Somewhere In The Happy Hunting Grounds, Paul Mirengoff Is Smiling

Irksome, Language

You would think that James Meggesto, of powerhouse law firm Akin Gump's Native American lobbying practice, would know better than most that a poorly worded joke on the internet can ruin a career, given that Meggesto used a poorly worded joke to ruin Paul Mirengoff's career two years ago.

You would think.

(Via Above the Law, which observes: "For the record, when a tweet opens with “Resisting urge to tweet…”, you’ve failed.")

Edit:

To elaborate on why this is a big deal:

In his tweet, Meggesto, a lawyer representing clients with interests adverse to those of the witness, called the witness a liar, as the witness was testifying before Congress. This probably isn't actionable libel, as it fails to identify a false statement, and fails to name a time and place. If Meggesto had said, "the witness is lying right now, before Congress, as I tweet this," Meggesto would be in very hot water. Meggesto didn't quite accuse the witness of perjury, but he came close.

Meggesto's tweet also dances around the edges of the codes of ethics that govern attorneys. An attorney may not accuse a sworn witness in an adversarial proceeding of lying. There are many reasons for this, including decorum, respect for the court, and respect for witnesses, but the main reason, I think, is that a witness so accused cannot seek redress for the accusation: attorneys are generally immune from suit for statements made in an adversarial proceeding, about anyone. For instance, if I said about someone like Meggesto in court: "He isn't a real lawyer, and he doesn't have a real law practice: he only facilitates graft by funneling money to legislators with their hands out," the person of whom I was speaking couldn't sue me for defamation.

But since Meggesto wasn't appearing as an advocate before Congress that day, on that matter, he gets a pass.

By any measure, Meggesto's conduct is sleazy. He did call a sworn witness, appearing before a body with the power to require oaths in a matter adverse to the interests of his clients, a liar. He almost but not quite called him a perjurer, and he insulted a Congressman. Make what jokes about that you will, it's poor form for a man who lobbies Congress to speak ill, in public, of elected representatives.

Finally, and I can say this without fear of reprisal: Meggesto is stupid, a dumb braying ass who, if this is indicative of his intelligence and his character, has no business representing clients before a traffic court judge, much less Congress.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. David  •  Jul 27, 2013 @9:57 am

    Non-White man speak with long memory.

  2. dfbaskwill  •  Jul 27, 2013 @10:09 am

    "Dances with Karma" gets his due.

  3. Allen  •  Jul 27, 2013 @10:37 am

    That's pretty impressive, and he didn't even have to say beforehand, "watch this."

  4. Patrick Non-White  •  Jul 27, 2013 @12:59 pm

    "B.S. with honors in political science from the State University of New York at Brockport"

    I call B.S.

    A degree in political science (I know, because I have one) is a B.A. There's precious little science in political science.

  5. Erik Carlseen  •  Jul 27, 2013 @1:06 pm

    Hey, I like the lawyer that represents me in front of traffic court judges. :-)

  6. jdgalt  •  Jul 27, 2013 @1:33 pm

    That rule of decorum is a bad idea. Plenty of witnesses, and lawyers, and Congresscritters too are liars, and need to be confronted about it.

    As for it ill befitting a man who lobbies Congress: All lobbying is corruption and needs to be banned yesterday.

  7. John Beaty  •  Jul 27, 2013 @1:39 pm

    PNW: You can get a BS in Economics without taking math past Algebra 2 at any Cal State university.

  8. Zack  •  Jul 27, 2013 @1:46 pm

    @JDGalt: Wonderful idea. People should be banned from contacting their congressmen- as that too, is a form of lobbying. People should be banned from funding political campaigns- as money is speech, which is lobbying. All campaigns should be funded equally by the government. This is a wonderful idea that cannot possibly go wrong in any way.
    */sarcasm mode*

  9. Black Betty  •  Jul 27, 2013 @2:26 pm

    Pure Fried Gold Wrapped Bacon!

    I hate Akin Gump. Don't ask.

  10. Rob  •  Jul 27, 2013 @4:08 pm

    PNW: You can get a BS in Economics without taking math past Algebra 2 at any Cal State university.

    Considering the calculus involved in many economic calculations, how exactly does that work?

  11. Satta  •  Jul 27, 2013 @5:27 pm

    Does someone have a cite for: "An attorney may not accuse a sworn witness in an adversarial proceeding of lying."?

  12. SharonA  •  Jul 27, 2013 @6:21 pm

    "B.S. with honors in political science from the State University of New York at Brockport"

    I call B.S.

    A degree in political science (I know, because I have one) is a B.A. There's precious little science in political science.

    OK, that got me curious (BS+MS here). I checked the SUNY/Brockport website, and indeed they do offer both BA & BS in Political Science. The difference is a bit surprising: there's not more science in the BS degree – there's more liberal arts in the BA degree!

    (source: SUNY/Brockport's 2011 Catalog) While certain programs of study lead only to the Bachelor of Science or the Bachelor of Arts, in most cases students may pursue either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. The distinction between the two lies in the number of liberal arts credits required (90 for the BA, 60 for
    the BS), and in the requirement for competency in a foreign language for those pursuing the Bachelor of Arts. Thus, a student majoring in chemistry, for example, may choose to pursue either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science.

    That's not to say there's not precious little science in their BS degree. I agree there very well may be none outside of the minimum required for the General Education section. But it's not outside the realm of possibility that he might not be BSing about the BS instead of a BA.

    Anyhow, back to lobbyist-bashing. BTW, the Edit done to the base post was very educational.

  13. SharonA  •  Jul 27, 2013 @6:30 pm

    Considering the calculus involved in many economic calculations, how exactly does that work?

    *snark* They take "how to use a computer" classes so they can run the program to crunch the numbers.

    Back when I was completing my BS, the "real" science degrees took regular Calculus. We were doing the whole bit with deriving and proving the equations and learning how to appropriately use them.

    The "other" degrees let you out of Calculus by taking Business Calculus. You used the equations, but didn't have to understand the math behind them and how you got from one to the other.

    Statistics had a similar break. "Real" stat classes had us proving the formulas, and other/applied/non-math stat classes simply learned what the terms meant and how to use the formulas.

    I don't know if that still applies today, but I suspect that not only does it still apply, there's probably even a greater divide between "create and understand it" vs "use it and understand only enough under-the-hood to know when and how to use it".

    So much for back-to-lobbyist-bashing.

  14. Shane  •  Jul 27, 2013 @6:54 pm

    Ok this is more convoluted than … uhmmm, damn I don't know. I am still sitting here scratching my head wondering wtf happened.

    The upside is that the language sarcasm was pretty hilarious.

    Patrick quit being so damn esoteric, so tools like me can get the joke too :P

  15. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Jul 27, 2013 @8:10 pm

    @Rob

    "Considering the calculus involved in many economic calculations, how exactly does that work?"

    Badly.

  16. Wade  •  Jul 28, 2013 @3:34 am

    I can't find the ethics rule that prohibits a lawyer from calling a witness a liar (provided the statement is true) in a non-trial, non-jury context. If a jury trial was expected, the public statements about the witness would be unethical. If the statements were made during trial, they could be viewed as being unethical, depending on the context and what evidence had been revealed. Akin-Gump may be a pack of assholes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that this activity is unethical. Can someone give us a cite?

  17. Brian  •  Jul 28, 2013 @8:23 am

    Here's the tweet, according to Politico:

    ***Resisting urge to tweet about a pair of high school buddies, one is lying under oath and the other is on the dais enabling him #Indianlands.***

    Patrick Non-White says:

    "This probably isn't actionable libel, as it fails to identify a false statement, and fails to name a time and place. If Meggesto had said, "the witness is lying right now, before Congress, as I tweet this," Meggesto would be in very hot water. Meggesto didn't quite accuse the witness of perjury, but he came close."

    Huh?

    Maybe I'm not getting something, but that sure looks like actionable defamation to me (if false.)

    1) The tweet does not merely calling the witness a liar, but says – present tense – he "is" lying, it makes specific reference to the Congressional hearing (e.g., the "dias", and Congressman-high school buddy) and it was tweeted during the testimony before Congress.

    2) And the tweet says that the guy testifying is "lying under oath," i.e., committing the crime of perjury.

    3) The only thing the tweet fails to do is say "X statement was a lie," (tweets have a 140-character limit, after all) but I think there's enough specificity here for actionable libel; certainly enough for an aggressive plaintiff's attorney to have some fun with.

  18. John Beaty  •  Jul 28, 2013 @9:42 am

    C.S.P Schofield, you beat me to it.

  19. Satta  •  Jul 28, 2013 @10:56 am

    Wade, thanks for the comment. I'm a mere transactional lawyer but I thought that it was not uncommon for a witness (whether at a deposition or at trail) to be confronted with a prior inconsistent statement and asked "Were you lying then, or are you lying now?" In a similar vein, what about asking a witness at a deposition something like "Do you really expect me to believe that?"

  20. Roscoe  •  Jul 28, 2013 @3:46 pm

    Wade & Satta – Model Rule 3.4(e). Doesn't seem to apply here, as this isn't a trial.

    Under the rule, a lawyer could not say in closing "I've known witness x for years and he has always been a liar." He also can't say "In my opinion witness x isn't telling the truth."

    He could, however, say "You can tell that witness x wasn't telling the truth, because . . . (whatever evidence you have contradicting witness x's story).

    In other words, you can't give a personal opinion or claim personal knowledge. You can point to evidence and argue the reasonable conclusions to be drawn from that evidence.

  21. jdgalt  •  Jul 28, 2013 @7:59 pm

    @Zack: "Lobbying" isn't contacting a Congresscritter, it's giving him campaign contributions (which we all know perfectly well are for favors). The answer, of course, is to ban all politicians from raising any money for future runs while in office.

  22. Charles  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:19 am

    In Meggesto's defense, he was defending the same client both times.

  23. Joe Blow  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:12 am

    Give Meggesto some credit here. From what I've seen of the establishment and operation of IGRA casinos (ranging from Big Business Steamroller activities, to Organized Criminal activities), it takes amazing mental flexibility on the part of an advocate to accuse somebody else of immorality. Perhaps it isn't the kind of mental flexibility we're used to praising, but it has to be worth something.

    I bet he'd make a good wartime consigliere.