Barbra? Barbra Streisand? Never Heard of Her. Now, Back To My Threat.

Law

Some time ago, one Raphael Golb got in trouble for harassing people about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Everyone, I suppose, needs a hobby. Golb was convicted for actions including sending emails maliciously impersonating Yeshiva University vice provost Lawrence H. Schiffman, creating fake identities and sock puppets to promote his father's research, and generally acting like a dick.

In January Golb's conviction was affirmed. His behavior is odd.

But the behavior of a lawyer purporting to act on his victim's behalf is even odder.

In Which Threatening Emails Arrive

Today Professor Eugene Volokh, noted First Amendment authority and blogger at the Volokh Conspiracy, and Scott Greenfield, prominent criminal defense attorney and blogger at Simple Justice, received the same very odd legal communication. Eugene discusses it here; Scott discusses it here.

The communication — which includes a demand that the bloggers remove content, in a manner that I would characterize as an implicit legal threat — purports to be from attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Harris, Waters & Waffenschmidt in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and purports to be on behalf of Dr. Schiffman, one of Golb's victims. It appears to treat Eugene's and Scott's blogs as if they have posted some of Golb's false blog posts:

Dr. Schiffman’s name was the subject of illegal and criminal misconduct by Raphael Golb. Your website has been provided to me as one of the locations where the criminal postings occurred.

Please confirm that within five (5) work days of the date of this email the following will occur:

1. Complete removal of the blog material;
2. Removal of index entries on search engines;
3. Cancellation of fraudulent email accounts;
4. Removal of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him.

We will need your certification as to all efforts made to expunge the material.

In fact, Eugene and Scott did not make "criminal postings." Scott's post was a 2010 discussion of the prosecution, and Eugene's post was an analysis of the appellate decision and its First Amendment implications.

The threatening and demanding email, in short, is preposterous. Under no theory is either post actionable, let alone "criminal." Moreover, in addition to being bumptious and legally frivolous, the email is catastrophically stupid as a matter of prudence. It almost seems calculated to bring a torrent of new attention to the posts about Golb and Dr. Shiffman and to subject Dr. Shiffman and his lawyer to widespread ridicule.

Who would do such a foolish thing?

In Which I Investigate

Golb's case involved internet impersonation. Could someone be impersonating attorney Clifford Rieders? Could he have such astoundingly poor judgment as to target Eugene Volokh and Scott Greenfield for these threats based on their blog posts? Or could this be the result of an irresponsible, unprofessional, and ill-considered automated operation that sends threats based on Google hits on Dr. Shiffman's name?

I decided to find out. I dug up Mr. Rieders' email address and sent him a friendly and ingratiating request for comment:

Dear Mr. Rieders,

I am an attorney in Los Angeles, a member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, and write at a blog called www.popehat.com regarding various legal matters, particularly including free speech and legal threats based on online comment.

Today I noticed two posts — one by Eugene Volokh, and one by Scott Greenfield — discussing legal threats you have sent.

Are you willing to answer questions about those threats? I am planning on writing a post about them, and would like to solicit your position first.

My questions are these:

1. Did you actually draft this threatening email yourself, or was it some underling?

2. Did you actually select the recipients of the letter, or were the targets selected by some automation, or by a non-lawyer?

3. I ask #2 because I am attempting to grasp, in looking at Professor Volokh's post about the Golb matter (http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/29/no-first-amendment-violation-in-e-mail-impersonation-case/), how Professor Volokh's analysis of a published appellate case could possibly be actionable in any way, let alone "criminal."

4. What is your theory on how a discussion of the allegations against Mr. Golb — including allegations that he wronged your client, Mr. Schiffman — could be actionable or "criminal"? Is it your position that your theory has any support in any legal authority accessible to the general public?

5. I recognize that you would not be so unprofessional as to disclose your confidential communication with a particular client. Therefore, let me frame my next series of questions as follows: Are you familiar with the Streisand Effect? Is it your practice to advise clients, before sending out extravagant legal threats demanding the removal of information about them from the internet, about the risks posed by the Streisand Effect — the risk that your threats will result in the challenged content being seen by several orders of magnitude more people? Is it your practice to advise clients that there may be particular risks in threatening bloggers with popular blogs known for being vigorous supporters of the First Amendment?

6. Do you believe that your representation of Mr. Schiffman in the course of making these threats falls within the standard of care for attorneys in your community?

Any response you would like to offer would be appreciated, and will be incorporated into my post commenting on your threats.

Thanks,

Ken White
www.popehat.com

Shortly thereafter, I received this response from the same email address:

I have no idea what you are talking about, who you are or who you represent.
Please therefor, [sic] do not respond again [sic]

This, in a case where the underlying facts involved impersonation, was not quite enough.

So: I confirmed that there appeared to be a connection between Dr. Shiffman and Mr. Rieders — the former's lectures are listed on the latter's website. Next, I obtained from Eugene and Scott the email headers from the threats they received, added the header on the response I received, and subjected them to forensic analysis. By that I mean I sent them to much smarter people to compare. Quoth Nicholas Weaver:

All these emails were sent from the same internal computer x-originating-ip: [192.168.123.33] within the riederstravis.com local network.

Since your mail was sent TO "Cliff Rieders", and this was the response, it is clearly someone at whoever owns the "www.riederstravis.com" domain, and all are likely the same person.

Joe Pullen, another valued source of such analysis, confirmed.

So. It sure looks like someone at www.riederstraveis.com sent these threats and responded to my email with "I have no idea what you are talking about, who you are or who you represent." For the record: I am Ken, I am talking about the threats y'all sent, and I represent the inexpressible joy of ridiculing feckless legal bullies.

I have written about many very stupid legal threats here at Popehat. But whether this one was deliberately targeted to Eugene Volokh and Scott Greenfield, or whether someone set in motion a system that automatically sent the threats (a possibility that occurred to me based on the format of the emails), I don't think I have ever seen a threat quite so frivolous and recklessly harmful to the putative client.

Eugene and Scott can take care of themselves. So why do I care? Eugene put it well:

Fortunately, I can tell that there is absolutely zero basis for the demand letter; other recipients of the e-mail might not be so lucky.

Lawyers who abuse, bully, and threaten people based on protected speech should be called out, to make us all freer.

Edited to add: I've been informed that the New York Court of Appeals — what we would call the Supreme Court in California, the highest court of the state — has granted review of Golb's conviction.

Scott Greenfield suggests in an update that this might provide the impetus for the threatening email.

I note that the order granting leave to appeal to the state's highest court is dated March 11, while the email asserting "I am advised that Mr. Golb has been convicted and appeals denied." Draw such credibility inferences about the threat email and its sender as you will.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

85 Comments

85 Comments

  1. Thad  •  Mar 13, 2013 @5:23 pm

    In fairness, I don't think ANYONE has heard of "Barbara" Streisand.

    …sorry. Had to.

  2. Grifter  •  Mar 13, 2013 @5:24 pm

    Wait, it says "But the behavior of a lawyer purporting to act on his behalf is even odder.", in reference to Golb…was that supposed to be Schiffman?

  3. Ken  •  Mar 13, 2013 @5:25 pm

    My people have no tradition of proofreading.

  4. Matthew Cline  •  Mar 13, 2013 @5:27 pm

    It seems to me a bit hasty to be analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls just yet. People should wait until 2015 to see if a giant monster actually attacks Tokyo-3 or not before drawing any conclusions.

  5. Mike  •  Mar 13, 2013 @5:53 pm

    This seems the perfect situation to use: http://patterico.com/2010/12/28/most-awesome-legal-letter-evah/

  6. James Pollock  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:06 pm

    "In fairness, I don't think ANYONE has heard of "Barbara" Streisand."

    I think they have; she changed her name as an adult.

  7. James Pollock  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:10 pm

    I assume the respected technical experts consulted on this matter verified that the domain name is actually associated with the actual law firm? (That isn't spelled out in the post.)

  8. Patrick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:13 pm

    Isn't Voklah on the (actually rather short) list of legal personalities people just about every engaged practicing lawyer should have heard of? Even if you don't follow everything they do? I got the supreme court justices, posner, easterbrook, voklah, epstein. Maybe this is just my bias. Either way, it's pretty dumb to start taking swings at people if you're not sure they are Mike Tyson first.

  9. Patrick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:15 pm

    I accidentally a word. Make me feel bad internet.

  10. SPQR  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:16 pm

    This is a bizarre one, Ken. And the reply most puzzling as it seems to straddle the possible replies I would have expected.

    Most odd.

  11. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:17 pm

    James: If its not, someone went WAY out of their way to make a fake site: http://www.riederstravis.com/

  12. Wick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:25 pm

    While Mr. Rieders royally deserves ridicule for the foolish emails sent out under his name, I must confess that I don't think your question 6 was appropriate. Your point was made by the first five questions, and obvious reference to malpractice seems gratuitous.

  13. SPQR  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:27 pm

    As Scott wrote, "Waffenschmidt" is a pretty cool partner name. I'm gonna add that to my firm name. It will class up the office some.

  14. Christopher L. Jorgensen  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:29 pm

    Tell the truth, Ken! You just feel left out.

  15. Wick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:29 pm

    @Patrick I think many, if not most, practicing lawyers have no knowledge of the blogosphere.

  16. SPQR  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:31 pm

    Patrick, well it depends on the circles one run's in, I suppose. An attorney who isn't really bothering to read legal blogs and does not practice in one of Eugene's specialty areas might not have heard of him. And the email exchange Ken had shows a certain cluelessness about the whole Internet thing and kinda reminds me of what email looks like when the secretary calls in sick and the senior partner has to actually touch that icky keyboard himself.

  17. Merissa  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:31 pm

    @Patrick: It's okay; people here are actually very warm and polite towards drunkposters.

  18. Nik B.  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:47 pm

    Mr. Weaver, I assume that Ken quoted you accurately and I don't doubt your analysis. If so, why do you conflate the terms "domain" and "hostname" into domain? "www.xxx.com" isn't a domain anymore than a car's wheel is, in itself, a car.

  19. Shelby  •  Mar 13, 2013 @6:50 pm

    Mr. Rieders' bio does not indicate any special focus on libel, internet or First Amendment law. It does list "Serious Brain Injury" and "Liquor Liability" as areas of practice, though…

  20. SPQR  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:12 pm

    Yah, its pretty hard to convince plaintiff's lawyers that things like "law" require any attention. ;-)

  21. Syd  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:17 pm

    Their website recommends calling them if you believe you suspect that legal malpractice has occurred. They understand what constitutes legal malpractice in Pennsylvania.

  22. Dan Hill  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:25 pm

    Henceforth, let it be known throughout all the courts of this fair land, that the correct answer to the question "who do you represent?" shall be "I represent the inexpressible joy of ridiculing feckless legal bullies."

    I almost fell off my barstool I was laughing so hard, or drinking so hard. Something like that.

  23. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:27 pm

    I assume the respected technical experts consulted on this matter verified that the domain name is actually associated with the actual law firm? (That isn't spelled out in the post.)

    Yes – email headers tie to the domain. The domain is registered via WhoIs to the law firm in question. Reverse directory on the admin (including phone #) llisted on WhoIs also goes back to same firm.

  24. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:28 pm

    Because they were both part of the larger analysis, and both are important here, and they aren't conflated. Since the full analysis was a little longer, I'll recapitulate the logic from the email I sent Ken.

    The email Ken sent to Mr Rieders was sent to the DOMAIN, which triggered the reply to Ken. Thus the reply to Ken can be considered to be from someone in that law firm who has access to Mr Rieders's email account with the firm.

    The IP address which sent the reply was the same IP which sent the original emails to both Volkh and Greenfield.

    All three emails originated from a computer within the firm's network with a private IP, so its natural to assume these came from the same HOST, and the first hop is the law firm's email gateway which is mail.riederstravis.com.

    So the use of host to describe sender, but domain to describe recipient, is deliberate.

  25. MattS  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:28 pm

    Shelby,

    Given the boneheaded emails from this guy are you certain that "serious brain injury" and "liquor liability" were listed under areas of practice and not under qualifications?

    P.S. I didn't realize that serious brain injury was a separate area of practice from normal or minor brain injury.

  26. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:46 pm

    One possibility is that his email account was hacked or that he didn't lock things down well enough after terminating an employee. You might consider contacting him "out of band" (i.e., not communicating in a way that depends on the reliability of the same resource that you're testing for compromise) to be sure, before assuming he's really this incompetent.

  27. Nik B.  •  Mar 13, 2013 @7:50 pm

    @Nicholas Weaver Fair enough. I just wanted to make sure that we were being accurate.

  28. Lindsay K  •  Mar 13, 2013 @8:10 pm

    I wonder that neither you, Ken, nor the two bloggers addressed with these letters, seems to have considered the possibility what the lawyer (or possibly automated threat-writing robot) that produced this letter is talking about is the comments on the posts, not the posts themselves. The letter doesn't accuse the blog author of writing something illegal but says that the blog is a "location" where the "criminal postings" by Golb appeared. The letter makes demands about getting rid of fraudulent e-mail accounts and comments by Golb that say nasty things about Schiffman.

    I had a little trawl through the comments on both blog posts in question. On Mr. Greenfield's post there are only 3 comments, two of them negative about Schiffman. One (by Elie Kadouri) suggests that Schiffman is undoubtedly a plagiarist trying to distract attention from his crimes.

    Mr. Volokh's comments section has a much livelier discussion with many participants. But one stands out- a david kripke, who posts numerous angry rants directed at Volokh (perhaps because Volokh, unlike Greenfield, said that he thought the case came to the right result) and accusing everyone from Schiffman to the judge of the case of acting improperly. Kripke, like the Edie Kadouri comment on the other blog, talks about coverups of Schiffman's supposed plagiarism as a foregone conclusion. Sort of odd, given that the plagiarism accusation is the very libel which was at the center of Golb's conviction for identity theft etc.

    I am guessing that this threat letter is not a demand that the respective authors pull their posts, but that they delete comments which advance Golb's argument that Schiffman is a plagiarist. I don't know if they have any evidence (like IP addresses) to suggest that comments on these blog entries were made by Golb, but I think this interpretation casts their goal in a very different light- Golb has been pretty conclusively proved a lying dick, yet his comments libeling Schiffman are still littered around the internet influencing whoever comes across them. Of course, whether this was the best way to persuade Mr. Volokh and Mr. Greenfield to take said comments down (no) and whether there is any legal basis to threaten action if they fail to do so (probably not) are separate questions.

  29. George William Herbert  •  Mar 13, 2013 @8:44 pm

    @Nik B.

    Mr. Weaver's been deciphering these things since the early 1990s. The Berkeley crowd at the time included some of the top contemporaneous experts in faked email and other network communications, and verification of legitimate ones.

  30. George William Herbert  •  Mar 13, 2013 @8:47 pm

    @AlphaCentauri -

    It would take a very, very special individual to respond to being convicted for impersonation and various abuses to then hack into an opposing lawyers email and expand the scope of the crimes.

    Not that I have not known people who were that special, but there's no sign of that in this case.

  31. Nik B.  •  Mar 13, 2013 @9:20 pm

    @George you'll get no argument from me; but that is why I wondered about the mixup of "domain" and "hostname". His longer explanation made much more sense.

  32. Ken  •  Mar 13, 2013 @9:23 pm

    @Lindsay: If that's the case, it's incredibly incompetently drafted.

    1. It's a form letter.

    2. It doesn't identify the exact content challenged.

    3. It is vague throughout — for instance, by demanding the removal of "blog material."

    4. It requires "Removal of any other mention or reference to Dr. Schiffman by Mr. Golb or anyone responding to him", without any explanation of how the recipient is supposed to identify that.

    5. It target's Volokh's blog post in January 2013 after the conviction was affirmed on appeal without any indication of how posts there are part of a crime charged far before (Is he claiming that Golb is still commenting in 2013?)

    . . . and so on.

    Plus, of course, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Volokh and Greenfield are not responsible for the content of comments — which a minimally competent attorney sending such a letter would know.

  33. Adam  •  Mar 13, 2013 @9:42 pm

    Eugene Volokh has to be one of the worst possible people to target with a letter like that. The only ones I can think of in the same league are Ken and Marc Randazza.

  34. James Pollock  •  Mar 13, 2013 @9:52 pm

    "under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Volokh and Greenfield are not responsible for the content of comments — which a minimally competent attorney sending such a letter would know."

    I never got around to reading the CDA. I'm looking at section 230 now. Are you referring to (c)(1). Or, asked another way, is that what section (c)(1) is supposed to do?

  35. Isaac Bresnick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @11:06 pm

    Ken,

    Incompetently drafted it may be, but it's a far cry from the tyrant you called him in your blog post. I'm with Lindsay – it looks like you and Eugene both overreacted, as a result of the occasional laziness from which we all suffer.

    In reading the letter, it's absurd to try to interpret it to refer to the two blog posts themselves. Fraudulent email accounts? The only way to get there is to believe the lawyer in question is accusing Raphael Golb of posting on Volokh.com as Eugene Volokh.

    I didn't go to the arduous task of clicking the links to the blog posts and scrolling down (because I'm lazy, too), but I'm glad that Lindsay did. I think that letter's a good example of whatnot to do, but not for the reasons you chose in your post.

  36. Isaac Bresnick  •  Mar 13, 2013 @11:41 pm

    Plus, of course, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, Volokh and Greenfield are not responsible for the content of comments — which a minimally competent attorney sending such a letter would know

    One other thing: the letter doesn't actually suggest that Volokh and Greenfield are responsible for the comments of Golb (under a pseudonym), but Volokh is the owner of the website, and it's certainly within his power as administrator Conspirator to remove the "illegal" comments by Mr. Golb.

    But I agree that failing to identify which comments the attorney believes these to be is pretty dumb.

  37. Scote  •  Mar 13, 2013 @11:55 pm

    "Your website has been provided to me as one of the locations where the criminal postings occurred."

    Kind of sounds like a threatening demand letter that opens with the stated premises that the author has done no due diligence and has no personal knowledge of any actionable, let alone criminal, content on the site he's threatening. It just screams "Don't hire me. I'm an incompetent thug."–in my opinion.

  38. David Schwartz  •  Mar 14, 2013 @1:51 am

    It's very difficult to summarize a highly technical conclusion without inadvertently introducing some technical inaccuracy. It's worth taking the effort to get this right though, lest someone dismiss an accurate analysis because its rationale, as summarized, is inaccurate. In this case, the "www." should simply have been left out — that would have made the summary even briefer and avoided the technical inaccuracy.

  39. Zemalkop  •  Mar 14, 2013 @2:03 am

    @MattS: They look like the kind of lawyers who make a "serious brain injury" out of every little head bump…

  40. Kittens R. Horrid  •  Mar 14, 2013 @2:16 am

    No comment on the law stuff, but please allow me two technical quibbles.

    1. An IP address that starts with 192.168. (as well as 10. and anything in the 172.16. to 172.31. range) is private—it's the kind of address that a wifi router gives your laptop, and means nothing on the public Internet.

    It's also possible to put totally fake headers at the top of an email message you're sending, and (often) to assign yourself any reverse-DNS name you want. If you want to know where an email really came from, you have to look at the last legitimate “Received: from []” line in its header.

    2. It's possible to put any information you want in a domain's WHOIS registration. Many registrars won't check that the phone and physical address are even valid, much less that they're yours.

  41. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 14, 2013 @4:07 am

    David: Thanks for the feedback. Yes, just dropping the 'www' would have made things clearer.

    GWH: Thanks for the complements, although I've only been doing network security since about 2001.

  42. Max Kennerly  •  Mar 14, 2013 @4:50 am

    Cliff Rieders has a good reputation 'round here, e.g., sits on the state civil rules committee, part of ALI, lots of work with the trial lawyers group including writing some really good amicus briefs. I can only assume he was trying to do a favor for a client/friend and went about it the very wrong way.

    (Disclosure: it wouldn't surprise me if he had referred my firm cases or vice versa. Like I said, good reputation around Southeastern PA.)

  43. David  •  Mar 14, 2013 @5:57 am

    David Schwartz get a gold star for diplomacy in small matters.
    Nik B. gets a rock.
    Kittens gets remedial training.

    Remember, K.: while it's true in general that WHOIS content isn't well validated and that HTTP headers may be spoofed, it's important to weigh the likelihood of whether that occurred in this particular case.

    @Kittens, reread with particular attention to this sentence: "All these emails were sent from the same internal computer x-originating-ip: [192.168.123.33] within the riederstravis.com local network."

  44. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 14, 2013 @6:10 am

    @adam – indeed. I've always wondered why when someone has unflattering or inaccurate information about themselves posted by a blogger or in their comment section, that the individual doesn't just write a letter (with accompanying evidence of the inaccuracy) and politely ask (not demand) the inaccurate information either be removed or pointed out as inaccurate by the blog owner.

    I think a polite and specific request would likely get positive results. This zipping out of vague threatening demand letters just encourages negative results.

  45. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 14, 2013 @6:20 am

    2. It's possible to put any information you want in a domain's WHOIS registration. Many registrars won't check that the phone and physical address are even valid, much less that they're yours

    True, which is why I did a complete reverse lookup on the whois registrant data including the address, phone #, and admin email – all of which are valid (real) and all of which go back to the law firm in question. In this particular instance we know the whois data is accurate.

  46. Hasdrubal  •  Mar 14, 2013 @7:26 am

    1. An IP address that starts with 192.168. (as well as 10. and anything in the 172.16. to 172.31. range) is private—it's the kind of address that a wifi router gives your laptop, and means nothing on the public Internet.

    It's also possible to put totally fake headers at the top of an email message you're sending, and (often) to assign yourself any reverse-DNS name you want. If you want to know where an email really came from, you have to look at the last legitimate “Received: from []” line in its header.

    That confused me for a minute as well, since any packets with a private address for a source address will get dropped by any Internet border router.

    I figure that the mail server substitutes its IP (or some other public IP) when it forwards an email from an internal network, much the same way a firewall would substitute a public IP when doing a NAT translation. But the email header preserves the sending host's IP for some reason?

    That's just a guess, though, since I don't generally get into the nitty gritty of email. Anything above tier 3 or 4 is getting too close to applications and makes me feel a little dirty inside whenever I have to work with it.

  47. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 14, 2013 @7:46 am

    In this case, the 192.168 is the internal host in the law firm's network, which forwards to the law firm's mailserver which then forwards it on, and that mailserver is recording the sending host's internal IP.

  48. Ken  •  Mar 14, 2013 @8:01 am

    @Isaac: in deciding whether it is "absurd" to interpret the email as referring to the posts, rather than some unspecified comments to the posts, consider Volokh's update to his post, where he explains that the email included an attachment with a printout of the post but not its comments. (The one sent to Greenfield had an attachment with the post and the handful of comments, but no highlighting or emphasis.)

    At a bare minimum, it is a frightfully incompetently drafted communication.

  49. Luke  •  Mar 14, 2013 @9:00 am

    I hate pointing out a spelling mistake, but "riederstraveis.com" does not exist.

  50. En Passant  •  Mar 14, 2013 @9:08 am

    Ken wrote Mar 14, 2013 @8:01 am:

    At a bare minimum, it is a frightfully incompetently drafted communication.

    Perhaps yet another tragic consequence of the Lake Wobegon effect.

  51. Josh C  •  Mar 14, 2013 @10:15 am

    Couple thoughts:

    • Lindsay K showed up on Greenfield's blog as well, offering the same defense / clarification. Being an ignorant and uncharitable person, I had the impression she was associated with the threats, but dismissed it. Seeing her comment here too makes me wonder though.

    • If that's ingratiating, I'd hate to see thinly-veiled hostility.

    • Does 'bumptuous' have a legal meaning, or is it just an especially appropos insult?

  52. Nik B.  •  Mar 14, 2013 @10:18 am

    A rock? Really? Yay!

  53. Lindsay K  •  Mar 14, 2013 @1:33 pm

    Josh: Believe you me, if I had any association with the threat letters, they would have been a hell of a lot better written. ;) As I noted specifically in my comment here, I thought it was odd that nobody picked up on my interpretation of the letters, because it seemed like a natural one to me. And having posted here, it seemed logical to post my observations on the two blogs that actually received the threats (and were discussing them).

    I have no particular interest in "defending" the law firm that produced the letters. It's more of an intellectual exercise I suppose, since even if you buy my interpretation the letters are still incompetently drafted and rather thuggish in their demanding tone.

  54. David K  •  Mar 14, 2013 @2:42 pm

    Lindsay K, while concealing his own name (does he perhaps teach in a university located in Iowa?), rails at me for my criticism of Eugene Volokh and others who have, in my opinion, failed to carefully reflect upon this case. Perhaps the threats emanating from Lawrence Schiffman's lawyer will give readers a new opportunity to reflect on what this entire case is really about.

    See, above all, the letter published by Professor Norman Golb at:

    http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/schiffman_response_2010nov30.pdf

    This letter was written in response to a "confidential" text supplied by Schiffman to NYU officials and Manhattan prosecutors, which became a public document during the Raphael Golb trial. Schiffman left NYU in the middle of the academic year, six weeks after the publication of Golb's response. See this editorial for discussion:

    http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/01/28/does-yeshiva-university-answer-to-a-higher-authority/

    And now, it looks like Schiffman's legal team is arguing that any discussion of this case or of Schiffman's conduct, or any postings by anyone alleged to "be" or to support Raphael Golb, is illegal.

    Incidentally, it looks like the New York Court of Appeals in Albany has agreed to hear Golb's appeal. Hopefully, all of this will convince Ken and others to give some closer thought to what was involved in this case, including the trial judge's order of "protection" instructing Raphael Golb not to use any names, not even historical ones like Richard Saunders or Aristotle, when participating in any website discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    And, let's remember that the First Division appellate panel in New York ruled that only the creating of an "impression" was criminalized, not the content of Raphael Golb's emails, which portrayed Schiffman as accusing himself of plagiarism. Thus, if Raphael Golb had created the "impression" he was Schiffman and sent out an email saying "test" or "have a great summer," he would also, according to the First Department, have committed a crime. See Golb's blog for discussion:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com

    See especially the "about" section of the blog, for a succinct summary of the background of the case, which has unfortunately (it seems to me) been ignored by most commentators.

  55. Ken  •  Mar 14, 2013 @2:52 pm

    I'm not going to delete your comment, David, but (1) this won't be a forum for re-litigating Golb's claims, (2) it won't become a forum for Golb supports to continue his attacks, and (3) I trust our readers will take any Golb supporters with a pillar of salt, given his bizarre and contemptible conduct.

  56. John Thinkishness  •  Mar 14, 2013 @4:09 pm

    @ken "My people have no tradition of proofreading."

    I'm stealing this. I may, or may not, at my discretion reimburse you with ponies of various colors in exchange. Except the orange one. That one is mine.

  57. Josh C  •  Mar 14, 2013 @5:16 pm

    Lindsay: mea culpa. I had actually decided there was no way you were connected over on the other blog for exactly that reason; it wasn't until the same thing was picked up here that it seemed odd. Paranoia on my part, obviously.

    (by the way, you aren't in SOMD, are you? I once knew a Lindsay K there.)

  58. SPQR  •  Mar 14, 2013 @8:02 pm

    A pillar of salt? Lot himself wouldn't give Golb's fan club the time of day.

  59. Howard Fredrics  •  Mar 14, 2013 @9:38 pm

    Ken, a minor error re: Prof. Schiffman's current position. He is actuallyVice-Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva. This is a mid-level administrative post created specifically for him.

  60. Alan Bleiweiss  •  Mar 14, 2013 @11:50 pm

    Even an extremely elaborate web site can be created in order to fake out people who assume "must be real". Their Twitter account has a massive volume of four followers, though it's been posting tweets since May of last year. Facebook account has a whopping 17 "likes" though that's been live since January of last year as well. The LinkedIn account associated with the site has 3 employees listed as having LinkedIn profiles (two mystery executives and an IT person).

    It's the only site that shows up in organic search for their firm name. And Lawyers.com's profile for Clifford Rieders includes a link to that site as well.

    So it's a pretty elaborate though not completely impossible possible fabrication if it's not real. Especially if one considers the potential monetary value of pulling off such a hoax. Especially if they're at least 3 IQ points smarter than Steele Hansmeier.

  61. CockleCove  •  Mar 15, 2013 @8:13 am

    Judge Pigott's decision to grant Golb leave to appeal has not yet been announced on the NY Court of Appeals web site; they've not posted any decisions — of appeals, motions, or leave applications — since February.
    http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/decisions.htm

    But before sending out that e-mail, Reiders should have touched bases with the DA's Office re: the case status. (I'm assuming that he knew Ron Kuby had filed a leave application on Golb's behalf, but some DA's Offices are better than others at keeping victims abreast of appeals developments.)

  62. Kittens R. Horrid  •  Mar 15, 2013 @9:09 am

    Is there a serious concern that Golb might be impersonating Rieders, having impersonated others in the past? Or is it just a rhetorical point taken to the extreme of involving professional network security?

    The WHOIS lookup isn't really a computer issue. You can register a domain with any contact info, just like you can get business cards printed with any info you want. If a potential scammer hands you a business card with my name, address, and phone number on it, checking that the address and phone are mine doesn't prove the scammer is really me.

    It's quite easy to copy a website, no matter how elaborate (as long as it's mostly static). There is really no technical obstacle to registering a fake name like riederstravishumphrey.com, copying all the contect from the firm's original site (search-and-replacing the correct web address with the new fake one), and impersonating them online.

    It's the only site that shows up in organic search for their firm name. And Lawyers.com's profile for Clifford Rieders includes a link to that site as well.

    This is much better evidence that Rieders is not being impersonated.

  63. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 15, 2013 @10:33 am

    Is there a serious concern that Golb might be impersonating Rieders, having impersonated others in the past? Or is it just a rhetorical point taken to the extreme of involving professional network security?

    I’m not sure, I only know that Ken asked myself and Nicholas to confirm if the email he received as well as the emails received by Eugene Volkh and Scott Greenfield came from the same firm – I assume to ensure his conclusions were accurate before publishing his post.

    The WHOIS lookup isn't really a computer issue. You can register a domain with any contact info, just like you can get business cards printed with any info you want. If a potential scammer hands you a business card with my name, address, and phone number on it, checking that the address and phone are mine doesn't prove the scammer is really me.

    As I said before, yes that can be done, but not in this particular case. I apologize for not being more clear that I also ran an organic search on RiedersTravis before checking the WhoIs. Additionally the WhoIs shows the domain name was originally registered in October of 1999, over 13 years ago, and the domain name has not changed since then. This, in addition to confirming the registrant data was real and pointed back to the law firm in question, is why I was confident the WhoIs registrant data was correct.

  64. Anonymous  •  Mar 15, 2013 @5:18 pm

    It does list "Serious Brain Injury" and "Liquor Liability" as areas of practice

    Serious Brain Injury and such can only be dealt with by a Super Serious Ambulance Chaser.

  65. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 16, 2013 @9:19 am

    Glob was sentenced to six months at Rikers for sending some e-mails. Yes, it was identity theft, but not the sort that is expensive or time consuming to undo. We've all gotten e-mails from friends with hacked hotmail accounts, and it doesn't take more than a send-all e-mail to warn all their friends to ignore the email about being stranded in a foreign city. In this case, rather than harming Schiffman's reputation, it would have further harmed Golb's father's, as his son's actions would be assumed to have his tacit approval.

    So it takes a very special person to get sentenced to a maximum security facility for prank e-mails. He must have a real talent for pissing people off IRL. And maybe the judge found him completely unrepentant and likely to continue the behavior. His owm defense strategy was to claim the emails were protected parody and that it was not his fault that the recipients were too stupid to see that.

    So yeah, there is a real chance he would be arrogant enough to hack into an opposing attorney's computer. Once he managed to get a trojan on Rieder's computer, it would become impossible to tell who sent the email, since it really did come from his computer. Rieders' website has been around a long time, but he has never been the technical contact. He may not be very computer literate. And he may have an assistant opening his emails. It is an easy opportunity for spear phishing.

    Not saying that's what happened, but with nothing but two emails — notably, e-mails sent to two blogs most likely to create negative publicity and least likely to respond to vague-not-very-legally-justified threats — you have to consider it's a joe job. All parties deserve the presumption of innocence.

  66. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 16, 2013 @10:29 am

    One might ask, if his computer were hacked, wouldn't he come here to tell us? Surely, someone has informed him by now, if he is as well-regarded in the community as we are told.

    However, having a computer at a law firm compromised could be a MAJOR privacy breach. The victim would have to notify his cyber security insurance carrier, hire a forensic investigator, and get all computers containing clients' personal information off-line until certain they are not controlled by an off-site intruder. He wouldn't be in a position to be posting about it on public forums.

    OTOH, a lawyer that was really indiscriminately sending form emails to any site that mentions his client ought to have contacted this one by now.

  67. Matthew Cline  •  Mar 16, 2013 @8:12 pm

    His owm defense strategy was to claim the emails were protected parody and that it was not his fault that the recipients were too stupid to see that.

    Impersonating someone via an email is parody? Boy, whatever else you might think about him, you have to admit he has chutzpah.

  68. Howard Fredrics  •  Mar 16, 2013 @9:07 pm

    @AlphaCentauri – I doubt that Golb has the technical skills to hack into a law firm's computer system. It's a big leap to go from creating a few gmail addresses and posting on blogs to computer hacking. So, if someone did hack their system, it was someone other than Golb.

  69. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 16, 2013 @9:27 pm

    You don't actually have to be technically sophisticated to be a computer criminal. The "kits" for doing this sort of thing are for sale in black hat forums. (The creators of those kits cater to the clueless, so much so that they include "back doors" that allow them to profit from the work of their customers by also downloading the data themselves.)

    What Golb did have was enough details about Schiffman's lawyers through hours of contact in depositions/court hearings that he could craft an email that could fool them into clicking a link or opening an attachment. Lawyers speak pretty freely about their personal lives in the hearing of their opponents' clients. And I doubt they remember enough about what they have said to be suspicious about seeing it in an email.

  70. Chris Sherlock  •  Mar 16, 2013 @11:14 pm

    I would be very, very careful what you say about that IP address range. In point of fact, that IP address could be part of ANY private network. 192.168.* is a non-routable private network. Literally millions of people use it. Saying it came from any specific network is therefore impossible to say.

    I'm a great fan of Ken's blog, but in this case he's on dangerous ground.

  71. V  •  Mar 17, 2013 @8:12 am

    It's not so much that the IP addresses match, it's that they don't differ which would have been a clue that the emails did not originate from the same system.

  72. Ken  •  Mar 17, 2013 @8:54 am
  73. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 17, 2013 @12:01 pm

    Again, who the hell only picks the biggest guys on the playground to bully? A lawyer with two brain cells to rub together would be cautious sending such a lame letter to a law professor with a prominent blog, especially since the whole premise of sending the email is that they were attempting reputation management.

    Have any of the academic sites discussing the dead sea scrolls been told to take anything down, or is it only lawyers?

    As far as the IP range, yes, if you have a Windows computer, your local address probably starts out 192.168.–.–. It probably doesn't start out 192.168.123.–, though. It's much less likely to be a coincidence. But it would happen if Reiders' computer was pwned, or it could be spoofed by someone close enough to the case to have a copy of one of his legitimate emails with intact headers.

  74. Omegallof  •  Mar 17, 2013 @2:23 pm

    What about the authorities at Tablet Mag and the NYTimes? I should hope they have also received requests to remove at least a few of the subversive comments posted by supporters of Raphael Golb.

    http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/121361/dead-sea-scrolls-go-to-court

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/nyregion/online-battle-over-ancient-scrolls-spawns-real-world-consequences.html

  75. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 17, 2013 @3:17 pm

    @Chris Sherlock. @V.

    OK guys let’s try this again.

    No one here is saying just because an email came from 192.168.123.XXX that anyone using that IP is suspect nor are we saying they all originated from the exact computer/sender. What IS being said is that the emails came from the SAME mail domain for riederstravis with the same IP of 173.163.149.241. This is a Comcast Business connection with Comcast providing the reverse. Riederstravis.com was the sending domain. It’s important to distinguish between the IP address of an internal computer on a company network being used by the end user to “send” an email and the IP address of the “mail domain” actually sending the email out.

    As outlined below:

    Email to Eugene Volkh: Sent from mail.riederstravis.com (173.163.149.241), From Cliff Rieders Sender Linda Bergston at RiedersTravis which acted as relay for an internal computer x-originating-ip: [192.168.123.12].

    Email sent to Scott Greenfield: Also sent from mail.riederstravis.com (173.163.149.241) from Cliff Rieders sender Linda Bergston at RiedersTravis which acted as relay for an internal computer x-originating-ip: [192.168.123.12]

    Email sent to Kenneth White from Cliff Rieders: Also sent from mail.riederstravis.com (173.163.149.241) from Cliff Rieders sender Cliff Rieders at x-originating-ip: [192.168.123.33].

    All three emails were sent from the RiedersTravis domain and associated IP address. So yes, all emails originated from RiedersTravis firm.

    @Alpha Centauri. What’s interesting is that since Ken’s email was a REPLY to an email he sent previously, it’s clearly sent by whoever controls the Cliff Rieder email account. Meaning one of only two possibilities (1) the emails came from RiedersTravis, or (2) they were hacked and someone is playing a VERY elaborate game (unlikely). Here’s why I especially doubt they’ve been hacked – the emails to Eugene and Scott were also CC’d to Lawrence Shiffman at his valid email address. Ken, Eugene, or Scott surely would have heard from Lawrence by now if this was a spoof.

  76. Prattle On, Boyo  •  Mar 18, 2013 @4:46 pm

    Ah Williamsport, PA…Lycoming County…home to the Little League Baseball World Series, the Brodart Company and now, evidently, an ill-informed attorney who hasn't bothered to conduct any due diligence before firing off insipid nastigrams to law professors running popular blogs. Hey Cliff, next time maybe you can at least try to disguise your IP address before you feign ignorance when your dumbassery is called out.

  77. Omegallof  •  Mar 18, 2013 @9:11 pm

    I read here:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130314/17275122332/internet-is-baseless-legal-threats-popehat-greenfield-volokh-triple-streisand-edition.shtml#comments

    that "Rieders' firm resource page has references to multiple Schiffman lectures." Any idea where this resource page can be viewed?

  78. Ken  •  Mar 18, 2013 @10:16 pm

    It's specifically mentioned and linked in the post you are commenting on.

  79. Sewer Urchin  •  Mar 19, 2013 @6:06 am

    Just advise Mr. Reiders that some *sshole has been generating stupid messages from within the firm and attaching his name to them.

  80. CockleCove  •  Mar 19, 2013 @9:57 pm

    I note that the order granting leave to appeal to the state's highest court is dated March 11, while the email asserting "I am advised that Mr. Golb has been convicted and appeals denied." Draw such credibility inferences about the threat email and its sender as you will.

    A couple of observations:
    * The fact that Judge Pigott's order is dated March 11 doesn't mean copies of the order left the Albany post office on March 12. I've received mail from the Court of Appeals where the postmark on the envelope was the next day (and in one case, it was actually 2 days later)

    * You can't count on getting mail from Albany overnight.

    * The Court would not have sent a copy of Judge Pigott's order to either Rieders or his client because Schiffman was not a party to the criminal appeal.

    * The Court hasn't posted any decisions on its web site since February 19.

  81. CockleCove  •  Mar 19, 2013 @10:00 pm

    Oops, there's a typo in my preceding comment. The 1st sentence should be:
    The fact that Judge Pigott's order is dated March 11 doesn't mean copies of the order left the Albany post office on March 11.

  82. David Brody  •  Mar 23, 2013 @11:25 am

    Schiffman's purpose is to convince people that he, not Raphael Golb, was the victim of an injustice, and Ken's reaction to David Kripke shows that Schiffman has been largely successful in creating this impression. Ken himself ends up censoring any true debate about the underlying issues, warning David that the case will not be "relitigated" in this forum. On the whole, Ken comes off as having sent a sarcastic letter while paradoxically recognizing that Schiffman was victimized and that Golb's point of view needs to be silenced. So much for anyone who thinks that this latest episode necessitates a discussion of the underlying issues of which Schiffman wants to prevent discussion and which Ken regards as inappropriate for discussion.

    In fact, Ken's approach demonstrates that Lawrence Schiffman and his lawyer are a lot smarter than Eugene Volokh. There has been no "Streisand effect" apart from maybe a few hundred views at most (right, Ken?), and Schiffman has succeeded in turning around the allegations made against him by calling attention to the "odd" behavior of Raphael Golb. Schiffman has even succeeded in getting Ken to suggest (see reply to Kripke) that the plagiarism allegations were "litigated," when it was in fact it appears they were excluded as "irrelevant" on the grounds that "neither good faith nor the truth is a defense."

    So, tempest in a teapot for the First Amendment blogs (the entire matter has quickly fizzled) and good results for Schiffman.

  83. Ken  •  Mar 23, 2013 @11:31 am

    Cool story bro.

  84. Omegallof  •  Mar 23, 2013 @12:23 pm

    @David Brody: by that token, Rieders, with a false description of his client in his letter, has induced Ken into misleadingly referring to the distinguished lecturer with the vague and perhaps slightly demeaning term "vice provost," instead of the actual title, resonant with a certain elegance and specificity: Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education. An odd reversal of the Streisand Effect which I have already seen signaled on the Volokh and Greenfield sites…

  85. David Brody  •  Mar 23, 2013 @12:51 pm

    No doubt, but a pretty obvious story if you consider how certain C/D lawyers operate. It's a dirty fight and they are happy to get down in the mud with it. P.s. I see that I garbled the end of my comment: "when it was in fact" should read "when in fact." Best, David Brody