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November 15, 2003

IDIOT LAWSUIT WATCH....First we had Fox vs. Franken, then Luskin vs. Atrios, and today we get word of two more brain dead lawsuit threats.

So for your blood-pressure-raising reading pleasure, here are today's entries:

Question for any lawyers in the crowd: I hear about tort reform constantly, usually in connection with medical malpractice, class action lawsuits, products liability, and so forth. How about harsher punishment for obviously frivolous suits? Does that ever come up? If not, why not?

Posted by Kevin Drum at November 15, 2003 10:06 AM | TrackBack


Comments

My blood pressure isn't being raised by the first lawsuit (but nor am I absolutely outraged at the school's actions; it seems like there are valid-seeming arguments on both sides, although at first thought I side with the students). This was a content-based restriction on the students right to stand where they want, and wear what they want. I'd also want to know things like, was the school restricting other viewpoints (e.g., allowing people to wear pro-hemp or pro-marijuana viewpoints, which were explicitly not allowed at my high school photo?)

Ideally, the school would for the next year simply state that no text may appear on anybody's shirt, or that the standing arrangement will be determined randomly, or just give in and allow students to express themselves as they will.

Posted by: Brian Palmer at November 15, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

The LA Times editorial doesn't do a very good job of relating the facts in the Fountain Valley situation, but without knowing more, I'd have to say that the students have at least a reasonable First Amendment claim. Its hard to say whether they would prevail under current doctrine without more facts, but I wouldn't call their claim frivolous.

Posted by: SRock at November 15, 2003 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

My two cents:

Malicious prosecution lawsuits (see http://www.socallawblog.com/archives/000010.html) can be brought after the offensive lawsuit is defeated. Also, in a particularly egregious case, a special motion to strike (i.e., dismiss the lawsuit)(see http://www.casp.net/cal425.html) and request for attorney's fees award can be made at the inception of the lawsuit. With these two remedies, there is no need for more laws/punishment on the books. Rather, a victim of a b.s. lawsuit like this simply needs to find a lawyer knowledgeable about these remedies.

Posted by: So Cal Lawyer at November 15, 2003 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

There's a federal civil procedure rule (which I think most states have copied) that judges can use to punish clients or lawyers for stuff like this. It's called Rule 11.

It has led, among other things, to a lot of frivolous motions under Rule 11.

It could be tightened, and left entirely up to the judge and not to the other party. But there's a serious potential problem, which is that if you're arguing for a major, needed legal form, you have to go throw a period where you file suits knowing you'll lose--an uncharitable judge could define this as frivolous.

Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2003 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

I should note: I'm not a lawyer, just a student. This is based on foggy year old memories from Civil Procedure.

Posted by: Katherine at November 15, 2003 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin--

Your blog has a pretty active comment section. What has been your experience/policy with respect to potentially defamatory remarks? It's always nice to hear from experience rahter than theory. Do you have advice for Justene or others who allow comments?

Posted by: Kevin Murphy at November 15, 2003 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Coming from Arizona I can relate to this. We are the most litigious state in the Union. This fact also means we have the highest insurance rates of any state in the US as well. I'm with you. Let's cut the crap. Everyone doing everything doen't have to be sued because you disagree with their words or actions.

That Happy Chica,
Marcia Ellen

Posted by: Marcia Ellen at November 15, 2003 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: nope, no experience. No one has threatened to sue me yet.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at November 15, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Your blog has a pretty active comment section. What has been your experience/policy with respect to potentially defamatory remarks?"

47 US Code sec. 230 provides in part:

"no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Several other bloggers have pointed this out--this is no new insight on my part--but that statutory language essntially means that a blogger cannot be sued for defamation on the basis of something somebody else said in his or her comments.

Posted by: rea at November 15, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Again, not knowing the full facts of the Fountain Valley case, but if it was THE senior class picture, the one you purchase and your parents put on the mantle for all of posterity, it would be an issue. As a non-Christian, I'd be forced not to purchase it (others might shrug and do so, but I wouldn't personally), and would not be able to enjoy a rite of senior year.

If it's just a senior class picture, one of many, not as big a deal. It is disrespectful though.

Posted by: Sovay at November 15, 2003 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

With respect to Katherine's comments about Rule 11, from what I understand it is rarely used in practice because of an atmosphere of geniality between lawyers. To file a Rule 11 motion is sort of a breach of etiquette, at least in some jurisdictions, including St. Louis, where I live and study.

With the # of lawsuits filed these days, it's hard to say that these completely ridiculous ones are any significant percentage of case load in federal or state courts. People just get incensed about them because they're so crazy. Half the time, the "ridiculous" lawsuit turns into rumor turns into straight out misrepresentation, like the infamous McDonald's coffee case, which is nothing like people report it to be.

Here's some more:

http://www.snopes.com/legal/lawsuits.asp

Posted by: Edge at November 15, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.atlanet.org/ConsumerMediaResources/Tier3/press_room/FACTS/frivolous/McdonaldsCoffeecase.aspx

This is an excellent description of the McDonald's case.

Posted by: Edge at November 15, 2003 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Rea --

What that statute says is that a blogger can win a lawsuit. It doesn't mean I can't be sued. Now I'm a lawyer, with broad enough experience that I can defend myself. However, I'll be on the road and can't respond if, for example, these guys want to give me 24 hours notice of a motion for a temporary restraining order. When I return however, I plan to take whtever action is necessary. What if I wasn't a lawyer? Or if I worked for a law firm that frowned upon such things? Or it wasn't a case I knew the law in?

Even having the resources I do, it'll be a pain to add this case to my docket in the next two months.

Posted by: Justene at November 15, 2003 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I have to say that I'm VERY umimpressed with the creativity of the high school students who were not involved in the JESUS {heart} YOU.

What they should have done was made their own shirts that spelled out the letters F U C K and S and muscled the kids who were doing the {heart} out of position.

Seriously, what's wrong with kids these days?

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

This controversy shows that the battle for separation of church and state has a component that is simply anti Christian. I would prefer that no messages be allowed on the T shirts in the class picture. But, if messages are permitted, FOS argues that a student's choice should be respected, even though it's religious.

However, those who opposed Christianity will not distinguish between whether the message is chosen by the students or by the school.

Posted by: David at November 15, 2003 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Justene, I quite understand (I'm a lawyer too). It seems to me that the attorneys for Infotel, like they guy who represented Luskin against Atrios and the firm that sued Franken for Fox News, are committing a serious breach of professional ethics. We're not supposed to use our skills to harrass people when we know perfectly well we don't have a case. But apart from bemoaning the decline in professional ethics and urging you to go forth and get those people sanctioned, I don't know what to tell you.

Posted by: rea at November 15, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

The thing is NOT TO DELETE POSTS/EDIT POSTS in the comments section (see Atrios, Steve Gilliard). Apart from that, the 9th Court ruling seems pretty solid.

Also, what tristero said. A mini-boom in SATAN {heart} U t-shirts?

Posted by: E Lake at November 15, 2003 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

As a non-Christian, I'd be forced not to purchase it (others might shrug and do so, but I wouldn't personally)....

I know. I would be shocked and appalled to be daily forced to be reminded that there are people in the world who are not atheists. Sheesh. I mean, look at the guy in the photograph of my high-school Science Olympiad team wearing a T-shirt with a Pepsi logo, forcing me to be reminded of a drink that I despise. He ought to have been expelled.

Another reminder of that imbecilic, hypersensitive sliver of the atheistic community that takes the least public display of piety as a personal affront (and, in tristero's case, as an occasional for the most juvenile sort of middle-finger-raising. You probably draw moustaches on pictures of people you don't like, too, tristero.)

Posted by: Ernest Tomlinson at November 15, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm...

The thick plottens...

Apparently, the national group that organized JESUS {heart} YOU originated at this high school.

And they lined up in the front row.

Some other links to this tempest in a teapot here and here from the Christianist viewpoint.

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Occasion", not "occasional". I always make one such part-of-speech error per post.

Posted by: Ernest Tomlinson at November 15, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Ernest Tomlinson:

"[I]n tristero's case, as an occasional for the most juvenile sort of middle-finger-raising. You probably draw moustaches on pictures of people you don't like, too, tristero"

Hey! That's a good idea! I'll have to try that sometime.

Meanwhile, I'm still appalled at the lack of creativity among high school kids these days. Why, when I was their age...

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Although an atheist myself, I must say that all this pursuit of any and all religious sybology in the USA smacks of intolerance.

Why not just let people do what they want to do?

Posted by: me at November 15, 2003 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

E Lake --

The CDA says you are STILL protected from liability if you start editting. I didn't want the commenters posting names of the daughters of the owners. The anti-Semitic stuff was also uncomfortable. I announced I would edit on that thread only and started editting forward only, not in hindsight. I don't think I had any legal responsibility to do so and I don't think I incurred any legal liability by doing so but I was offended and didn't want it on my site. I had originally intended to go back and read older comments and see if I wanted any of them off. But time crunches abounded and I just turned them off for now.

Posted by: Justene at November 15, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ignore the question of whether or not this is technically a valid expression under the 1st Amendment. It's assholic. There's no reason for a dozen individuals to force their viewpoint on a picture that's meant for 641 other students.

If you want a picture that has you spelling out "Jesus (Hearts) U", TAKE IT YOURSELF. Don't ruin everyone else's picture just to stroke your own piety.

The idea that the parents would then sue over this pushes this situation from simply assholic to totally insane. I only hope there's some way for the school to countersue for court costs.

Someone said above "This controversy shows that the battle for separation of church and state has a component that is simply anti Christian." No. What it shows (yet again) is that some people just need to grow up. Just because you believe you're "saved" doesn't mean the rest of us care.

That being said, there's an obvious solution. Take two pictures and let the 12 idiots have their own, so they go back to their hole and shut up.

Posted by: G C at November 15, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

Why, when I was their age...

...well? Couldn't you think of anything? I hope it was more original than spelling out "fucks". I worked out that one long before I got to high school.

Posted by: Ernest Tomlinson at November 15, 2003 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I would be shocked and appalled to be daily forced to be reminded that there are people in the world who are not atheists.

Grow up, Tomlinson. Would you feel the same way if it was a bunch of Goths in the front row spelling out "Satan Loves You"? Or even Muslims with "Allah Loves You"?

The founders of the United States were certainly farsighted when they put such a tight rein on officially-sponsored or tolerated displays of religious sentiment. They had the infantile mood of their new Republic gauged precisely, and did the best they could to preempt the idiocies they could see coming.

If I were religious, I'd claim it as evidence of Divine inspiration.....

Posted by: sagesource at November 15, 2003 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Dudes, it's not 12 guys each wearing a shirt that says "Jesus loves U", so tiny that you can't see the message.

It's one guy wearing a J.
One guy wearing an E.
One guy wearing an S.
And so on.

Isn't it reasonable that the 641 students that weren't in on this little plan might not want their class picture to spell out a religious or political message? The club is in the wrong here, not the school. The individuals in that club are the ones who are trying to force their viewpoint down everyone else's throats. They (and their parents) are the ones who need to back off.

Posted by: G C at November 15, 2003 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I want the students wearing shirts that spell out
GAYS FOR CHRIST
to be front and center. Christians should be OK
with that, right? And if you're not, would you
let your kid remain in the photo?

Posted by: josef at November 15, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

force their viewpoint on a picture

Forcing. On a picture. It's the photograph that's being compelled.

I think you're working overtime to make yourself feel persecuted, sport.

Posted by: Ernest Tomlinson at November 15, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

And by the way, hasn't anyone heard of Photoshop?

I'd edit the negative of the class photo to put Alfred E. Neuman's grinning head on the T-shirt of every one of those jerks.

Of course they would complain.... maybe they can start a new movement, Tomlinson's Terrors.... motto, "If you love Jesus, whine!"

Posted by: sagesource at November 15, 2003 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Religion is a red herring here. It'd be just as assholic if it were Amnesty International spelling out "N O W A R" or the Young Republicans spelling out "B U S H R U L E S." And the school would be just as justified in breaking it up.

Let people have their senior picture in peace.

Posted by: G C at November 15, 2003 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ernest. Sweetheart. I'm sorry you're taking this so seriously.

"Force their viewpoint on a picture that's meant for 641 other students" is what I actually said. I think the message there is pretty self-explanatory, but you seem not to have understand.

The photo is a memento for 650 students.
12 of those students want it to say "JESUS LOVES YOU."
Those 12 students are being jerks.

Posted by: G C at November 15, 2003 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

Ernest-

Don't you think some people would be bothered if some people spelled out something like "There is no God" or "Muhammad is God's prophet" or "Read L. Ron Hubbard" or "Republicans are evil" or "Democrats are traitors"? People want to be able to look at their picture without having to see a large message that they don't agree with. They should be able to, and other people don't have a right to mess that up for them. And for what is this for? Why mess up someone's picture? What are they accomplishing? They might make themselves feel a little better, but they are hurting everyone else that didn't want that in there.

(On a side note, this sort of reminds me of that story in the Bible about the man who loved to act very pious in public and make everyone believe he was religious. If I remember correctly, Jesus denounced him, and told people to pray in private.)

Posted by: Mitch at November 15, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

How about kids having their shirts say "Allah is the One True God"? I'm sure the Christers would have no problem with those students exercising their First Amendment rights.

Posted by: Frederick at November 15, 2003 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

"It could be tightened, and left entirely up to the judge and not to the other party. But there's a serious potential problem, which is that if you're arguing for a major, needed legal form, you have to go throw a period where you file suits knowing you'll lose--an uncharitable judge could define this as frivolous."

The uncharitable judge would be right. If the defendant has done nothing illegal, why should it have to pay massive attorney's fees defending a baseless lawsuit? If you want legal reform, lobby congress. Keep that crap out of the courts.

Posted by: Xavier at November 15, 2003 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Ernest Tomlinson:

"..well? Couldn't you think of anything? I hope it was more original than spelling out "fucks". I worked out that one long before I got to high school."

I'm shocked, shocked, Ernest. Are you implying that you spelled out JESUS [expletive deleted] YOU at school when you were a mere sprout? Didn't your parents teach you to behave better?

As for my suggestion, I think it was the least that kids could have done, given the situation. Back then, I would have been much more creative. But it would have been equally puerile and childish, I assure you.

Which is exactly the level at which the those pious, hypocritcal prigs - oh, excuuuuuse me for being religiously incorrect - those self-styled "Brothers And Sisters In Christ" deserve to be treated.

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, Ernest? A word to the wise:

I wouldn't assume I was a religion hater. Or a Christian hater.

I'd really, really, really hate to embarass you.

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Forcing. On a picture. It's the photograph that's being compelled.

Ooh, look, I'm Ernest Tomlinson, I'm soooo clever I can deliberately misread someone's comment to make them look foolish! Aren't I clever? Aren't I, aren't I???

Jackass.

Posted by: - at November 15, 2003 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Re protections against frivolous lawsuits: If you're in state court in California, California has a provision allowing sanctions against SLAPP's (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). I don't know the details, but the imposition of such sanctions is mentioned in ?the California Appellate Court's opinion in Barrett v. Rosenthal.

In federal court, you can seek sanctions under Rule 11 (as someone noted above); Title 28, section 1927 of the U.S. Code; and certain specialized sanctions provisions applicable only to certain kinds of lawsuits. A lot of frivolous stuff escapes unsanctioned, though, particularly because Rule 11 has a 21-day "safe harbor" provision: you have to give the other side 21 days warning, and if they withdraw the offending paper within the 21 days, or the judge rejects it within that time, you can't seek Rule 11 sanctions. (For example, my firm had a case recently where our opponents filed a frivolous motion for summary judgment. We spent about 280 attorney hours responding to it, and sent a Rule 11 warning letter to our opponent. But the judge, recognizing that the summary judgment motion was ridiculous, denied it fewer than 21 days after we had sent our warning letter -- so we couldn't seek Rule 11 sanctions.) Section 1927 allows a judge to impose sanctions against an attorney who "vexatiously and unreasonably multiplies the proceedings." In the Seventh Circuit (IL, IN, WI), where I practice, this has been construed to require "objective bad faith" --i.e., would a reasonable attorney realize that the paper he/she filed was baseless?

Posted by: Frederick at November 15, 2003 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

For now, I'm keeping a copy of all comments online, as they existed on Justene's site, with no further editing by me. My tenative plan for future comments is to edit or delete anything that I know, or strongly suspect, to be defamatory, and to leave everything else as it is. I am a lawyer, but I don't specialize in an area of law that remotely relates to this, so if anyone who does can shed any light on the wisdom of my policy, it would be greatly appreciated.

My usual policy to date is to delete comment spam, ban the most egregious trolls, and otherwise do nothing except delete duplicate entries and correct obvious formatting errors. Is that level of editing OK, or does even that make me a publisher?

Posted by: Xrlq at November 15, 2003 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

The Fountain Valley High case has reasonable arguments on both sides. The students have a right to wear clothes expressing their point of view. But the other students also have a right to get a class picture (which is a state-provided document, this being a government school) that doesn't contain a large religious message that many of them might find offensive. I think that this issue could have been resolved without a lawsuit if the officials had been thinking outside the box. Why not let the students wear their T-shirts and then make two versions of the photo, one original and one with any political/religious/commercial messages on clothing airbrushed or Photoshopped out? (They would have to be content neutral - can't just erase the Christian message.) The fact that the message is a religious message is really beside the point - a similar tension between the rights of the wearer to free expression and the desire of the other students for a grandstanding-free class picture would apply equally if someone wore a T-shirt with a huge marijuana leaf printed on it, or a prominent message reading "BUSH=HITLER", or any one of a thousand other things. Offer two versions of the class picture, unedited and edited. That way everyone should be happy.

Posted by: Firebug at November 15, 2003 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Re the Communications Decency Act: under the CDA, if you delete stuff you find offensive, that alone doesn't subject you to liability for not deleting other stuff. Other commenters who have said that the CDA gives you blanket immunity for not removing people's comments, though, are not quite right. Most courts have construed it that way, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (which includes California) in its 2003 decisions in Batzel v. Smith and Carafano v. Metrosplash.com. (I don't have links handy, but you can very likely get them on the Ninth Circuit's website).

But the California Appellate Court (i.e. the state appellate court in CA) held exactly one month ago in Barrett v. Rosenthal that a "user or provider of an interactive computer service" can be liable under the common-law standards for liability as a "distributor" -- for example if he/she does not remove a comment even though he/she knew or reasonably should have known that it was defamatory. In practice, the way that would probably arise is that someone (say) makes some untoward suggestion about the relationship between Donald Luskin and his mother, you get a letter from Jeffrey J. Upton, Esq. asking you to remove said comment, and you respond "screw you." It would then appear that Luskin could successfully sue you in state court in California, even though he would lose the same lawsuit in federal court under the Ninth Circuit's different (and IMO incorrect) interpretation of the CDA.

Posted by: Frederick at November 15, 2003 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, the above link to Barrett v. Rosenthal doesn't seem to work. Here's the URL (cut and paste it into your browser): http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A096451.PDF

Posted by: Frederick at November 15, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

If we all followed the golden rule, the government wouldn't even have to get involved. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." And that's the rule that should be used when dealing with these issues (IMHO). As others have already noted, Christians at the school would be outraged if students had spelled out "Satan Loves You" or "Krishna Loves You" in their senior photo. It'd ruin the photo for them. The Christians should respect that as well.

And just because you're not Christian doesn't mean you're an atheist. You could be Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan, Wiccan, Buddhist, etc. It's not about Christians vs. atheists, it's about people with different religious viewpoints trying to get along and live in peace (and get a nice senior photo everyone can enjoy).

Posted by: Sovay at November 15, 2003 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

I have two words regarding the first lawsuit:

School uniforms.

Thank you; have a pleasant weekend.

Posted by: Kimmitt at November 15, 2003 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

Ok. A little more on the group that pulled off the stunt at that high school, Brothers And Sisters In Christ. (BASIC)

As mentioned, this site claims that the group began at the high school where the yearbook picture incident occurred. One more school is listed as affiliated.

But not so fast. Similar groups are at several colleges. Univ. Of Texas, Rochester Inst. of Tech, and U of Illinois

While their statements are nearly identical in import, there is no link to a centralized organization. Yet there must be some central group because there was a fall conference in Syracuse, NY, "one of the most awesome events of the year " priced at 60 bucks a soul. Cheap!

In any event, I wasn't able to locate their worldwide headquarters after a little more googling, so I gave up. But what is certain is that this is no grassroots group (This link connects to a BASIC web in NY and Pennsylvania. More googling confirms that it is a loosely organized national group. I was unable to discover the denomination of any of the churches related to BASIC.)

In looking at some of the sites, I noticed a number of students identified themselves as Koreans. This got me thinking.

I found Paul Kells' story interesting (he's not Korean). It starts like this: "n 1986 I began attending the State University of NY at Albany to pursue a degree in Communications. In January of 1988, I was challenged to give my life to Christ and was radically changed. This occurred through an outreach of Light of the World to the campus called BASIC College Ministries ."

This story sounds distressingly familiar.

Anyway, that's as far I've gotten. But Kevin? There's more to this trivial story than meets the eye.

Posted by: tristero at November 15, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry again, that URL doesn't seem to work either. Don't know what the problem is. Here's the non-PDF version:

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A096451.DOC

Posted by: Frederick at November 15, 2003 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a damn good argument for mandatory school uniforms, to me.

On the frivolous lawsuit question. Rule 11 of the FRCP rests almost entirely within the trial judges discretion, and the entire federal judiciary has been packed with conservatives.

You get the picture . . .

Posted by: Brautigan at November 15, 2003 01:19 PM | PERMALINK

On a side note, this sort of reminds me of that story in the Bible about the man who loved to act very pious in public and make everyone believe he was religious. If I remember correctly, Jesus denounced him, and told people to pray in private.

The sentiment is accurate, but the comments you seem to be thinking of are from the Sermon on the Mount, which was addressed to a group, and not to anyone in particular (Matthew 6:5-6):

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Posted by: rachelrachel at November 15, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

I'm shocked, I orignally heard that this was a number of students who had shirts that said "Peace For Palestine". That would have been ok right? :)


"If you want a picture that has you spelling out "Jesus (Hearts) U", TAKE IT YOURSELF. Don't ruin everyone else's picture just to stroke your own piety"

I don't see how this 'ruins' anyone's picture. I can see myself showing the picture off and saying: "Look in front the jerks who....."

The idea upthread that this was some sort of attempt at 'oppression' just reminds me that many Americans have no idea what the word means.

All that said, the parents certianly should not have sued. It isn't worth it at all.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at November 15, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

My school didn't allow messages on clothing, of any kind. This was everyday too, not just picture day. Brand logos had to be under a certain size - small.

Posted by: andrew at November 15, 2003 05:15 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Rule 9011 sanctions

Brautigan, I recommend you invest some time in Federal Court before you start making sweeping generalizations about how judges would rule on a motion for sanctions under Rule 9011. ALL Federal judges are conservative in that they believe in god and, golly, they just saw him/her that morning in the mirror.

Judges hate 9011 motions: one side will file a motion and, viola! Magically the other side finds cause to file a response which also alleges violation of 9011. The judge then makes the Solomonic decision that either both sides pay a little something OR neither side is at fault.

I note that none of the above posts mentioned the "American Rule" regarding who pays what in litigation.

Posted by: Californio at November 16, 2003 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

tristero wrote:

I found Paul Kells' story interesting (he's not Korean). It starts like this: "n 1986 I began attending the State University of NY at Albany to pursue a degree in Communications. In January of 1988, I was challenged to give my life to Christ and was radically changed. This occurred through an outreach of Light of the World to the campus called BASIC College Ministries ."

This story sounds distressingly familiar.

I thought you just said that you were not anti-Christian?

Posted by: Kevin P. at November 16, 2003 07:20 AM | PERMALINK

An alternative to Tristero's idea, without the beatdown:

Let these kids take their position, and then line up to their left up other students (volunteers) wearing shirts saying "LONG TIME, JOE" or "UP THE ASS" or even "{arrow pointing left} BUT HE HATES THESE LITTLE PRICKS." The pricks get exactly what they demanded, and their parents can't sue. And they get a lovely memento.

The mature solution is always the best.

Posted by: Roger Ailes at November 16, 2003 07:39 AM | PERMALINK

I have obtained the text of the demand letter sent to Justene of Calblog. I posted it here:

http://patterico.blogspot.com/2003_11_01_patterico_archive.html#106900709964017742

Posted by: Patterico at November 16, 2003 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Katherine was worried about R 11 motions possibly being used against suits with novell theories, but if a party acknowleges the novelty of its legal theory, much more slack will be given.

Most "tort reform" has very little to do with frivolous suits, and more with capping damages. So, a company can negligently kill a person, but not have to pay the family full compensation for the death. People are generally upset about insurance premiums until a family member gets killed or maimed.

Frivolous suits also cost the side bringing them a bit of money and time, a natural deterrent.

The Fox suit itself shows our legal system functioning well- dismissal, and an embarrasment for fox.

Posted by: mrkmyr at November 16, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

It was a pretty silly stunt, but I'm all for freedom of speech, and it shouldn't have been prohibited. And I'm an atheist.

But, as many others have noted, if a group of kids had spelled out "Praise to Allah," or "Be an Atheist," the Christians would have gone absolutely bananas.

Posted by: englishprofessor at November 16, 2003 03:26 PM | PERMALINK

The answer to frivolous lawsuits is easy, and is practised in most of the English speaking world. Basically the default assumption is that loser pays costs in a civil lawsuit.

If the judge thinks the case had merit but is ultimately unsuccessful she can and will issue an order to let the costs lie where they will, but that mainly only happens in a close-run thing that turns on finer points of law. You can even sometimes get the sight of defendants, confident they are going to win, deliberately running up big legal bills to punish the other side - a very effective deterrent.

Posted by: derrida derider at November 17, 2003 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Just when we thought it was getting too serious in this county we get something totally silly. Free speech? Separation of church and state? T-shirts? Editorials? Outrage on blogs? New rights to be included in the next constitutional amendment?

Even I think that the random placement of kids is a good idea. Give them random numbers as they walk into the photo shoot. School administrations always have to try to stay one step ahead of the inventive little boogers.

So I have to hand to the kids for being creative. Sort of like graduates painting messages on their mortar boards. Everyone has seen peace symbols, "I Need a Job", political statements, etc. painted on those. Or like streakers running through solemn high school ceremonies with messages painted on their bodies.

Unusual designs or writing are prohibited at my son's school. Problem more or less solved.

Sometimes I have seen articles where the author makes the first letter in each paragraph spell out something interesting. I have seen it on tombstones too.

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