My Take on Rakofsky vs the Internet

On Friday morning I was served with a summons confirming that I had been named as a Defendant in the case now known as Rakofsky vs. the Internet. The topic has been covered by several other blogs, many of whom were also named in the lawsuit.  In a nutshell, a young out of state lawyer took on a DC murder case.  The case resulted in a mistrial.  The Washington Post and Washington City Paper both printed stories about the case, as did a number of other publications.  Several lawyers, including myself, then wrote blogs about it.  Mr. Rakofsky has now decided to sue the publishers and the bloggers for defamation.

I finally got around to reading the complaint this evening and a couple quotes in particular stuck out to me:

“following Rakofsky’s opening statement, Judge Jackson summoned the Defendant to the bench and conducted an ex parte sidebar conversation with the Defendant, in which Judge Jackson inquired of the Defendant whether he wished to continue to be represented by Rakofsky as his lead counsel. On a subsequent occasion on the following day, Judge Jackson repeated the question to the client. On each occasion, the client unequivocally expressed his desire to continue to be represented by Rakofsky as his lead counsel.”

The complaint later states:

“…[Judge Jackson’s] anger may have been prompted by the diligence and zeal with which Rakofsky conducted his defense in the interest of his client as much as anything else, rather than any shortcomings in Rakofsky’s knowledge of court procedure…”

I’m fascinated because Mr. Rakofsky’s opening statement was so poor the judge asked his client if he still wanted him as a lawyer, and Rakofsky’s arrogance completely blinds him to seeing it that way. He believes that he was doing a great job. In his heart he knows he’s fantastic.

Its not surprising that a young lawyer is arrogant. It’s a profession that breeds a certain level of cockiness, in fact you probably need to be a little conceited to be successful. What is awesome about Mr. Rakofsky is that when his hubris made him fly too close to the Sun, instead of flying lower, he blamed the Sun and then sued Aesop for telling the story*. That’s a level of delusion that you just don’t see everyday.

That part of it amuses me. The idea of him reading blog after blog and still knowing that he did great job amuses me. The fact that it bothers him so much that he felt the need to bring a suit that would only bring it all back to light and increase the number of stories about it amuses me. This whole thing was humorous, until I thought about Mr. Deaner and his family. And that’s where I got angry.

The mistrial will mean that Mr. Deaner’s day in court will be delayed substantially. It’s my understanding that he will remained incarcerated during that time. As a criminal defense attorney, people regularly put their complete faith and trust in you. You regularly are the only guide that people have as they navigate a system that they usually don’t understand. And it’s a system that has the power to incarcerate people and keep them from their families for long periods of time. You have an absolute ethical and moral duty as a lawyer and a human being to only take cases where you can competently counsel. It’s obvious that Mr. Rakofsky has a giant ego. It’s obvious that this ego led him to the conclusion that his first trial could be a murder in an jurisdiction where he wasn’t barred. Letting your ego file a civil lawsuit that is a bad idea is amusing, letting your ego jeopardize a life in the balance is infuriating.

(*The story of Icarus isn’t one of Aesop’s fables, but it makes that analogy funnier.)