In Which My Good Deed is Punished


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.

Analyzing URL
http://texascriminalslipopinions.bennettandbennett.com/?p=38752
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.
Thank you!


Amir Tavakkoli
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!):

Thanks!

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:

http://blog.bennettandbennett.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/20141015114317.pdf


17 responses to “In Which My Good Deed is Punished”

  1. Oddly, and perhaps ironically, when I search for Amir Tavakkoli on Google, I only see one result that looks like a Texas court decision in the first 100 responses, and it’s not your site. I wonder if maybe he wasn’t running the search from an incognito browser, so Google was personalizing his results in some way that made that page more relevant. (E.g. Every time this user searches for that name, he clicks on this link, so let’s put this link near the top, even if it isn’t in the index anymore, because he likes it so much.)

    On the other hand, this page is now the 25th result. And it’s the 5th result if I search for “Amir Tavakkoli Houston”.

    • Mr. Mark Draughn
      Thank you for your input. My issue was always with the second term phrase search that included Houston than the first.

    • Mark, when I started writing this post the TCSOß page was at the top of page 2 for “Amir Tavakkoli Houston”. Had he not kept poking, his marijuana conviction and reckless-driving charge would have receded into history. And really, who the hell cares about marijuana and reckless driving? I’d hire a kid with criminal history; I wouldn’t hire a kid with a hyperinflated and misdirected sense of honor.

    • Now a search for “Amir Tavakkoli Houston” (no quote marks) doesn’t turn up the TCSOß page before the Court of Appeals opinion, which would have been the best Tavakkoli could have hoped for, if only he could have held out for a few more days.

      [Update: at the moment a Google search for “amir tavakkoli site:texascriminalslipopinions.bennettandbennett.com” (no quotes) turns up no results, which means that Google finally did its job and dropped the connection between Tavakkoli’s name and the page. Unfortunately, Tavakkoli couldn’t bring himself to put away the shovel and stop digging.]

  2. And here is the follow up apology I sent and Mark’s response for people to see the whole story if Mark allows it to be posted and does not edit the comment. You make the judgment (and Mark, thanks for giving me more reason to sue you. I really feel sorry for you. I see it as you are trying to get publicity which I really don’t think you need. I also feel sorry for you because by the time I am your age, I will have accomplished more than you ever will in your life. What a great battle you have picked, I call you a true warrior. If only people saw your true colors). Here is the follow up apology and Mark’s response:
    My Apology on 10/15/2014:

    [Dear Mr. Bennett:
    I hope this email finds you well. I want to apologize if my previous correspondence appeared to be demanding or threatening. I did not have any intentions to make a threatening letter or to disrespect you. I was merely trying to protect my best interests the only way I knew how. Please excuse my actions.

    I have made mistakes in the past and take full responsibility for them. I have been paying the consequences for my mistakes since the time they occurred (2006) and continue to do so to this day. I believe I should pay the penalty for my mistakes, but how long should a young man who has turned his life around with great goals and aspirations be punished? I have to live my life with the shame and embarrassment every day when my family and friends become aware of my misdemeanor in 2006 (commonly known as my criminal background.) I know that in the back of their minds, some people think of me as a criminal. And they think once a criminal, always a criminal. They do not look at the details of the case and the fact that it is a class B misdemeanor, or that it happened so long ago. Or the fact that I only pleaded guilty because I did not have effective counsel. All they see is the criminal record. And this is why even though I graduated in the top 5% of my class, competed nationally in advocacy competitions, served as the Vice President, stayed active in community service and volunteer programs throughout these years, and provided for my family, I am facing issues with immigration trying to get my citizenship. Because all immigration officials see is the “criminal” in me.

    I understand that most of these issues are beyond your control and I have to deal with them, but you can reduce or help control the damage I inflicted on myself. I am opening a law firm in Houston soon (awaiting bar results) and the name of the law firm will be A.T. Law Firm. As a new lawyer, my reputation is everything. Like you, I too share the feelings that individuals should be given a second chance. And that sometimes there is more to the story than the “police has arrested the individual, thus, he must be a criminal.” This is why I will dedicate my life to helping individuals, like you have done for so many years. My goal is to someday reach the status of lawyers like you and Professor Johnson. I don’t know if I will be blessed enough to do so, but I know that I will give it my best shot and feel humbled that I even get a chance.

    I, too, love writing and I know that removing an article or an opinion that is published under your name is not a simple task. I ask that you do so to help a colleague’s life. Professor Johnson has indicated that you are the type of seasoned lawyer who will wake up in the middle of the night to assist someone in need. I am extending an open hand and asking that you consider making an exception by removing my information from your blog. I intend to join HCCLA and learn from lawyers like you. If you can consider giving me this opportunity to start fresh, I hope to one day be able to work with you and maybe even work on a research project with you.

    I apologize for my hasty response, without consulting with a seasoned lawyer on how to best resolve this matter. I would like to have an opportunity to meet you in person and apologize. Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Amir Tavakkoli, JD]

    And here is Mark’s Response a few hour later:

    The answer is still “no,” as it was back in May when I advised you to stop bugging me. I will not remove that post.

    That’s never been on the table, and it is not what you’re playing for now. You’re delusional if you think it’s a possibility. The best you are going to do now is let the search engines do their job and shuffle the link further and further back as your reputation develops.

    What you’re playing for now is to try to keep me from putting your name back in the post, and to try to keep me from writing a blog post on Defending People exposing your shitty judgment. That post is 2/3 written; when I publish it’ll be like blood in the water for the other law blogs (whose authors also don’t like being threatened). Your name will be a nationwide joke among lawyers by noon the next day.

    The only thing that kept me from polishing off the post and hitting the “publish” button this afternoon was my love for Professor Johnson. That doesn’t buy you relief from your foolishness, it just buys you a chance to correct for that foolishness, to show that you can step back, regroup, and recover from a bad judgment call.

    And you are really playing very badly.

    “I want to apologize if my previous correspondence appeared to be demanding or threatening. I did not have any intentions to make a threatening letter or to disrespect you” is a) not a real apology (google “real apology”); and b) utter bullshit. You threatened a defamation suit and said that “removing this link would save us both time and headaches.” You even spent six bucks to send your stupid letter certified.

    Not only that, but you also lied in your initial email to me—”the only thing on my record,” which I wouldn’t have discovered was a lie if you hadn’t had the shitty judgment to send me a threatening letter. I also wouldn’t have found the Harris County expunction.

    But I’m going to pretend for now that I didn’t get this email. Try again if you think you can do better. (You might want to read up on The Streisand Effect and on Rakofsky v. The Internet first. “Time and headaches”? You have no concept of what suing me would cost you, and what threatening me would already have cost you if it weren’t for Professor Johnson. You owe her a big box of chocolates.)

    You’ve got one last chance, and twelve more hours.

    Stop the fucking lies.

    Or go ahead and file your moronic lawsuit now—you don’t have to wait till 10/31, since the answer is unequivocally “no”—and I’ll give you an extremely costly (in both money and reputation) lesson in the First Amendment.

    If you can’t unfuck this for yourself despite my generosity and Professor Johnson’s good advice, you shouldn’t be representing human beings anyway.

    MB

    • Amir, good luck with those great accomplishments you’re dreaming of. Drop back by when you’ve gotten a couple of statutes held unconstitutional and freed a bunch of people from prison.

      Until then, as far as I’m concerned (though I’ve kept the opinion to myself till now) you’re just another no-account dumbass wannabe with shitty judgment, lousy writing skills, and an inflated view of yourself.

      And remember (though I suspect Rule 7 governs): you picked the fight when you threatened to sue me.

    • Amir, it’s not possible you are this stupid, but if you are, let me try and help: You’ve already lost.

    • Hey Amir Tavakkoli from Houston,

      I don’t really have much of an opinion about any of this either way. Although, If your threats to sue people help them “get publicity” could you threaten to sue me, too?

      Step 1: have Amir Tavakkoli threaten to sue you.
      Step 2:
      Step 3: Profit!

      Didn’t they write a Southpark episode about that?

  3. Wow

    Amir, you stupid fuck. I actually spent a while trying to convince Mark to take it easy on you.

    Now you go and do this to yourself.

    You might want to go join Prenda. Or start Rakofsky, Carreon, and Tavakkoli.

  4. I’m reminded of popehat’s Ken White and his rules regarding abusive lawsuits and speech. This is going to be interesting.

  5. I want to apologize to everyone on this board and especially Mr. Bennett for my actions. I realize that I was mistaken in this case and can totally see how if I was in Mr. Bennett’s position, I would be very upset that a young lawyer would make such statements towards me. The truth is I can only strive to someday even come close to achieving what Mr. Bennett has accomplished in his career (although he is definitely not finished). My action were due to being young, and only looking for my own best interests. I have a lot of growing up to do and hope to only get better as my career moves forward. I genuinely ask for everyone’s forgiveness.

  6. I think Mr. Amir should be barred he left me in the middle of an appeal with a jury trial. I got to court and was expected to pick the jury. I asked amir for my folder and he does not reply.yesterday I saw for the first time my case was dismissed in my favor. The other side motioned for reinststment and amir filrd a motion to up hold. But what I read was unbelievable his statements showed how out of touch he was. He stated untrue facts that were so outrageous. His stupidity and selfish greed sealed my fate. The price I paid was being thrown out of my own home which i
    There’s a court order stating I own 75% of at sell . and I’m homeless now. And Mr amir has the balls to bill me. He needs to get over himself and leave this country. He does not respect females by no means I paid a high price for his ignorance.

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