The Price of Standing up to Bullies, Defense
THE PRICE OF STANDING UP TO BULLIES
AND DEFENDING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
I am an attorney, CLE lecturer, triathlete and parent. I have always tried to live my life based upon integrity and the hope of making the world a better place.
Toward that end, several years ago , I started the blog LostMessiah ( www.lostmessiah.com ). The purpose of the blog was to call attention to the all too often abusive and at times horrific treatment of women as found – shamefully – within the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community in the US and around the world: abuses of children , educational neglect , elder abuse , fraud and a misdeeds all under the guise of religious freedom and practice.
The posts on LostMessiah are based on publicly available information. Until recently, exercising an important right under the First Amendment (think revolutionary era pamphleteers) my blog was written anonymously. Anonymity was also offered to posters on the blog. There is nothing unusual about this. The Internet has developed, in significant part, based on the protection of anonymous expression. Leading, billion-dollar websites also invite – indeed encourage – anonymous posting for the public’s benefit.
Apparently in order to marginalize me and others who might read my blog and to stifle me and neutralize the exposure of this “evil side of righteousness,” a family that for unknown reasons appears to identify with these hyper-religious zealots , and its multi-billion-dollar property group, have engaged a politically-connected law firm to bring a defamation and libel suit against me.
Among other things, the suit by these plaintiffs and their attorney seeks to shut down my freedom of speech.
First, the bullies commenced a preliminary proceeding to force my web host to disclose my identity. I never even had a chance to appear in that proceeding, through legal counsel, in order to defend myself and my anonymity.
Then, once their libel action was commenced, the plaintiffs have continued to pursue judicial maneuvers whose apparent purpose is to further suppress my First Amendment rights.
These maneuvers have included (at least at first) demanding that the entire case be sealed by the court from public view. Such broad sealing is extreme; indeed, almost entirely unheard of in defamation cases. To date, the complaint, exhibits and many of the documents remain sealed by default, absent a formal ruling as yet on sealing by the Court.
Finally, the plaintiffs are also asking the Court to issue an injunction against my future freedom of expression, also almost never granted of in a First Amendment case.
In other words, as my attorney has pointed out, the plaintiffs are pursuing a First Amendment trifecta: they have taken away my anonymity without even having to give me notice; they are trying to prevent a public trial of their case by sealing the record; and they are seeking the almost unheard-of remedy of a “prior restraint” (i.e., an injunction) against my freedom of speech into the future. Yet such injunctions are almost universally condemned under the First Amendment.
As my attorney has pointed out in court, it is almost as if the plaintiffs would prefer to be pursuing their case in some other imagined jurisdiction where the established rules of the First Amendment would not be applied.
As one might imagine, this scorched-earth attack on the First Amendment will also undoubtedly result in a chilling effect, not only on my rights, but on the rights of other bloggers worldwide who will be required to think twice before writing about the plaintiffs in my case.
In addition, the plaintiffs have sought to hold me liable, not only under the name of the my own blog, but also for posts on a blog for which I have no responsibility and with which I have no connection; and by so doing are attempting to overcome their failure to act within the statutory time limit in my case.
All of these questionable maneuvers in court are greatly increasing the costs associated with my defense. Just these preliminary legal skirmishes are estimated to have cost me at or in excess of $50,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
It is for this reason that I am asking for your help.
And now more attacks on me, my family and my personal privacy and security, have recently been initiated by trolls and hackers on the Internet, see photo below. This is truly ironic because the plaintiffs in their defamation action against me have sought to label me an Internet “troll.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
For reasons only these new bullies on the block can know for certain, the trolls and hackers have taken a great interest in trying to do damage to me and to LostMessiah. The spamming has even included publication of certain personal financial information about me – for example the identity of the bank that holds the mortgage on my home. This is truly disturbing and it won’t be long before I will be compelled to go to the authorities to attempt to stop what has already risen, in the view of my attorney, to the level of criminal online harassment.
It is clear that the new trolls want to punish the exercise of my First Amendment right of free speech as well as to chill the rights of other bloggers should they have the temerity to look into the darker influences within the larger community covered by the blog and so that those involved in wrongdoing can continue to act with impunity and bring shame on the rest of the predominantly decent and moral members of the Jewish Community everywhere. In addition the trolls apparently want to scare anyone who might have had the courage to speak out.
Evidently my blog continues to hit raw nerves by those who are deeply distressed that I have the unmitigated gall (chutzpah) to call attention to the community’s practices , as I shine a light on its “dirty laundry ”. Below is a screenshot of comments intended to harass; but which really should shock the conscience of anyone reading them. They, along with numerous other comments posted over the last 48 hours, have prompted me to make changes to this request and to recirculate it.
As a result of uncovering my identity, and now exposing posts that had been published anonymously by constitutional right, I have been advised by law enforcement that my personal security could be at risk. Some of my property has been destroyed. My personal information has been posted online and in comments to the blog. I don’t yet know by whom.
But threats to well-being and safety or harassment is a part of the community's modus operandi in dealing both with strangers and with outspoken members within the community at large.
My greatest stumbling block is simply the finances necessary to fight the bullies inside and outside the Courtroom.
What they are trying to do to me, to silence me, could happen to anyone who sees something wrong and tries to change it.
So, I am asking for a show of support.
Please invest in my uncompromising effort to stop this abusive madness. Very significant interests are at stake here. It’s time to say, “Enough!"
Please share this campaign with all your Facebook friends, Twitter friends and relatives in any faith community.
Thank you for your consideration.
 There was a single article about one of the plaintiffs, that had continuously been on my site for more than two years, that – I took that article down. In normal circumstances that would have been the end of it. Instead, the bullying had just begun and has continued to this date
This Gofundme is no longer just about me, a formerly anonymous blogger, if it actually ever was.
Today in what should have been a favorable ruling on New York's single publication rule and the 1-year Statute of Limitations, and what should have amounted to dismissal based upon arguments about whether or not those articles were republished (and they were not), a judge denied Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Her Honor simply does not understand the internet and could thus not ascertain when the articles were initially published.
First, in what felt like a deliberately cleared courtroom, Her Honor argued that the supporting affidavits submitted to the Court were in improper form to support the purpose for which they were intended, namely to confirm that the articles were never "republished" as has been contended in the complaint.
Second, the Judge maintained that even were they to have been in proper form, they would not have established a prima facie case for dismissal on the Statue of Limitations because she held that she could not tell which date the articles were actually published. Huh?
Third, when my attorney asked the Plaintiff's attorney what date he maintained that the articles were published, he said he could not establish that either. Well... that belies information Plaintiff's attorney had received directly from Wordpress when he sought the identity of LostMessiah's blogger without trying to contact the website's gmail account beforehand.
The allegedly defamatory articles were published on May 1 and May 2 of 2016. They are timestamped by Wordpress and that timestamp shows up in the link to the articles. They were never republished. They should never have been the subject of proceedings in New York where the Statute of Limitations is intentionally short.
The Judge claimed that she simply does not have a firm enough graph on the internet and publications of this sort to establish the date of first publication. It mattered not that the link to the articles is, was and will always be timestamped.
If the Judge's assertions that she is not well-versed on internet timestamp protocols to ascertain a first publication date are to be accepted as doctrine, how can she possibly decide a case of this nature? Moreover, if the attorney representing the Plaintiff has equal question about the date that these articles were originally published, how is there any basis for any claims at all?
Perhaps these articles were never published. Today's decision represents scary possibilities for internet bloggers everywhere.
Having nothing to do with the lawsuit and everything to do with why I started the blog in the first place, I have posted an editorial, picked up by a Facebook site also.
To those of you who have donated, again thank you. To those who do not want for fear of disclosure, donate anonymously. For those who have sent along checks privately, thank you also.
Please consider that this case speaks to a free press. It speaks to the web-hosts which are supposed to be protecting anonymity and it speaks to future voices.
Ratcheting up the veiled threats and harassment is probably nothing compared to what happens to members of the community who decide to live, or children who have gone off the derech (OTD).
We would like to than everyone who has kindly donated to this GFM already.
Anyone who is uncomfortable donating directly to GFM can send check directly to my attorney, Henry Kaufman.
Henry R. Kaufman, PC
60 East 42nd Street, 47th Floor
New York, NY 10165