Oh, sure, that’ll go well


In more cheerful news, Milo Yiannopoulos has fired his lawyer and will represent himself in his suit against Simon & Schuster. It’s gonna be great!

Comments

  1. Jethro says

    Usually this sort of thing is great for laughs. In this case I’m not so sure. Mostly he’s just doing this to get access to evidence from discovery. Once he sees it, I wouldn’t be shocked if he immediately says “just kidding” and hopes the judge allows it. And who knows what sort of shitfuckery he can get up to with this evidence.

  2. Nentuaby says

    Jethro, that may be his Wiley E. Coyote: Sooper Genius plan, but he’s underestimating how deeply pulling stunts like that will tend to hork off one’s *own* legal team, let alone the court. I doubt he’ll succeed in re-hiring them.

  3. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Judges often say “He who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.”

    Never has this been more true.

  4. woozy says

    It’s always said when comedians begin to think they are philosophers.

    Happens far too often.

  5. says

    The only way if could be better would be if he hired Charles Carreon (the lawyer who went up against The Oatmeal) or perhaps Orly Taitz. Because a good smouldering garbage fire needs ethyl ether.

  6. screechymonkey says

    Of particular note is the fact that his attorneys moved to withdraw because Milo is intent on disregarding their advice and doing something that presents a conflict for them.

    Which is lawyer code for “he’s insisting on doing some unethical shit, and we can’t be a part of it, so for the love of god judge, please let us out of this mess.”

    For confidentiality reasons they don’t say more, but judging from Milo’s comments about wanting to get his hands on documents produced in discovery with “attorneys’ eyes only” restrictions, a good guess would be that Milo intends to disseminate those documents in violation of a court order. Which is…. shall we say, frowned upon?

    Although hey, maybe Milo’s hoping that Trump will pardon his contempt of court citation, too.

  7. John Morales says

    Thanks, Owlmirror. So, it’s not that “Milo Yiannopoulos has fired his lawyer”, but that his lawyer quit.

    (heh)

  8. Gordon Davisson says

    So, clearly, his next move is to sue Meister Seelig & Fein for cancelling their lawsuit deal. gijoel, can I share some of your popcorn?

  9. rietpluim says

    Well, does he intend to seriously defend himself or is he trying to make a show of it?

  10. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    Maybe he needs to hire Certified Super Genius Lawyer Orly Taitz?

    On second thought, he’d be better off being his own lawyer.

  11. sundiver says

    A gay pal of mine almost killed me once over Milo. Something about Milo came up and he snapped “that motherfucker makes me wish I were straight” while I had a swallow of Laphraoig halfway down. He apologized later, after the pain had died down and I could actually breathe again.

  12. Owlmirror says

    May his skills in court match his skills as a writer.

    May the judge criticize him, and may he respond to the judge his response to all his other critics.

  13. Owlmirror says

    Statement from Milo in his own words:

    The lawyers at Meister Seelig & Fein were excellent litigators on my behalf. The source of the disagreement between me and them arises from Simon & Schuster’s discovery tactics. We asked that all pertinent documents be open to the public record. But Simon & Schuster demanded that virtually all of the documents in this lawsuit remain confidential, and had them classified ‘attorney’s eyes only,’ meaning that I am not even allowed to see what has been said about me and my book in my own lawsuit. In other words, S&S has persuaded the court to withhold from me the documents I need to read in order to properly assess my own case. Therefore, I will now be representing myself pro se, so I can directly see the material, and I look forward to revealing Simon & Schuster’s perfidy in court.

  14. screechymonkey says

    Re Milo’s statement quoted @23:

    It’s pretty common in many U.S. courts for the parties to stipulate to a “protective order” that governs the confidentiality of documents produced in discovery. Discovery is supposed to be fairly broad — generally speaking, you’re allowed to go fishing for documents and testimony that might be relevant — but there are grounds on which a party can resist, including confidentiality and privacy concerns. Without a protective order, your opponent can take whatever you’ve produced in discovery and publish it, or hand it to the New York Times (or Wikileaks) to publish, or give it to your business competitors or whatever. Having a protective order that restricts the use of discovery materials to legitimate uses (and, for some documents, limits them to “attorneys’ eyes only”) can address those privacy and confidentiality concerns and thus help avoid a lot of discovery fights. Lawyers being cautious and conservative and trying to protect their clients means that there’s a tendency to “over-designate” — label things confidential or attorneys eyes only that don’t really merit it — but usually nobody particularly minds because nobody’s really looking to publicize the other side’s documents (and/or the public wouldn’t give a crap) anyway.

    Things are obviously a little different in a case like this with some public attention. I don’t put much stock in Milo’s word (well, ok, more like “none at all”), but it could well be the case that S&S was very aggressive about designating documents as attorneys’ eyes only that don’t need to be. But even if that’s so, there are other remedies available — usually a protective order has a procedure for challenging designations, and even if it doesn’t, you can always ask the court to modify it. Substituting yourself in pro se isn’t really a solution to anything, and it’s certainly not some clever hack of the system as Milo seems to want people to believe. In fact, Milo may find it harder to get some materials in discovery, because S&S is now going to fight tooth and nail knowing that he’s planning to publicize whatever he can use, and the compromise of “ok, you’re entitled to the materials but only your lawyers get to see them” is not available.

  15. blf says

    May the judge criticize him, and may he respond to the judge his response to all his other critics.

    Such as his response to the editor’s annotations (as quoted by the BBC, Milo Yiannopoulos slams editor over withering book notes):

    Mitchell Ivers, the liberal gay editor Simon&  Schuster put in charge of neutering its edgier conservative authors, hates Republicans and thinks they are all virulent homophobes. He told me so himself, Mr Yiannopoulos claimed […]

    Ivers said one thing in manuscript edits, but quite another when he was giggling and flirting with me …. I look forward to prevailing in court.

  16. says

    Several notes from an experienced litigator (who has observed “firings” in the midst of litigation more than once… mostly on the other side, and never involving me directly):
    (1) Screechymonkey’s points above are well taken. To a point: There’s a difference between not sharing AEO (Attorney’s Eyes Only) documents with a client, as is proper, and an attorney not discussing anything in those documents that justifies either a motion to compel further production (or to de-designate as AEO) or what I think really happened here:
    (2) “Client, these documents provide close to irrefutable evidence that your prior statements are not just false, but knowingly false, and I’m not allowed to facilitate you continuing to maintain that position.” In short, if some of those AEO documents demonstrated that darling Milo was lying, and when confronted with that darling Milo said “Who are you going to believe — your client or your own lying eyes?” counsel’s ONLY option is to withdraw. THERE IS NO MEASURE COUNSEL CAN TAKE SHORT OF WITHDRAWAL ONCE THE CLIENT INDICATES INTENT TO PERSIST IN LYING.* (Well, in New York under the old rules one was allowed to simply maintain attorney’s silence on the issue, until the client stated it again under oath triggering the attorney’s duty to correct, but that’s no longer so loosy-goosy since New York adopted the Model Rules a couple of years back.)
    (3) This isn’t about legal fees. Had it been, there would have been citations to different rules and authority.
    (4) I have no prior experience with Milo’s firm. I have prior experience with S&S’s firm; I’m doing my best not to let impressions of that influence anything. (This is called a “disclosure of interest,” for those playing along at home…)
    That said, the typical discovery demands that would be issued in a case of this nature (and I’ve been involved in a number of them, both during the fighting and afterward) should not have resulted in significant AEO designations for documents directly relevant to the claims and defenses apparent from the pleadings, which I have read; instead, AEO designations are much more likely for the necessary personal information included in those requests and for certain financial data. The concept of “doxxing” is at issue here…

    * That this is at issue is almost certain from the declaration’s emphases on various scheduling aspects for things that have not yet happened… in particular, the key point that darling Milo will be under oath on 24 January. However, the ethics rules also prohibit a lawyer from directly stating that he’s withdrawing on the basis of his client’s dishonesty — hints of this nature are about as clear as it ever gets in civil matters, and even less so in criminal ones.

  17. screechymonkey says

    Jaws,
    Agree with your points and speculation/inferences. I would just add that, re your point #2, the damning evidence need not have come from AEO documents, or even from discovery at all — it would just as easily be Milo’s own documents or admissions to his counsel that contradict his intended deposition testimony.
    After all, the motion to withdraw itself doesn’t draw a connection to AEO designations as I recall from reading it — Milo is the one who made that claim.

  18. Owlmirror says

    @Jaws and/or screechymonkey, or anyone else with relevant legal expertise — would it make sense to deny Milo access to the AEO documents on account of him not belonging to the bar association? I guess I’m asking if the “attorney” in “Attorney’s Eyes Only” means narrowly an attorney with the training and licensing to practice law, or if it is generally understood broadly enough to actually include any non-trained person acting as his own attorney. Or would the S&S legal team have to argue that “attorney” should be understood in the narrow sense, and not necessarily have that be accepted?

  19. says

    Owlmirror, I can’t speak to how NY state courts would interpret that. Federal courts (including both the Southern and Eastern Districts), consistent with federal law, require that it be a licensed attorney who has filed an appearance in the matter who receives AEO documents; pro se litigants have to designate a licensed attorney for that purpose, or find another substitution (I’ve heard of one instance in which a rabbi was designated, but I literally mean “heard of” and can’t confirm, especially since it was a Hague Convention on Child Abduction case…). This is particularly appropriate in fraud and criminal matters, when there’s historically a fairly significant chance that pro se litigants will be tempted to tamper with witnesses if they get access to certain kinds of information (such as accurate home addresses that are routinely asked for and provided AEO; I’ve been personally victimized by this recently when an opposing attorney didn’t respect AEO because he hadn’t yet figured out how sociopathic his client really was and got careless).

    You can draw your own conclusions, based on darling Milo’s past rhetoric, about that sort of thing in this case. And that’s before considering whether there’s any legitimately proprietary information that was produced AEO, such as the cost/sales (sometimes called profit/loss) projections that were run internally before agreeing the acquire the book; the publisher’s current sales tracking on its comparable books, or internal budget items such as the amount paid to a cover artist/designer; internal editorial correspondence; internal legal memos, such as guidance from S&S’s legal department to the editorial staff that isn’t privileged, but is still proprietary, concerning (hypothetical example) specific potential defamation issues to watch out for in this particular manuscript; and so on.

  20. Owlmirror says

    @Jaws:

    pro se litigants have to designate a licensed attorney for that purpose, or find another substitution

    So (assuming NY courts follow the same or similar rules), would that mean that Milo would have to hire a lawyer to assist him (not represent him), who would receive the AEO documents, and then just pass them on to Milo? Or would the assisting lawyer have to abide by some sort of disclosure ethics as well, and not pass them on if the documents meet certain criteria? You seem to be sort-of implying the latter, but I’m not sure I understood.

    Another thing I’m trying to understand is that the papers about MSF withdrawing have a point about staying the proceedings for a month “to allow Plaintiff to retain new counsel”.

    Does that just mean that Milo has not yet formally applied to represent himself (just stated that he intends to do so), and will do so on the next court date, and the court just has a default assumption that he’ll hire someone else?

    Or does it mean that Milo is not telling the truth about representing himself? That seems unlikely, but not impossible, given Milo.

  21. Owlmirror says

    @Jaws:

    in particular, the key point that darling Milo will be under oath on 24 January

    Something I’m wondering about is whether it would be acceptable for the defense to get Milo’s statements, under oath, regarding what he wrote in the cover letter to the second draft of his book (Document 68 of the case)

    Milo sez:

    I would like another 24-48 hours to add theory, history and pop culture material I consider critical to making the case for me as a cultural icon in my own right as well as America’s most relevant cultural and political critic.
    […]
    My response to my critics isn’t: “Oh no, let me explain!”
    It is: FUCK YOU.

    [bolding mine]

    Could a case be made that an actual relevant critic must be willing to engage in dialectic rather than invective when criticized?

    Also:

    I would like another 24-48 hours to add theory, history and pop culture material I consider critical to making the case for me as a cultural icon in my own right as well as America’s most relevant cultural and political critic.
    […]
    I HATE POLITICS AND I CONSIDER IT REALLY BORING.

    [bolding mine]

    Similarly, how can Milo be a relevant political critic, if he hates and is bored by the subject matter?

    I think S&S could use the above inconsistencies and implicit contradictions to make the case that Milo was falsely representing himself. . .

  22. unclefrogy says

    if his “book” is so good I do not see why he doesn’t just have someone else publish it instead of this vindictive pointless exercise of suing the publisher

  23. says

    Owlmirror:

    (1) {msg 31} In your first paragraph, the second inference is correct: “AEO” means an attorney must keep it from all others, including the client, and the attorney is required to act as a filter/firewall so that other persons don’t get that information. As an example, let’s say that Editor A (a legitimate witness) discloses her home address AEO. The attorney would be allowed to say “We have Editor A’s home address and can follow up with other legitimate investigation by licensed private investigators,” but COULD NOT give Editor A’s home address to the client or to the client’s friend who is good with tracking people down on the internet but not a licensed private investigator, or publish it online, or…

    (2) {msg 31} The “one month to retain counsel” is part of why I think the AEO disclosures are probably (not certainly) behind the “irreconcilable differences”: It implies that there’s something in there, not otherwise disclosable (or it would have been disclosed in the motion!), that RECENTLY came to counsel’s attention that indicates “client is lying.” As screechymonkey points out {msg 28}, there are other possible explanations; I think this most likely. And allowing a month to retain counsel is also one of those “courtesy to the litigants and the court” things that is pretty routine, except when there’s a hard-coded deadline that the court has no power to change (e.g., “retry within 90 days” ordered by an appellate court).

    (3) {msg 32} The tl;dr response is “it depends.” The longer one sounds more condescending, but it’s not intended that way:
    Got three years to attend law school? And three or four years to work in the New York courts and see how they actually distinguish between “statement of opinion” and “statement of fact subject to perjury proceedings”? I haven’t practiced enough in New York to do this! My point is that every state is slightly different in how it will answer the questions you’ve raised, and there are both procedural and legal-community-context aspects of it. And even then, it still depends on EXACTLY what is said, in what context, in response to what questions.

  24. blf says

    Just quick Thanks to commentators Jaws, screechymonkey, and Owlmirror (apologies to anyone I’ve overlooked) for an interesting discussion about AEO, pro se, and related matters. What I particularly like is the obvious effort being put in to make in comprehensible without resorting to excessive (excuse the expression) “legal mumble-jumble”.

  25. screechymonkey says

    Owlmirror #32,
    “I think S&S could use the above inconsistencies and implicit contradictions to make the case that Milo was falsely representing himself. . .”

    I think you’re really stretching here.

    First, there’s the fact vs. opinion issue that jaws alludes to above.

    Second, fraud, even as an affirmative defense, usually requires some sort of “detrimental reliance,” meaning that the defrauded party actually took some action (or declined to take some action) based on the false statement. If S&S could show that Milo deceived them about his credentials before they actually signed the publishing deal, then maybe. But the statements you’re talking about happened long after.

    There would be other obstacles as well — among other things, reliance has to be reasonable, and I’m not being snarky when I say that relying on Milo’s self-assessment of his qualifications is probably not reasonable.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, I don’t see anything in S&S’s answer that cites fraud as an affirmative defense or seeks rescission of the contract.

  26. says

    To add on to what Screechymonkey said {msg 36}, the pleadings in this case do not allow fraud to be asserted, except insofar as “propensity to engage in fraud” could be used to impeach a witness’s credibility.* The complaint certainly doesn’t support it; indeed, there are factual assertions in darling Milo’s complaint that are fundamentally inconsistent with a scheme to defraud by S&S, and by this stage in the proceedings it would require judicial permission to amend the complaint to include a fraud claim (and such an amendment would make for a far more difficult case than a breach of written contract action).

    Remember the old aphorism, which probably applies nowhere moreso than in law: Never ascribe to malice what can be explained by sheer incompetence. In this instance, the “incompetence” is in darling Milo, not his counsel; indeed, their willingness to withdraw indicates that their competence is not at issue, and neither is any potential malice by counsel. Darling Milo’s incompetence in understanding human relations and the world around him is more than sufficient explanation for everything at issue in this case.

    * I think this was a strategic decision by S&S’s counsel, not a mistake. It would take several hundred words to describe why and what I think was going on, and that would still be based on so many assumptions that it doesn’t belong on a forum devoted to scientific communications.

  27. Owlmirror says

    @Jaws and screechymonkey: thanks for the informative comments.

    My thinking was not so much that S&S should claim fraud or had claimed fraud, but rather, that they might want to emphasize that they were justified in not going through with publishing the book because Milo had demonstrated inability to produce the book that presumably they wanted.

  28. says

    Owlmirror, this is another Joan Collins case,* but this time the author won the race to the courthouse. Either way, judges just do not want to be put in the position of determining whether the manuscript really was so bad it couldn’t be salvaged and made publishable and conforming to the terms of the publishing contract. The contract probably includes typical S&S language on the “publisher’s discretion,” but even so it can get very messy… and that’s before determining whether that discretion is purely editorial or whether it can include noneditorial factors, such as darling Milo being, to all appearances and IMNSHO, a misogynistic bigot who would conceivably tarnish S&S’s brand identity by association.

    And darling Milo bears the burden of both production and proof as the plaintiff. He must put forth admissible evidence sufficient to convince the hypothetical Forrest Gump juror that he’s right, or he’ll get tossed out on his ear in summary judgment (the judge will determine that “no rational jury” could believe him). Even if he gets to trial, he must prove that it is more probable than not that his claims that S&S breached the contract without justification (despite having paid him a significant chunk of change as an advance against future royalties that, upon review of the manuscript, it has no reasonable probability of earning back) — not just that he has some evidence, but that the weight of the evidence is in his favor. There’s a simple reason for that: Milo’s personal protestations and attestations of the merit of his writing and manuscript are not admissible evidence except as to his personal belief… and that’s irrelevant here. Based on darling Milo’s writings that I could tolerate reading to date, I think the chances of him presenting sufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment, let alone win at trial, approach my chances of being appointed Solicitor General by the current Administration.

    * Random House, Inc. v. Gemini Star Prods. Ltd. (link is to the second amended complaint; I haven’t found opinions online except behind paywalls) is a modern “chestnut” case on specific performance of contracts found in many first-year-of-law-school contracts courses. I’ve actually read parts of the manuscript Joan Collins turned in and… it’s… not good enough to be execreble.

  29. Jethro says

    I dunno if anyone was still wondering about this, but according to this twitter thread, the AEO information is going to remain AEO. So my concerns about Doxxing have not borne out. Hooray for a system that sometimes works in reasonable ways. And thanks for your explanations, Jaws.