Tagged: Brett Kimberlin

Kimberlin Lawfare Update: Major Pushback By Aaron Walker [Now with court documents]

Note: our prior coverage regarding Team Kimberlin's censorious activities is here.

In our last episode of the struggle against Team Kimberlin — and for free expression without legal harassment — blogger Aaron Walker was muzzled by a Maryland judge who told him to "forget" applicable United States Supreme Court precedent, and had been arrested based on Brett Kimberlin's latest bogus claim of breach of the "peace order" he obtained from a compliant Maryland court.

The tide has turned.

First, Maryland prosecutors declined to prosecute Aaron Walker based on Kimberlin's latest bogus assertion that he'd breached a peace order by blogging.

Second, Aaron Walker — assisted by Maryland counsel Reginald Bours and ridiculously overqualified First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh — has filed an emergency appeal of the latest unconstitutionally overbroad "peace order". I'll try to comment on it next week. I've been kind of busy with comics and Bigfoot and yarn, y'all.

Third, Aaron Walker has filed a federal lawsuit against Brett Kimberlin in United States District Court in Maryland. I've pulled the documents off PACER and hosted them. You can read the complaint here and the motion for a temporary restraining order here. No exhibits — too big, sorry. I will not be commenting on this lawsuit. On several occasions I attempted to assist Mr. Walker in securing local counsel. When I've written about the case I've used other sources and never revealed a confidential communication with him, except as specifically authorized in order to ask for help. However, I feel precluded from discussing his federal case, as opposed to the state court proceedings.

More next week.

Edited to add: changed the motion document to the points and authorities rather than the notice, and redacted addresses from both, even though it's a public document.

Edited June 25 to add: A Montgomery County Circuit Court has granted an emergency motion to permit Walker to resume blogging, at least until a hearing on July 5.

Misappropriation of Decency and Valor

People who have followed recent events concerning Brett Kimberlin — including our coverage here — know that Kimberlin runs a nonprofit organization called "Velvet Revolution."

That catchy name is not original. The brave, principled, nonviolent uprising against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which led to the overthrow of Soviet dominance there, used the name first.

To learn more about the real Velvet Revolution — and to understand why it is singularly disgusting that Team Kimberlin has appropriated the name — check out a new blog on the topic, and on related topics of righteous defiance of tyranny: Velvet Revolution.

Especially noteworthy: Brett Kimberlin and the Justice of Google.

The Kimberlin Crew Pokes The Bull And Gets The Horns

It's time for a Brett Kimberlin lawfare update. I've added a Brett Kimberlin tag for easy browsing of past related posts. Some of the most significant ones here at Popehat are these: my Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day post about what I found in federal court decisions about Kimberlin, my post about Aaron Walker's arrest and the "peace order" against him forbidding him from blogging about Kimberlin, and my post about what was revealed in the transcript of that hearing.

Today's edition: the biting off of more than is chewable.

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Forgetting Brandenburg And The Rule of Law: Brett Kimberlin Censorship-Through-Lawfare Update

Last week I wrote about how blogger Aaron Walker was arrested at a hearing on one of Brett Kimberlin's "peace orders" in Maryland. Since then, there have been significant developments to the matter:

1. What happened to Aaron Walker: The day of the arrest, it wasn't clear why Aaron had been arrested — there was speculation that he was arrested on the original peace order, that he was arrested for contempt, that he was arrested on some new peace order, and that he was arrested on Kimberlin's false and manufactured assault allegations. Now it's clearer. It appears that Brett Kimberlin sought a new peace order after Everyone Blog About Brett Kimberlin day and contrived to have Aaron arrested on that when he came to court on May 29th. The order — provided and analyzed by David Hogberg — is shockingly conclusory and vague. Yet even with that vagueness, it's clear that Kimberlin is explicitly seeking to have Aaron prohibited from discussing Kimberlin, and equally clear that a unprincipled and limp judiciary uncritically acquiesced. Kimberlin's filing is also notable for a common theme with his crew: any threats he gets (or that he, a convicted perjurer, claims he got) may be attributed to anyone or everyone who criticized him:

Mr. Walker has tweeted on Twitter about me in alarming and annoying ways over hundreds of times in the past week and urged others to attack me. He has generated hundreds of blog posts directly and indirectly based on false allegations that I framed him for an assault.

Mr. Walker has had many people threaten me directly with death, and told me to stop talking to the police, and not show up in court or I would die.

I've actually read Aaron's blog posts and Twitter comments. None of them urge anyone to "attack" Kimberlin, unless by "attack" you mean "criticize." Moreover, as Lee Stranahan points out, easily available public information shows that Kimberlin lied when he said that Aaron arranged "Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day." A judiciary that was not asleep at the wheel — a judiciary that took its role seriously, particularly when First Amendment rights are at stake — would have demanded to see the particular blog posts and tweets Kimberlin was referencing. But that would have required effort, attention, responsibility, and a vague grasp of the technology that the judges here were ruling upon. Rubber-stamping is much easier.

[Of course, criminal defense attorneys like me will tell you that rubber-stamping is not the exception -- it is the rule.]

2. What passed for a hearing: Audio tape of the Walker/Kimberlin hearing has been released, and folks are beginning to create unofficial transcriptions. Patterico has audio, transcriptions, and commentary here. The tape is both deeply familiar to anyone who practices law (especially criminal law) and deeply depressing. The "hearing" was a farce. It was governed not by the rule of law, but by the rule of Judge C.J. Vaughey, two rules that proved rather starkly incompatible. Nowhere is this as stark as when Judge Vaughey says, rather shockingly explicitly, that he doesn't care what the law is, and that Aaron is responsible for anything that anyone does (or might do) based on Aaron's criticism of Kimberlin:

THE COURT: –You’ve decided to battle, and he comes back. And see, you’re — you — you’re the kind of guy, you don’t want to get into this to settle this, mano y mano. You want to get all these friends who got nothing else to do with their time, in this judge’s opinion, because — my God, I’m a little bit older than you are, and I haven’t got enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do. And I thought by retirement, I would have less to do. I got more! Because everybody knows I’m free! So they all come to me. But you, you are starting a — a conflagration, for lack of a better word, and you’re just letting the thing go recklessly no matter where it goes. I mean, you get some — and I’m going to use word I (ph) — freak somewhere up Oklahoma, got nothing better to do with his time, so he does the nastiest things in the world he can do to this poor gentleman. What right has that guy got to do it?

WALKER: He has no right to do that, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Well, he’s — you incited him.

WALKER: But, your honor, I did not incite him within the Brandenburg standard though.

THE COURT: Forget Bradenburg [sic]. Let’s go by Vaughey right now, and common sense out in the world. But you know, where I grew up in Brooklyn, when that stuff was pulled, it was settled real quickly.

WALKER: I’m not sure what that means, your honor.

THE COURT: –Very quickly. And I’m not going to talk about those ways, but boy, it ended fast. I even can tell you, when I grew up in my community, you wanted to date an Italian girl, you had to get the Italian boy’s permission. But that was the old neighborhoods back in the city. And it was really fair. When someone did something up there to you, your sister, your girlfriend, you got some friends to take them for a ride in the back of the truck.

WALKER: Well, Your Honor, what–

THE COURT: –That ended it. You guys have got this new mechanical stuff out here, the electronic stuff, that you can just ruin somebody without doing anything. But you started it.

Brandenbug, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is the United States Supreme Court case that articulates the relevant standard: speech may only be banned on the theory that it is incitement when it is intended to create, and likely to create, a clear and present danger of imminent lawless action. But Honey Vaughey don't give a shit. In his courtroom, he is the law, and he's suspicious of all this new-fangled stuff, and he'll impose any damn standard he wants. And so he forbade an American citizen from writing about a public figure — a convicted domestic terrorist — for the next six months based on that convicted perjurer's vague and undocumented claims that he had suffered threats from unidentified people.

It appears that Judge Vaughey has had a respectable career. Moreover, I am sympathetic to the notion that everyone, including judges, makes mistakes. But I believe that Judge Vaughey's behavior — whether it is based on hostility to free expression and modern technology or merely mundane black-robe fever — is so extreme that it should be his legacy. Judge Vaughey ought to be remembered henceforth as a lawless Luddite indifferent at best, and scornful at worst, to the most fundamental rights Americans possess.

3. This will not stand: People aren't accepting Judge Vaughey's ruling meekly. It will be fought. It will be overcome. First Amendment demigod Eugene Volokh is assisting. I'm doing what modest things I can to round up more help. People are organizing, writing more, defying Kimberlin and his clan.

4. Aaron is not the only target of lawfare by the Kimberlin crew. The Examiner reports that a lawyer named Kevin Zeese — possibly the political activist of the same name — is now threatening Ali A. Akbar of the National Bloggers Club on behalf of "Velvet Underground Revolution," a charity associated with Kimberlin. Zeese's threats will sound familiar to people who follow this blog and read about legal threats calculated to chill speech:

According to Zeese, the information that has been provided by a number of conservative blogs regarding Kimberlin is false, but he would not elaborate what information, specifically, was incorrect.

He was also unwilling to state what threats had been made, and was unwilling to provide any documentation when pressed.

"Get your facts straight," he said repeatedly.

When asked what, specifically, Akbar had done to spur the alleged threats, Zeese again responded by saying people should "get their facts straight."

As I have said repeatedly in the context of many different threats, ambiguity in a legal threat is a hallmark of empty thuggery and bad-faith censorious aims.

Should Mr. Zeese escalate to filing suit — or should his bumptious threats continue — I'll offer Mr. Akbar what I've offered all sorts of bloggers of all political persuasions: I will try to find you pro bono counsel and assist you myself to the extent I can.

[I'm feeling chuffed about the potential value of my own help today; we won another SLAPP motion for a client. Booyah.]

Kimberlin allies have also posted a picture of the home of Akbar's mother, apparently on the justification that one of Mr. Akbar's organizations uses that address in one of its filings. In context, given the connection to a convicted bomber, it's rather clearly intended to terrorize Akbar and his family.

5. Akbar is not the only additional victim. I'm trying to help another blogger faced with particularly despicable lawfare, apparently by Kimberlin allies. I put up the Popehat signal here. I've gotten some responses, but I'm still looking for federal criminal practitioners in the Middle Districts of Florida and Tennessee.

6. I asked people to transcend partisanship on this issue. Some are. Some aren't. There's still a disappointing tendency on the right to frame this as "see why the Left is full of evil people." There's still on the Left either too much silence or too much "lol it's just wingnut hysteria." That's regrettable. But I'm warmed by that support that has come from both sides. Keep it up. Support someone whose views you hate.

Sending Up the Popehat Signal: Help In Florida For A Victim of Censorious Thuggery

The Popehat Signal

I'm putting up the Popehat Signal. As regular readers know, it usually goes up to seek pro bono help for people threatened with unjust censorship.

Today I need a federal criminal practitioner in the Middle District of Florida, or admitted there and familiar with its courts. I need this person to help and advise a blogger who is being unjustly threatened with criminal consequences for his blogging. I believe, based on what I've seen, that this person is being threatened with criminal consequences because of what he has written about Brett Kimberlin and his crew. That is, of course, completely consistent with what our system allows to happen to people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights regarding Kimberlin and his crew. Because of this person's health, and the state of health care in our prisons, the unjust consequences he faces are quite literally life-threatening.

In connection with the same matter, I also need someone in the Middle District of Tennessee, or at least admitted there and familiar with its courts.

Please do not speculate on the identity of the person. It's not helpful.

Thanks in advance for any help. If you care about the Kimberlin matter, this one is worth it.

Brett Kimberlin and Aaron Worthing: Censorship And Retaliation Through Lawfare

Despite what you believe, you can be imprisoned in America for writing about public controversies. Aaron Walker — who until recently blogged as Aaron Worthing — found that out today.

I first wrote about Aaron when I sent out the Popehat Signal seeking pro bono help for him in Maryland in connection with his disputes with convicted bomber and perjurer Brett Kimberlin. Much more recently, I wrote about him when he revealed how Kimberlin had pursued him in retaliation for his writing, including making a demonstrably false criminal accusation against him.

After Aaron temporarily prevailed over Kimberlin and told his story, Kimberlin sought, and obtained, a new "peace order" (Maryland law-speak for a restraining order) against Aaron, trying to portray Aaron's protected expression as harassment and threats.

Today Aaron showed up in court in connection with that order, and was taken into custody for violating it — apparently on the grounds that by blogging about Kimberlin's behavior, he had violated the peace order.

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Wikipedia Is Bullshit

Okay, that title is a little harsh. Wikipedia is not exclusively bullshit. Wikipedia represents an astounding amount of work, much of it by well-informed people, on a dizzying array of topics. It provides almost almost unlimited free entertainment, and is often an effective starting point for an inquiry on a subject. And recently for some reason I've spent many hours wandering around the pages about prehistoric civilizations.

But you'd be a damn fool to rely on it for anything remotely controversial. Patterico has a jaw-dropping post about how Wikipedia — largely under the authority of one editor, it would seem — memory-holed the entire post about convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin.

I'm a firm believer in reading a wide array of sources and adjusting one's skepticism and bias-detection level accordingly. But it's hard to adjust for bias when a resource decides to handle a controversy by avoiding mention of it entirely.

Wikipedia's defense, perhaps a fair one, is probably this: "all right, smart-ass, compared to what?"

Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day

Lee Stranahan declared today "Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day," which only seems reasonable. Kimberlin is scary-evil, and a threat to free expression. Threats to free expression should be called out and exposed — hopefully without descending into pure partisanship.

Since people refer to this as a law blog, and my secretary keeps claiming I am a lawyer and that I am supposed to be working on law-stuff, I thought I would focus on law. I went on Westlaw and searched federal cases for Mr. Kimberlin.

There are quite a few. But today, let's just look at some highlights.

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How About Defending Speech Because It's Speech, Not Because You Agree With It?

Earlier today, in the course of discussing possible jackass/possible troll/possible mentally ill person George Tierney, Jr., I asked people to consider calling out vengeful would-be censors because they are vengeful would-be censors, not because the victim of the moment is on "our side":

Political differences are meaningful, and should not be disregarded, but recognition of mutual humanity is often productive, and there are few more common human experiences than encountering crazy douchebags on the internet. In addition, we all have a stake in calling out, and opposing, censorship.

I'd like to expand upon that theme.

Last week I blogged about how convicted bomber and perjurer Brett Kimberlin pursued blogger Aaron Worthing, and linked to Aaron's story about how he was fired, and falsely charged with a crime, as a result of Kimberlin's vengeful efforts to silence him. Since Aaron released his story, many people have written about it. This is a good thing. It's a story that ought to be told. Moreover, there are legitimate partisan political elements to this story — like the question of why certain leftist political activists associate with Kimberlin, and why some entities donate to Kimberlin's organizations. For that matter, the various people who wrote about Kimberlin and incurred his wrath may have been motivated, at least in part, by partisan politics.

But to me, the core of Aaron's story is not about partisan politics. It's about freedom of expression, and how it can be attacked by frivolous litigation, by threats to employers, and by other such contemptible measures. Some of the responses to Aaron's story recognize that. But others do not — other responses frame this as a story about Left vs. Right.

I'll cite Michelle Malkin as an example, though she is by far the only one. Fair disclosure: I often disagree with Michelle Malkin and this site has criticized her before. In her post discussing Aaron's story, she quoted and linked us, which I appreciate. However, I must dissent from her framing of the issue: "Free speech blogburst: Show solidarity for targeted conservative bloggers." In a better world, this issue should be framed as "Free speech blogburst: show solidarity for targeted bloggers." Protecting freedom of expression, and condemning its enemies, benefits everyone — conservatives, liberals, and so forth.

We've talked about legal (and other) threats against all sorts of expression here, and occasionally been able to lend a hand. We've talked about lawsuits against former parishioners criticizing churches, threats against artists criticizing how Etsy is run, Democratic senators lashing out at parody, various legislatures of different political stripes posturing about "cyber-bullying," junk scientists suing critics, the TSA "cautioning" journalists, colleges threatening alumni critical of their new administrations, twerps threatening me for making fun of them for threatening critics of junk scientists, and and libel suits springing from book reviews. And that's just 2012.

What this diversity of topics shows is that legal threats — and threats of other forms of retaliation for speech — represent a pervasive problem in our culture, and are a deterrent of all sorts of speech, not just the speech you like. Say that someone sues, or threatens, or abuses someone whose ideas you despise, someone whose good faith you doubt, someone working for political or social ends you are struggling against. If that censor is successful in any measure, are you harmed? Yes. You are harmed because the next censor, the one gunning for you or someone you agree with — is emboldened. You are harmed because people, in general, are deterred from discussing controversial ideas. You are harmed because when censors are successful, censorship increasingly becomes the norm, and the populace's already tenuous support of principles of free expression ebb a little more.

That's why decent people ought to be unified behind protecting people like Aaron Worthing, and opposing people like Brett Kimberlin — not because we agree with one of them or the other. When the rallying cry is "protect conservatives from censorship by leftists" — or the reverse — the rallying cry is less effective, easier to ignore, easier to dismiss as mere partisanship. We shouldn't defend Aaron because of his political stance. We should defend him because in this country you should have the right to express yourself without a convicted domestic terrorist and his cronies harassing you with frivolous litigation and threats.

There is no need to agree with, or praise, or even treat respectfully the people we defend. For instance, when I wrote about Nadia Naffe's threats against blogger Patterico because of his support of James O'Keefe, I felt free to make fun of Naffe, O'Keefe, and (to a lesser extent) Patterico. And even though I said Evan S. Cohen was right on the law, he won't be thanking me any time soon for what I said about him. It's perfectly fine to say "this person is a jackass, this person is wrong, what this person urges is contemptible and awful — but this person should not be censored, and I stand against such censorship." That should be the message. "Stand against the censorship of our side is the wrong message. I'm disappointed to see so much of it in the wake of Aaron's posts. I think it is detrimental to the cause of free expression, and a boon to the censors, who will use it to portray the defense of free speech as just another instance of tiresome political bickering.

Chilling Tales of Crazy/Evil

Stuff I've written here has gotten crazy people, vengeful people, and very nasty people angry at me. Some have acted on it in various annoying and occasionally unsettling ways. Some of it you know about, some of it you don't. Sometimes you've heard about it; sometimes you haven't. I'm still here.

But I haven't experienced anything like what blogger blogger Aaron Worthing has experienced as a consequence of his writing about the astoundingly vile and terrifyingly sociopathic Brett Kimberlin, who for reasons that passeth understanding is still a darling to certain political activists despite the contemptible life he has led and continues to lead.

Aaron's story is quite long. (We had a tiny, tiny piece of it here.) But he supports it with primary documents and video recordings, and ultimately it's a wrenching depiction of how the system doesn't prevent crazy and/or evil people from victimizing innocents — a depiction of how the system can be the instrument of such victimization. It's not a pretty story, but it's worth reading.

Edited to add: Welcome, visitors. For a story about another person pursued by a vengeful crazy, consider the story of Crystal Cox. Coverage of broader free speech issues in general is under our free speech tag. For examples of how, in my humble opinion, one ought to respond to legal threats, consider this or this — though neither of those involved malevolence on the level that Aaron has had to endure.

Standing Up For Free Speech: Thanks For Responding To The Popehat Signal!

Last week I sent out the Popehat Signal asking for pro bono help from a Maryland attorney in support of a political blogger who was seeking to preserve his anonymity in a SLAPP suit.

Many people kindly retweeted it and blogged it and passed it along, and several stand-up attorneys inquired to see if they might be able to help. Eventually we found the right match. Now, more can be told.

The blogger is "Aaron Worthing," who currently blogs at Allergic to Bull. You can read about the case at his blog, and read about the motion he has just filed here. I will refrain from discussing the specifics; discover them for yourselves. Suffice it to say that I find the plaintiff in the SLAPP suit quite evil.

Aaron was caught in a ridiculous Catch-22: he was capable of drafting an opposition to the plaintiff's motion seeking to unmask him, but he could not file it without unmasking himself. The dilemma was solved when Elizabeth Kingsley of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP in Washington, D.C. answered the Popehat Signal and stepped in for the limited purpose, as I understand it, of petitioning the court to allow Aaron Worthing to file his papers seeking to preserve his anonymity without breaching that anonymity. (Aaron drafted, and is responsible for, the substantive motion to quash subpoenas linked above.) Aaron may post more specifics about that soon. [Edit: here is his post about resolving the Catch-22.]

Beth specializes in representing non-profits and political campaigns, but quickly offered to step in here, to Aaron's gratitude and satisfaction. Beth and Harmon Curran acted in the best tradition of attorney pro bono work. As I've frequently argued, such generosity and civic spirit is essential to protecting freedom of expression in America from threats of all sorts. Beth has my admiration and thanks for helping, as does her firm.

So. What can you do for free speech?

By the way, Aaron is to the right of me, and has written for blogs even more firmly to the right of me. We undoubtedly disagree vigorously about many subjects. I don't have the privilege of knowing Beth well enough to know her political stances, but it would not surprise me in the least if she differs from Aaron as well. But that doesn't matter. You know why.