Andrew Feinstein is a frustrated Denver Nuggets fan. Sick of what he perceived as mismanagement of the basketball team by Nuggets coach George Karl, Feinstein launched www.firegeorgekarl.com.
George Karl seemed to take it all in stride. When asked about the blog by the Rocky Mountain News, he said:
“The longer you’re with a team, the more people like you and the more people dislike you,” Karl said. “I don’t think it’s valuable to pay attention to that, to de-energize me and waste my energy right now.” (source)
This sounds like a public figure with class, no?
A funny thing happened though…
Around the same time, Feinstein got this email from George Karl’s attorney, Bret Adams.
Is your life really this boring and meaningless that you would spend the hours necessary to create such a website?
As Coach Karl’s counsel I am putting you on notice that I will sue you into bankruptcy should you cross the boundaries of permissible speech. (source)
No, really. Click the thumbnail image on the right:
Deadspin had a funny reaction to this:
Oooh! Big scary lawyer man!
From all accounts, this appears to be an actual email from an actual attorney, which is kind of depressing, actually.
This is the best possible way to make a story go away. Good work, Bret Adams! If Karl is ultimately let go by the Nuggets, you’ve just assured that Fire George Karl will be mentioned in the obituary. Now that’s lawyerin’! (source)
Now honestly, I thought this was a hoax. I might expect this kind of thing from a Liberty University or Regent Law grad, or perhaps from someone who was out of law school for less than a year. But this guy?
In reply to an inquiry sent by the WSJLB, Adams wrote:
Thanks for your email. While George Karl may be a public figure within the sports community, there are limits to what is fair comment under New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964). Many cases quote from the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 59 that a statement is defamatory if it “tends to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.” Sure, people are free to criticize Mr. Karl’s record, his coaching style, or both. But free speech has its limits. My role as Mr. Karl’s counsel is to see to it that the line between free speech and defamation is not crossed. I stand by my statement that people should have better and more important things to do than to create mean-spirited blogs and that, while I respect (and exercise) free speech rights, there are boundaries and consequences. (Source)
How is this for a consequence? Mr. Adams, you just revealed yourself as an attorney who has been practicing law since 1984, yet still has not learned the “actual malice” standard and who hasn’t heard of the Streisand Effect.
Nice job. Now, because of this abjectly foolish email, a blog that was seen by a few thousand people is now world famous and you are now exposed as having absolutely no clue how to protect your client’s reputation. Your client was doing just fine before you got involved. (Place thumb and forefinger in “L” configuration and place on forehead, please).
One commenter on the WSJ Blog should be hired by Mr. Adams’ firm to give him a little training:
Ethical issues aside, a good attorney would not have created the huge risk of negative publicity attendant to making a written(!) threat of this nature. This ridiculous email, which was obviously going to end up posted to the blog, is liable to become a minor media sensation during a particularly slow time during the sports year. (Sportscenter, anyone?) So instead of a minor nuisance of a website created by someone who is(it cannot be denied) an avid fan, the coach now has a potential PR disaster on his hands. Which is more likely to harm the coach’s career?
An effective attorney would have handled the issue politely and quietly. Better yet, he would have advised his client that such websites are common and should just be ignored…this lawyer has seriously compromised his client’s interests. (source)