I don’t know Jose Arcaya. I only know about him. I know that he is apparently a psychotherapist and a lawyer. I know that someone wrote a bad Yelp! review about him.
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. (source)
Does this Yelp! review make me think less of Mr. Arcaya? No. In fact, the review itself does not suggest much in the way of credibility. It sounds like a bit of a little snit. If I needed Mr. Arcaya’s services, this review would not have dissuaded me from using them. After all, he has a Ph.D. and a law degree. I find that impressive. He has some good reviews too. He speaks English, French, and Spanish. Again, impressive.
But, I’m still convinced that he is “absolute scum.”
You see, he didn’t respond to that review well. I sorta can’t blame him for being upset. The review has all the hallmarks of a personal vendetta. I don’t think that “absolute scum” was a fair opinion of the guy based on what the review had to say.
No, Mr. “Z.B.” who wrote the post, hiding behind a pseudonym, seems like an asshole — at least from the first impression that I see on the Yelp! review.
So what makes Arcaya “absolute scum?” What happens next in the story:
Arcaya sued Z.B. for defamation, representing himself pro se. The complaint seeks $80,000 and the removal of the Yelp! review. The thing is, part of what he calls “defamatory” is that Z.B. called him “absolute scum.”
Sigh… that big balloon of respect I had for Mr. Arcaya? It is deflating.
The law is not a simple matter of (Mean Statement) + (Angry Plaintiff) = Defamation. Of course, that’s how it works in the beginning, in states without Anti-SLAPP laws. (Mean Statement) + (Angry Plaintiff) = Defamation suit, that costs a lot to defend.
But, can he ever recover damages or injunctive relief for being called “absolute scum”? No. See Greenbelt Coop. Pub. Ass’n. v. Bresler, 398 U.S. 6 (1970) (when it is apparent, in the context of a statement, that its meaning is figurative and hyperbolic, the falsity of the literal meaning does not equal a knowing falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth, thus a public figure can not prove actual malice as a matter of law).
In Dworkin v. L.F.P, Inc., 839 P.2d 903 (Wyo. 1992), Hustler Magazine called Andrea Dworkin inter alia a “shit-squeezing sphincter” and “a cry-baby who can dish out criticism but clearly can’t take it,” Id. at 915.
Under prevailing constitutional First Amendment safeguards, that language cannot, as a matter of law, form the basis for a defamation claim…We agree with that said by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “Ludicrous statements are much less insidious and debilitating than falsities that bear the ring of truth. We have little doubt that the outrageous and the outlandish will be recognized for what they are.” Dworkin v. Hustler, 867 F.2d at 1194. Vulgar speech reflects more on the character of the user of such language than on the object of such language. Curtis Publishing Co. v. Birdsong, 360 F.2d 344, 348 (5th Cir. 1966). Id. at 915-916.
The law is clear that defamation law is not there to protect anyone from annoying speech, embarrassing speech, vigorous epithets, or mere vitriolic spewings.
Posner wrote that rhetorical hyperbole “is a well recognized category of, as it were, privileged defamation.” Dilworth v. Dudley, 75 F.3d 307, 309 (7th Cir. 1996); See also Lifton v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 416 F.3d 571, 579 (7th Cir. 2005) (Illinois law requires that an allegedly defamatory statement must contain an objectively verifiable factual assertion); Pease v. Int’l Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, et al., 208 Ill.App.3d 863, 153 Ill.Dec. 656, 567 N.E.2d 614, 619 (1991) (“Words that are mere name calling or found to be rhetorical hyperbole or employed only in a loose, figurative sense have been deemed nonactionable.”).
The statement that Arcaya is “absolute scum” is a classic example of rhetorical hyperbole.
Enter Scott Greenfield. Apparently, Greenfield offered to get in between Z.B. and Mr. Arcaya. He does that a lot — tries to talk sense into people. It’s a fucking mitzvah to do so.
So what does Arcaya do after Greenfield tries to save him? He goes into “absolute scum” mode.
He subpoenas Greenfield (source) His document supporting that subpoena is batshit, to say the least.
And then, he files a bar complaint that looks like it was written by a pro-se prisoner while cowering in the shower. (source)
So, based on those disclosed facts and supporting documentation, I hereby declare Jose Arcaya to be “absolute scum.” If you need a lawyer or a psychotherapist, I would run from this guy. Far. Fast. Run. And, that balloon of respect I had for him? If there’s any gas left in it at all, it’s nothing more than stinky malt liquor farts.