On April 5th TSU law student Amir Tavakkoli sent me this message via my website:
Your name: Amir Tavakkoli
Your E-mail Address: [redacted]
Your Phone Number: [redacted]
The defendant’s Name: Amir Tavakkoli
The defendant’s date of birth: [redacted]
The court: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals/Appeal from 9th COA
The case number: 09-13-00082-CR
Your message to Bennett & Bennett:
Dear Mr. Bennett:
I hope this email finds you well. My name is Amir Tavakkoli and I am graduating from law school in May. You may know me from my days working at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. I have a request.
I filed a writ of habeas corpus last year for a 2006 misdemeanor conviction that I have which is giving me immigration issues. This is the only thing on my record. When I google my name, there is a link to your cite that takes it straight to the opinion for my writ. As a lawyer, you know the importance of reputation and the use of google by perspective employers. While I know that I must disclose my misdemeanor to employer, I do not necessarily want to let everyone know about the immigration issue and hope to put it in the past. I am requesting that you remove this case from your list. The case number is 09-13-00082-CR from the Ninth Court of Appeals and discretionary review denied by TX Court of Criminal Appeals.
Thank you for your understanding.
The page Tavakkoli was asking that I remove is on a site I created to automatically republish in HTML format the opinions of Texas’s appellate courts in criminal cases. ((The courts publish their opinions in PDF format, so the site does some data extraction, which isn’t quite ready for prime time.))
As a matter of principle I won’t remove a blog post unless I got the facts objectively wrong. The opinion in question is public information and always will be. It’s available directly from the court. There are other public records—on the Ninth Court of Appeals site, on the Montgomery County Clerk’s site, on Publicdata.com, and on the Harris County District Clerk’s website—about Tavakkoli’s criminal history. But knowing the importance of reputation, not wanting to contribute to Tavakkoli’s issues, and being a nice guy (at least until I get poked with a stick) I changed all occurrences of Tavakkoli’s name to “A.T.” ((I have since restored the page to its original condition.))
A month later Tavakkoli emailed me again (poke!):
Hi Mr Bennett
I hope this email finds you well. Sorry for the inconvenience, however, it seems that the content is still active on your site. Below is a message I receive from google when I request to remove the URL.
The content is still live on the web.
Before Google can remove it from our search results, the site owner needs to take down or update the content.
Research Editor, Thurgood Marshall Law Review
Vice President, Thurgood Marshall School of Law Class of 2014
I had already updated the content. I responded:
Your name is not on that page.
He replied (poke!):
May we please remove the whole link? Although the name does not show on the page, when my name is searched “Amir Tavakkoli Houston”, the link is still at the top and a quick reading of it shows enough identifying information, such as born and raised in Iran, that the reader would know it is me.
Thank you for your attention.
I wrote back:
In short, no. Your problem is with Google. Stop bugging me.
To which Tavakkoli responded:
If you were in my situation, what would you have done? I am in no way trying to bug you or disrespect you. Like you, I have other things to focus on as well, like preparing for the bar. A removal of the link from your site would solve this issue.
I have just graduated from law school and looking for a job, and you know that this information can be very hurtful.
You will not receive any more emails from me.
That was May 31st. I thought that was the last of it: I had done Amir Tavakkoli the entirely unnecessary favor of redacting his name, and his beef was with the search engines for continuing to index the site as though it contained his name.
Then today this came in the mail: