January 2017 Notes: More Reasons to Not Sue for Defamation

Suing over reviews a “horrible” idea:Yes, getting a negative online client review is no fun. But no, responding by filing a lawsuit is almost never the answer. You’re probably not going to get justice, and you’re certainly going to bring more attention to the claims that you’re so perturbed about. And if you haven’t asked someone who knows a thing or two about defamation to evaluate whether you have a case, you’re also going to look like a thin-skinned jerk for your trouble. Our latest entrant? New York lawyer Donald J. Tobias, who is trying to sue a reviewer who said this about their experience with him: “It was horrible.” Those words may sting, but they aren’t defamatory. And all Tobias is going to get for his trouble is greatly enhanced awareness of the fact that someone called working with him “horrible”: The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and many legal blogs have all highlighted his sensitivity and lack of awareness of defamation law.

Google suspends defamation removals¬†Despite what I’ve written above, there ARE cases where bringing a defamation action over an online review is appropriate. In such cases, a prevailing plaintiff can often take the judgment to the review site, which will respond by removing the review. What’s more, even if the site won’t remove the review, Google will typically “de-index” a review that’s been found by a court to be defamatory, meaning it won’t show up in search results. However, Google has now apparently suspended this practice . It’s unclear why, but it may well have to do with something I’ve written about previously: the filing of defamation cases against bogus defendants — who quickly “settle” — in order to get judgments that can be taken to forum sites and Google. As Google’s action shows, this sort of abuse makes it harder for those with legitimate judgments to get relief.

Law as Sorcery?: ¬†Looking for something different in their legal marketing than the oh-so-tired gavels, stacks of law books, or steely-eyed eagles, a Florida traffic ticket law firm decided to go with the name “Ticket Wizards,” and the tagline “Results So Good, You’ll Think It’s Magic!” Unfortunately, the Florida Bar decided that this was — if not quite a guarantee of supernatural intervention — at least an impermissible prediction of success . Fortunately, the Bar let the firm keep its name and use of magical imagery in advertising, so the Ticket Wizards can keep trying to cast their enchantments on behalf of Florida’s wayward drivers.

Briefly:

Lawyers, you’re failing to reach your potential clients among Millennials.
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Lawyer indicted for pretending to be judge; is elected to the bench.

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