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I utterly cannot understand how some people think...
... the immediate case being "JonMon" (warning: this link appears to be full of intentional hyperbole), AKA Jon Monsarrat. Who apparently was a co-founder of Turbine Games, as he brags about at *considerable* length from what I can find online, including some weirdly inappropriate places. However, Turbine itself seems to mention him relatively little.

Until last week, I'd had no idea who this guy was -- and then he went and sued a considerable fraction of the davis_square community (including several folks I know, and some mutual friends of people here), apparently because he believes that he was slandered by them. (ETA: Links to gists get auto-embedded in LJ? When did that happen?) This despite the fact that the "offense" appears to have consisted largely of reposting and linking to publicly-available news, and commenting in the resulting threads -- in many cases, comments that said little or nothing about him personally.

I am *totally* not a lawyer, but the lawsuit seems rather specious to me, and I don't like the smell of it. This is a man who one presumes is rather wealthy (from having founded a major game publisher), suing a large number of people who are not, on what appear to be weak grounds. In my personal opinion, that feels like bullying. But of course, the direct effect of this suit (especially its preposterous breadth) is that many people like me now know far more about the background and history than we ever wanted to, having now been motivated to look into it. I wouldn't have paid any attention to him if he hadn't started suing friends of mine. The sheer apparent irrationality of the suit surprises me.

I always like to ask questions to foment conversation, so: does this lawsuit seem to you to have merit? Would you be inclined to contribute to the legal defense fund that I hope will be set up to contest it? How much is it probably going to wind up costing him, per-defendant? (And what is the fact of his filing this suit likely to do to his reputation?) Is he likely to keep suing everyone who mentions him online? Would it be appropriate to start an Internet Meme of mentioning him and pointing back to his lawsuit? (Which is, after all, a public document, so it is hard to see how he could sue over that.) I confess some curiosity about how this mindset works.

And yes, I'm curious about whether he will decide to sue me over this post of personal impression of his public actions. It says something about the chilling effects of blanket lawsuits like this that I did have to think carefully about whether to even post my personal thoughts. But I have the resources to defend myself, I'm a founding member of the EFF (and I have a deep dislike of all forms of bullying), so it doesn't seem like I should be intimidated by him...

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You might find this link interesting.

I recently started reading Popehat because it is all the things I love in a blog. Irreverent, funny, educational, highly fact-based. That it is written by lawyers with dedication to First Amendment issues is almost irrelevant.

Since I've been doing lots of reading on tort law, I'm also learning what parts of his suit seem to have merit, and what parts are merely designed to cost people a lot of money in legal bills. Again, Popehat...

It bothers me that Massachusetts eliminated barratry as a crime.

Ah -- useful. Thanks: I'd seen references to Popehat go by, but hadn't gotten around to looking up the post yet. Interesting stuff, and I agree that it's an interesting blog.

And yes -- while this isn't the *most* egregious barratry I've seen in recent years (some of the DMCA stuff is truly outrageous), it's certainly the one that's hit closest to home. It deserves to be illegal...

I suspect that stuff like this may be in play as well.

And some counter-claims...

I suspect that some enterprising quality First Amendment lawyer may offer to defend for free, in return for the right to subrogate the counter-claims.

(And it bothers the snot out of me that I don't have to look up any of those words or terms.)

Meanwhile, this little software engineer is going back to working on writing an appellate brief...

Needless to say, I'm working with Ron on getting counsel. I'm not doing it myself because I have NO experience other than a bunch of lovely theory, and everything I know about defamation I had to learn for the bar exam- not that useful.

(Also the only comment I made in the whole mess? Saying I didn't have time for this. YEAH.)

Yeah, I will admit that I really wasn't paying much attention until I saw you come up in it and had a serious "WTF?" reaction. That was the point at which I started to look into who this guy is and what he's been doing, online and legally.

Anyway, sympathies, and count me in for a contribution to the fund, once (I assume) that gets set up. I dislike legal harassment, and there are way too many violations of free speech in this suit. It needs to get slapped down properly...

It should be set up by the middle of the week.

Okay, good -- I'll spread the word once it's there...

I've been aware of him peripherally, mostly from about the time the original posts and issues cropped up. And my skeeveometer went off at the time. Now it is up to full on crazyometer. This whole thing smells worse than a dead fish in a tanning booth, and although I too am not a lawyer, I've seen one ply toilet paper with more ability to hold up than this.

Any personal connections that you have to EFF (such as being co-founder!) would be very helpful to me right now. I have heard nothing back from them so far.

Hmm. I suspect I don't have anything useful -- I was a "founder" in the sense of being one of the folks who signed up immediately after Barlow's original rallying cry (member #282 or something like that) and helped talk it up, way back when, but I don't have any meaningful pull. But I'll see if I can do anything to get somebody's attention...

I am not liking this pattern toward hosters auto-following links and doing something with the content at the other end. It still kinda creeps me out.

On the lawsuit front: Oy. Yes, it's absolutely bullying. Sadly our legal system encourages bullying by the rich of the powerless, and drains the resources of bystanders to defend them.

Proving defamation is a tricky business, moreso in this country where truth is a proper defense, and where opinion and fact must first be separated. One can only hope he is retaining himself as counsel. It is cheaper, after all, and therefore the wisest course of action for one as intelligent has he has shown himself to be.

He has actual counsel, but the letters that people have been getting (and the reports of JonMon going to people's houses to verify addresses) have been sent by him, with no apparent counsel involvement.

Confusingly unprofessional.

Either he is "of counsel", or not.

It is permissible for litigants in a suit to contact each other in hopes of a settlement. It's often not a good idea, and totally a terrible idea in this instance.

(also the letters say they are confidential and no one can talk about them under Rule 408 of of the Mass Rules of Evidence which is....not what that rule says at ALL.)

Well, yeah. That's what I meant. If you hire an expert, keep out of their rhubarb. If they tell you to do something on your own, you can do it - but they usually want to control what you do "on your own". These letters don't sound like they were written by a competent professional.

I'm familiar with Rule 408 - which limits the probative value of settlements in terms of actual liability, but not much else, as well as somewhat limiting what is a settlement offer versus an admission of liability.

There is something about this entire case that feels to me as if JonMon is largely pro-se (and not very good at it), but has counsel as more of a beard than a counselor.

The more I represent myself pro-se, the more I realize several things: law is hard to do right, most people don't understand it, and that it's amazing how often things are in the breach instead of the observance.

Oh dear lord. I briefly dated the plaintiff's college roommate while they shared a room. 'Nuff said. I'd contribute to a fund and be willing to be a witness for the defense if they think it would help. Jducoeur knows how to get ahold of me IRL if necessary.

My "not at all a lawyer, but really pissed off" opinion about this:

1. There appear to be several cases of what might be valid defamation claims involved in the suit. (It has also served to teach me that defamation is actually quite easy to do, even accidentally.)
2. The vast majority of the content he is referring to and suing for is not defamatory in nature.
3. The entire situation seems ... odd. (Dear Mr. Monsarrat: This is a statement of opinion.)

I intend on contributing to a legal fund once it's set up.

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