The American Bar Association has a White Collar Crime Committee. Nearly everyone who goes to ABA white collar crime events — defense lawyers, government lawyers, even judges — signs up for it. Everyone who signs up for it gives their email, not recognizing how that email will be used.
The American Bar Association's White Collar Crime Committee takes the emails of its members and adds them to a listserv, CJSWHITECOLLAR@MAIL.ABANET.ORG, without asking.
The listserv is hardly ever used. That's because (1) the white collar bar is less tech-savvy, on average, than the rest of the bar, probably because it trends somewhat older, and (2) listservs are archaic and annoying.
So when someone sends an email to the listserv — like last night, when a defense attorney (one who is apparently utterly unfamiliar with the Fifth Amendment as it applies to document production) asked a question — it generates a tragic series of events. I mean "tragic" in the classic sense of "fated, inevitable, but still sad and appalling":
1. There are two or three helpful responses.
2. Someone points out that there are federal prosecutors and judges on the listserv, so you shouldn't ask questions about what documents your client should produce in response to a subpoena.
3. Judges harumph that it is entirely inappropriate for them to be on the listserv.
4. Attorneys start replying with "please unsubscribe me from this listserv."
5. One or two attorneys, seeing the inevitability of what is happening but still feeling morally obligated to play the part of King Canute, Google the instructions on how to get off the listserv and send them to the listserv with simple, explicit instructions on how to use them.
6. The sorts of attorneys who check their emails once a day get into the office and start sending out replies asking what the fuck is going on.
7. Attorneys and judges, thinking they are clever, eschew replying and instead send new emails directly to the listserv email address asking to unsubscribe, not realizing that just sends their requests to the entire listserv.
8. Attorneys begin sending increasingly angry demands that people stop emailing to the entire listserv to the entire listserv.
9. Attorneys begin sending emails pointing out that unsubscribing through the listserv email address will not work, and pointing out that there were instructions back there 60 or 70 emails ago.
10. Attorneys begin sending complaints to the entire listserv about people sending complains to the entire listserv.
11. Attorneys begin attempts to capture attention by sending new instructions to the listserv on how to get off of the listserv, using increasingly all-caps and forceful email headings.
12. Attorneys, thinking they understand the listserv, begin sending emails to friends whose emails they've seen on the listserv, talking about how the other attorneys on the listserv are stupid, and wind up sending these emails to the entire listserv.
Somewhere on the East Coast, on the day before Thanksgiving, the phone is ringing off the hook as attorneys, judges, and their secretaries try to reach someone to tell them how to stop getting emails.
So. Good luck at your criminal trial, is what I'm saying.
[Edit: the eventual result: after perhaps 250 emails, someone at the ABA pulls the plug on the listserv. Expect a whiny ABA email explaining the listserv next week.]
[Edit on 12/9/10: I wish I could figure out why a bunch of people are visiting this post today, and from where.]
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017