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Nov 27 2012

Klayman Loses Suit Over Park 51 Mosque

Looks like Larry Klayman, the worst lawyer in America not named Mat Staver, has lost another frivolous lawsuit. This time it’s a suit against the owner of the Park 51 Islamic Center, the infamous and misnamed Ground Zero Mosque, for “public and private nuisance, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and assault.” You can see the full ruling here.

The plaintiff is Vincent Forras, who owns office space a 8-10 blocks away from the Park 51 center. He basically claimed that the very existence of the Islamic center was causing him psychological and emotional distress because he “suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is in immediate fear of injury and death from the mosque” and those who go to it. The fact that it hasn’t even been built yet doesn’t seem to have slowed Klayman down a bit in making such claims.

In fact, all of the claims that he made of harm actually happened because of 9/11, with the premise of the argument being that Muslims caused 9/11, therefore his knowledge that there are Muslims practicing their religion 10 blocks away is causing him serious economic and emotional damage. The judge rejected every claim of harm:

Despite this forgiving standard, the very distance between plaintiff’s premises and defendants’ activity of which plaintiff complains poses an obvious impediment to showing any nuisance, extreme or outrageous conduct as required for infliction of emotional distress, or assaultive conduct that would emanate from a religious institution to cause injury several blocks away. Plaintiff alleges increased anxiety and fear due to Islamic rituals in one room inside the building at 45-51 Park Place, but nothing akin to a congregation’s animated, frenzied, threatening, or assaultive behavior outside the building, let alone spewing out to its environs…

As injuries, plaintiff claims interference with use of his leased business premises, increased costs for security at the premises, and their reduced value. Even if, as a tenant, he has incurred the increased security costs, or reduced property value has increased his costs, rather than reducing his rent, he acknowledges that he incurred those costs due to fears engendered by the attack September 11, 2001, not due to defendants’ interference with the use of his leased space or any other action by defendants…

To support the element of extreme and outrageous conduct, plaintiff must show that defendants’ conduct was “beyond all
possible bounds of decency” and “utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” Simply stated, defendants’ use of
their property as a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero alleged by plaintiff is not extreme and outrageous conduct…

Although plaintiff suggests fear for his safety due to defendants describing him as an enemy of Islam, his complaint
nowhere alleges any threatening conduct by defendants. Nor has plaintiff alleged that defendants breached any duty owed to him so as to unreasonably endanger his safety or cause him to fear for his safety…

Plaintiff’s assault claim fails for at least two reasons. First the mosque, which has not yet been constructed, poses no threat of immediate harmful contact. Second, plaintiff nowhere alleges any physical conduct that caused an apprehension of harmful contact.

The judge also nailed Klayman for filing his usual complaint full of angry political rhetoric instead of actual legal claims:

Plaintiff’s rhetoric and vitriolic allegations and adds irrelevant factual details that do not cure any of the deficiencies in pleading discussed above.

Every legal filing I’ve ever seen from Klayman is nothing more than one long political diatribe, something judges tend not to like very much. But the judge did conclude that the filing was not “entirely frivolous,” so he didn’t sanction Klayman as other courts have done. But since Klayman failed to appear in court for a hearing, which the ruling says “remains unexplained,” he did order the plaintiff to pay “$1,500.00 for the unexplained failure of plaintiff’s attorneys to appear for oral argument March 3, 2011.”

The plaintiff should look on the bright side: At least Klayman didn’t take $25,000 from him and then not do any legal work for it, like the woman in Florida. In that case, Klayman was reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court and ordered to repay the woman thousands of dollars, but he pleaded poverty and said he couldn’t afford to pay it. That might have something to do with the fact that he’s a terrible attorney who rarely seems to win cases but has a long track record of being sanctioned by courts.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Chiroptera

    I hear that in cases of legitimate post-traumatic stress, the mind has a natural way of shutting out stress and anxiety.

  2. 2
    valhar2000

    Chiroptera: nice.

  3. 3
    DaveL

    But the judge did conclude that the filing was not “entirely frivolous,” so he didn’t sanction Klayman as other courts have done.

    She definitely went easy on him there. From my understanding of the ruling, she basically gave him credit for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and things like increased security costs actually being “a thing” in the legal world, even if no reasonable person would have thought those claims could have prevailed under the present facts. That’s a freaking gift.

  4. 4
    Ben P

    She definitely went easy on him there. From my understanding of the ruling, she basically gave him credit for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and things like increased security costs actually being “a thing” in the legal world, even if no reasonable person would have thought those claims could have prevailed under the present facts. That’s a freaking gift.

    There are two or three different interactions at work here.

    First and foremost, although any allegations in a complaint must be made in good faith (and sanctions can be awarded if not), any factual allegations are presumed as true at the motion to dismiss stage.

    That’s why the order focuses in on not his claims that he’s suffering these things, but the pleading’s statement that these things are the result of the combination of 9/11 and Defendants being muslim. A judge dismissing a complaint at an early stage simply because it appears the Plaintiff will never be abel to prove the factual allegations is a very narrow path to tread.

    Second, the “legal space” is there for claims like this. I’ll give you a hypothetical.

    Let’s say I own a business, say, a book store, and next door someone opens a nightclub. Over several months I discover that patrons of the nightclub cause damage to my property, drive my customers away, and I’ve even noticed an increase in thefts from the store. As a result I’ve lost profits, had to hire extra security and done a lot of worrying.

    There are several legal theories, nuisance, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, zoning regulations, that could enable me to file a lawsuit over something like that. Whether I would win the lawsuit is questionable, but there’d be enough to make it in good faith and non-sanctionable.

    You get sanctioned for representing anything to the court that is false, misleading or in bad faith. But when you’re talking about legal arguments, you’re usually ok as long as there “is a good faith argument for the extension of existing law.”

    That’s such a vague standard, because people always have reasons, that there’s rarely any rule 11 possibility for just legal theories.

  5. 5
    baal

    You can get hit with a rule 11 for consistently filing crappy briefs but it usually needs to be to the same judge. The more usual route to get rid of these terrible attorneys is 1) economic, they stop being able to get clients 2) the bar doesn’t like to be embarrassed. I would be shocked if Klayman doesn’t already have several private reprimands. You get too many or seem like you refuse to change and they will pull your license.

  6. 6
    democommie

    “Looks like Larry Klayman, the worst lawyer in America not named Mat Staver,”.

    Rats. I looked it up, Mat is short for “Matthew”, I was thinking it might be short for “doormat”.

  7. 7
    slc1

    Larry Klayman, Matt Staver, and Orly Taitz, the three musketeers of legal incompetence.

  8. 8
    timgueguen

    And probably being considered for some sort of reality show on TLC or A&E even as you read this. Extreme Lawyering? Lawyer Wars? The THree Stooges?

  9. 9
    tommykey

    The plaintiff is Vincent Forras, who owns office space a 8-10 blocks away from the Park 51 center. He basically claimed that the very existence of the Islamic center was causing him psychological and emotional distress because he “suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and is in immediate fear of injury and death from the mosque” and those who go to it.

    The funny thing about that is that for years after 9/11, there was a mosque 4 blocks away from Ground Zero that was so overcrowded during prayer services that some of the worshippers would spill out onto the sidewalk. Somehow the wingnuts never seemed to notice this. But a Muslim community center 2 blocks away constitutes some kind of emergency.

  10. 10
    Area Man

    At least Klayman didn’t take $25,000 from him and then not do any legal work for it, like the woman in Florida. In that case, Klayman was reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court and ordered to repay the woman thousands of dollars, but he pleaded poverty and said he couldn’t afford to pay it.

    How do you plead poverty after having just been paid $25,000? That’s above the yearly poverty threshold for a family of 4. I imagine he blew the money on whatever, but still, this is one case where I’m very much in favor of the stocks.

    Also: Why has this guy not been disbarred?

  11. 11
    bradleybetts

    I clearly need to read the news more :-/ I thought the Islamic centre got squashed? Glad to hear it’s back on again, the arguments against it were bullshit at best and severe bigotry at worst.

  12. 12
    tommykey

    Bradley, actually it opened over a year ago:

    http://park51.org/

  1. 13
    style boot

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