happened (even though I have ample evidence and witnesses to do so). Slander and libel require that the story be demonstrably false. And the blog alone includes confirmation from the Arisia con chair of my report.

I have two concerns with spreading this kind of information to people who might have experiences similar to twistpeach’s and need to decide after the fact what to do about it. First of all, “Slander and libel require that the story be demonstrably false,” is hardly a universally true statement. Second, whether or not you actually committed slander or libel, you can still be sued, and it can cost you a great deal of time, money, and stress extricating yourself from such a lawsuit.

Before I go into more detail about these concerns, there is one thing I want to be absolutely, 100% clear about. I think that outing creepers like twistpeach’s did is absolutely, positively the right thing to do. I am in awe of her for doing it, and I think if more people with similar experiences reacted similarly and outed the perpetrators, there would be fewer of them and less social acceptance of their actions.

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MIT Peeps: Have you heard what JonMon is up to nowadays?

Monday, May 6th, 2013

This post is mostly for the benefit of my fellow MIT alumni.

Remember Jonathan Monsarrat?

If so, then you may have gotten the same impression of him back at the ‘tute that I did, to wit, that he gave off creep vibes.

Judging from what has been written about him online since then, he’s done other things to reinforce that vibe, but this just about takes the cake… He has recently filed a lawsuit against several people, including Ron Newman whom many of you probably also know, alleging that they defamed him in discussions that took place in various forums on LiveJournal almost three years ago.

The lawsuit is clearly baseless and doomed to fail if it makes it to trial, but it seems likely that JonMon isn’t so much interested in prevailing in court, but rather in scaring people into removing their LiveJournal postings by raising the specter of an expensive legal defense.

Ken White has put up the Popehat signal asking for pro bono legal help defending against this attempt to suppress people’s free speech.

I’ve known Ron online for over two decades. He’s a good guy, and if he ends up needing financial help defending himself against this suit, you bet I’ll be contributing to his legal defense fund.

If there’s anything you can do to help — whether it’s providing pro bono assistance yourself, hooking Ron up with somebody who can provide such assistance, or just kicking in a few bucks to his legal defense fund if one is set up — then I encourage you to do so. And if you’re an MIT alum, make sure to mention it when you help…. It’s important to let people know that JonMon’s conduct is considered neither normative nor acceptable to most of the MIT community.

 

PayPal adding mandatory arbitration to user agreement, but you can (and should!) opt out

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

UPDATE: The Consumerist has posted a template you can use for your opt-out letter. Furthermore, the Consumerist article says that eBay just did the same thing as PayPal, and you need to send a letter to opt out of that one as well. There’s a link in the article to a template for the eBay letter as well. Do it!

I just received a notification from PayPal that they are adding mandatory arbitration to their user agreement:

You will, with limited exception, be required to submit claims you have against PayPal to binding and final arbitration, unless you opt out of the Agreement to Arbitrate (Section 14.3) by December 1, 2012. Unless you opt out: (1) you will only be permitted to pursue claims against PayPal on an individual basis, not as a plaintiff or class member in any class or representative action or proceeding and (2) you will only be permitted to seek relief (including monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief) on an individual basis.

The emphasis is theirs.

Most of the time, when a service provider adds an arbitration clause to their terms of service, they tell you it’s their way or the highway, i.e., if you aren’t willing to agree to the clause, your only choice is to close your account. But PayPal is actually offering users the option of rejecting the arbitration clause while continuing to use PayPal. I don’t know why they’re doing that, but I’m glad!

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Pittsfield judge orders local blogger to stop writing about the news

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Ken at Popehat reports on Pittsfield judge Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega ordering a local blogger not only to stop writing about the daughter of a local public official who was the perpetrator of a hit-and-run accident which nearly killed someone and got off virtually scott-free after the courts “lost” some of the paperwork related to her case, but also to delete all articles on his blog that he had previously written about her.

Judge Sanabria-Vega’s order is blatantly unconstitutional and abhorrent to anyone who cares about civil rights and an involved citizenry.

If you are or know a lawyer admitted to practice in Massachusetts who might be able to provide the blogger, Dan Valenti, with pro bono legal assistance getting the judge’s order overturned and restoring his free-speech rights, please email ken@popehat.com.

Gregory’s Fine Tailoring: buyer beware!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

I can’t speak to the quality of the custom tailoring work at Gregory’s Fine Tailoring, located at Boston’s downtown crossing. What I can do is report the facts of what Gregory did to me, and then you can decide for yourself whether to patronize his business.

Executive summary: Work on my jacket, which I was told would be finished in two weeks, was not done over three months later, and in fact was never fully done. I was never called about the status of the work. I was lied to several times about when the work would be finished. I demanded the return of my jacket twice in person and was refused each time. In the end, I was able to get my jacket back only by threatening to sue for triple damages, at which point Gregory finally returned my jacket; to his credit, he refunded my deposit in full and actually did some of the requested work, albeit with mediocre quality.

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How to successfully appeal a Massachusetts auto insurance (SDIP) surcharge

Friday, April 9th, 2010

My wife was involved in an auto accident last September which was not her fault — she opened the door of her parked car after confirming that no one was coming, and another driver came whipping around a corner and hit her door.  Her insurance company found her liable for the accident and issued an SDIP surcharge, because the regulations state that the person opening the door is assumed to be at fault whenever an accident like this occurs (just like the person in back is assumed to be at fault whenever one car rear-ends another).

Everyone with whom my wife spoke about the surcharge told her not to bother appealing.  Several people claimed to have waged unsuccessful appeals when they were not at fault.  The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that the system is rigged against drivers.  Nevertheless, I insisted that she appeal and even ghost-wrote her affidavit (we chose to appeal in writing rather than attending the hearing).

Today we received a notice that my wife “did demonstrate a showing necessary to rebut the governing presumption of the applicable standard of fault,” and the surcharge was vacated.  Woohoo!

Here’s the affidavit I wrote for her which was successful at getting the surcharge overturned:

Lawyer letter from Village Automotive Group

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

[You can read the whole series of Honda Village postings here.]

I received in the mail today a letter from E. Peter Mullane, the lawyer whom Village Automotive Group has apparently retained to respond to my Chapter 93a letter about their deceptive advertising practices.

It is worth noting that E. Peter Mullane’s chief claim to fame is that he is one of the lawyers who defended John J. Connolly Jr., the former FBI agent who was convicted in federal court of racketeering, obstruction of justice, murder and conspiracy to commit murder and will be spending the rest of his life in prison.  Nice!

I am not going to publish Mullane’s letter here, because there are all kinds of legal issues with that, and… well… Mullane is a lawyer, y’know?  I will, however, publish the response I just sent him, from which you can get a pretty good idea of the claims he made in his letter.  Enjoy!

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Prohibited from participating in Allston Village Street Fair

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Torah Judaism, Homosexuality, and Gay Marriage

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

The Torah does not like gays.

For some Jews, this is not a difficult challenge to overcome. The Torah may have been inspired by God, but it was written by men. Its intolerance toward homosexuals can be written off as the outdated bigotry of a bygone age.

For others, it is not a challenge at all. The Torah is the unchanging word of God. Since it describes homosexuality as an “abomination,” then that is how it should be treated.

And then, there are the rest of us, who try to take from the best of both worlds and are faced with the challenge of reconciling the seemingly irreconcilable.

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Leave Louis Woodward alone

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

In response to “Killer nanny reinvents self as dance teacher in England” in today’s Boston Herald:

To the editor:

It is unfathomable to me why the Boston Herald thinks that how Louise Woodward is living her life is, or should be, news to your readers.

Every bit of Woodward’s conduct since Matthew Eappen’s tragic death has made it clear that even if she was responsible, it was nothing more than a tragic mistake. She is of no danger to anyone and thus should be of no interest to anyone.

It’s truly appalling to watch an unscrupulous reporter attempting to ruin Woodward’s life by spreading her past around to people who had no need to know it.

Please, leave Louise Woodward alone.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens