Jose Arcaya Ph.D., Esq., Etc. is a lawyer/psychotherapist in New York. Many lawyers have to assume the role of psychotherapist; Arcaya appears to have actual qualifications.
One of those qualifications is sensitivity, apparently. A former client left a negative review on Yelp. The review primarily complained about how Arcaya treated the client:
I hired Arcaya to help with a case. I asked him at the outset if he had handled these matters before and he said yes. The ensuing performance suggests otherwise.
When I mentioned his truly pitiful performance he implied that it was my fault. When i reminded him that he was the lawyer and hired to do a professional job he made fun of my medical issues. Absolute scum.
This is America, so you know what happened next: Arcaya sued the client for defamation, representing himself pro se. He demanded the removal of the Yelp review, $80,000, and the cost of his time. The complaint is a bitter denunciation of the client and a smirking recitation of his past misfortunes. Arcaya demands satisfaction for being called "absolute scum" and for the statement that he "made fun" of his client's medical issues.
The statement that Arcaya is "absolute scum" is a classic example of insult, rhetorical hyperbole, and opinion: it can't be proved true or false. The statement that Arcaya made fun of his client could be a potentially actionable statement of fact, though ultimately that's probably a matter of opinion as well. Arcaya represented his client in an attempt to get him academic accommodations based on the client's disabilities arising from brain damage. In the course of an email dispute about fees, Arcaya said:
In your dreams. You sorted me $2000. I got just $3k for the article 78. The deal had been $5K. Memory problems.
Was it over-sensitive of the client to interpret "memory problems" as a snide reference to his disability? Maybe. The tone of Arcaya's complaint certainly suggests he's the sort of person who would indulge in such an insult. Whether over-sensitive or not, it's certainly not as freakishly over-sensitive as Arcaya suing over this Yelp review.
The client reached out to me, and I reached out to my friend Scott Greenfield. Scott wanted to try to talk Mr. Arcaya back from the precipice. That effort was unsuccessful. Rather than grasping that he was engaged in a self-destructive flirtation with the Streisand Effect, Arcaya doubled down. He subpoened Scott Greenfield for a deposition. No, really. Here's the subpoena. Challenged, he filed a bizarre rant justifying the subpoena. He spun a tale that Scott threatened him with a "gang" of thousands of internet users. It sounds like a strange person's misunderstanding of a point Scott often makes: if you act like an ass in the effort to suppress speech, the Streisand Effect will treat you unkindly.
Arcaya also offered rather comical explanations for why his claims had merit. He argued that "absolute scumbag" is not opinion:
12. Regarding the matter of whether "absolute scum bag" should be deemed defamation per se rests with the present court. Mr. Boka tTots out a series of cases indicating the word "scum" and "scum bag" do not fall in that category. However, by adding the word "total" he impugns everything about me, including character and capacity to carry-out legal work. It coincides well with the Dillon standard of defamatjon per se: a maliciously intended attack on my professional capabilities, an all encompassing put-down (i.e., "absolute scum", not just "scum bag" Or "scum"), questionable evidence supporting the denunciation (my memory quip), and outlandishly using my statement "Memory problems" completely out of context.
Arcaya appears to be an asshole, but not, I emphasize for legal purposes, a total asshole.
But Arcaya wasn't done yet. Outraged by Scott's interference, he filed a bar complaint against him. The meat of that complaint is here. Assuming that there's no "disturbing querulous screed" font, Arcaya handwrote it. Aracaya speculates that when Scott Greenfield mentioned talking to a blogger who was interested in this story, he had invented the blogger.
I wrote to Mr. Arcaya, seeking comment. I feel comfortable saying it was unrewarding for both of us. He seemed paranoid:
I can't really give any comment since the matter is in court. Would like to know, however, how this information ended up in your hands. Perhaps later we can talk/write in greater detail.
When I asked whether that was a threat, he responded:
No I don't. I wouldn't subpoenaed you, but became curious as to who informed you of this case given that it hasn't even been heard? What was their point or intention?
The intention is simple: to call out bad behavior and deter censorious thuggery.
Maybe Mr. Arcaya is a good lawyer and a good therapist. I don't know. I do know that his bizarre course of conduct here makes him someone I would never hire or recommend under any circumstances whatsoever.
I feel guilty because I got Scott into this, hoping to help the client here. But Scott's a good man, and I'm sure he'll keep helping people. He just may remember a little quicker the maxim "no good deed goes unpunished."
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