|Paul Alan Levy|
On March 27, 2014, the day after my release the previous evening, I sent an e-mail to Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer with Public Citizen, a D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Ralph Nader, with the stated purpose of helping regular citizens fight injustice brought by the wealthy and the powerful. It took only a few minutes for Levy to prove to me that he didn't stand for anything upon which Nader had built the organization. Here was my introductory e-mail to Levy, which I thought was lucid and well stated for someone who had just spent five months unlawfully incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail:
I am a journalist/blogger in Alabama, and I was released from jail yesterday after being incarcerated for five months because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. It's all very similar to Dietz v. Perez, and I thought it might be of interest to you. I need legal representation and wanted to see if we could talk. My case has been widely covered in the NY Times, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post and many other news outlets, and even right-wing commenters seem to acknowledge that the injunction without a trial (in fact, without any discovery at all) is wildly unconstitutional.
I would appreciate any insights or guidance you can offer.
I thought I showed Levy plenty of respect. Did he return the favor? Not exactly, although he did take only 21 minutes to respond:
From what you say, you must be the guy who was enjoined and simply refused to comply with the injunction, and, from what I have heard from others, you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice. Not a very attractive client for pro bono work!
In any event, we don’t handle defamation cases on the merits at the trial court level, so perhaps it depends what representation you are seeking.
As I noted in our previous post in this series, Levy came across as one of the biggest assholes I've ever encountered. You can see how I reached that conclusion. His "I have heard from others you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice" was particularly interesting. He seemed to be referring to legal advice, and the only person who had given me legal advice regarding my incarceration was David Gespass.
Levy was not done being an ass. Here is how our conversation continued, with a response from me:
Thanks for your response. I don't think some of your assertions are correct, but I appreciate you getting back with me.
I decided I probably was showing Levy way more respect than he deserved, so I followed up:
A few thoughts come to mind that might be worth making:
* My wife and I never were served with the temporary restraining order, and a lawyer who has seen the file indicated to me the record shows that. It's hard for me to know because the record was sealed until well after my arrest.
* We received notice of the preliminary injunction hearing barely 24 hours before it was to be held. That is insufficient notice under Alabama law, which contemplates notice that allows for calling of witnesses, introduction of evidence, etc.
* I challenged service, which seemed to be the first order of business considering that we received papers during a dubious traffic stop. I was arrested before receiving an order on the motion to quash and before having an opportunity to address the preliminary injunction.
* I assume you are referring to advice I received while in jail, just a few days after being arrested, beaten, and maced in my own home. I hope you can appreciate that meeting with an attorney under such circumstances is difficult. It also was difficult for the attorney. The file was sealed, so he had virtually nothing to review and had to go to the other side to get court papers. Everyone who has seriously looked at the case, from all political sides, seems to agree that the preliminary injunction is unconstitutional, so I was having to seek advice while unlawfully incarcerated. Imagine if Ms. Perez had been hauled into jail, and you'd had to meet with her under those circumstances. It probably would have complicated things for both of you. In my case, I think it's more a matter of being traumatized than being pigheaded.
* Finally, all the evidence I've seen indicates I was arrested on an unsigned warrant. It appears such a warrant is "utterly void" under Alabama law. From Kelley v. State, 316 So. 2d 233 (1975):
Often rules relating to arrest warrants parallel those applying to searches and vice versa. Significantly unsigned arrest warrants have been held void. Oates v. Bullock, 136 Ala. 537, 33 So. 835 (warrant utterly void).
Again, I shouldn't have been having to discuss complex, constitutional issues with a lawyer while incarcerated. It makes for a very uneven playing field. Hope you will find these thoughts worth considering.
How did Levy respond to that? With absolute silence. You will notice, however, that he did not deny he was referring to legal advice I received in jail, which could only have come from David Gespass. Levy appeared to be acknowledging that my right to client-confidentiality had been violated.
That was the end of that exchange, but Paul Alan Levy and I were not finished with each other. I had occasion to communicate with him one other time -- and he proved to be as big an asshole the second time as he was the first time.
(To be continued)