In Which New Vistas Open Up

It started with criminal First Amendment litigation. I fought for five years against a speech-restricting penal statute, learning the law along the way and finally punching a hole in the dam last year, freeing a lifetime’s worth of people who had already given up hope.

Naturally, I went on the hunt for other statutes to kill. My friend and fellow TLC alumnus Don Flanary of San Antonio beat me to the improper-photography statute, but he only killed (in Ex Parte Thompson) the part dealing with photography in a public place, leaving the part dealing with photography in a restroom or dressing room, as well as the parts dealing with publication of images. I’ve got challenges pending to those, as well as to the fraudulent-use-of-identifying-information statute, the online-impersonation statute, and some others.

In the course of working on these cases—and pointing out on this blog how many ways proponents of penal revenge-porn statutes get constitutional law wrong—I realized how little most lawyers actually know about free speech. I also got sued for hurting Joseph Rakofsky’s feelings, and had to pay Marc Randazza gobs of money to kick Rakofsky’s ass across the courtroom. It could probably have been done cheaper, but if it’s worth doing it’s worth overdoing, and Randazza provides entertainment value that I’m happy to pay for. Further, I had a friend file an ill-advised suit against someone for statements that were absolutely privileged, and I pulled his bacon from the fire.

Then Randazza had a client who had been sued by a Houston lawyer for hurting his feelings, and had had a default judgment entered against him, in Harris County. I’d done a good job of avoiding civil court since about my second year of practice, but I can read the rules and write a brief (a lawyer in the Piney Woods once called me “slick big city lawyer who uses the rules to his advantage”), so I signed on to carry Randazza’s bag and do the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure stuff. We got the default judgment undone, and Randazza got the case dismissed. A codefendant in that case hired me to carry his lawyer’s bag as well, and we were able to get the same result for them.

For most people, being sued is a big deal. Censorious asshats know that, and will threaten to drag people into court, or actually sue them, for hurting their feelings. Defending the First Amendment in civil court is little different than defending it in criminal court. Different rules and less money, is all.

So when the editor-in-chief of a Vietnamese newspaper reached out to me after being sued for libel by Al Hoang, a former Houston City Council member and sometime Republican candidate for the Texas Legislature because the newspaper called him a communist, I didn’t hesitate to sign on. I filed an anti-SLAPP motion, briefed it up, had a hearing last Friday, and this morning got this:

Dismissal Order in Al Hoang v. Thoi Bao

The only thing that I didn’t get was sanctions. The plaintiff, Al Hoang, a lawyer, had sued people at least four times before for hurting his feelings, but none of those cases had been dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute, so the judge in my case didn’t sanction him. You can bet that he’ll try again, and you can bet that next time he’ll get whacked even harder.

That was fun, so I’m going to do more of it. I’ve always prided myself on doing one thing—criminal defense—really well. After almost twenty years of practice, though, there’s room in my practice to be really good at two things, and maybe in another couple of decades I’ll add another practice area and be really good at three.

11 responses to “In Which New Vistas Open Up”

  1. This is great news! Please seek out all civil attorneys that have made a career for themselves sending demand letters threatening lawsuits and (of course) threatening a jury trial; then, cross-reference those attorneys with civil attorneys who do not try cases. They’re all jabronis. Please emasculate them. (I do believe they are all men. But then again, aren’t all civil attorneys men? In a way? Mind=blown).

  2. I suspect that a lawyer with your talent could succeed in many practice areas. You either have it or you don’t. Very encouraging to read about how an experienced lawyer moves into a new field.

  3. Mr. B., Congrats! are in order sir. In lieu of suggesting a few stats to murder (this time), I offer the following.

    *I’m looking forward the day that we can officially address you as – The Honorable Judge Bennett, or Mayor Bennett (no, not regarding wet T-shirts or on a worx in progress I’m pitching Cuban – MMA’s Dancing with the ADAs). They say the 3rd time is a charm, don’t stop til you rock & other witty stuff meant to influence one to: never give up, or let go of an effort to achieve the end goal. With that in mind: with your ‘Real’ years of experience, and a vettable record of actually going the distance (all the way to verdict), it’s only natural for you receive what you have earned. Good luck in your endeavors and may you consider giving DP subscribers a heads up months in advance, so that we may campaign on your behalf. As it is, folks simply suffer from the voting-just-to-be-voting syndrome and jump for chance to side with those considered to be in their gang, except in cases where they have had ample time to learn the difference(s) between the three names in a neat lil row & what they will actually do on behalf of the state & citizenry as a whole. The reason as to Why there isn’t a mandatory televised / netevised Debate for ‘all’ public offices is probably the leading cause of VJTBV & Bench-Rot. hint, hint.


  4. Hmm . . . is this “Thomas R Griffith” actually the notorious shill for Simple Justice, John Barleycorn? They seem addlepated in a disturbingly similar way

    • Hmm…. is this actually ‘Gay’ David from Murry’s backyard that wants to fly kites with me? Tell jiggy howdy. Either way, go fuck yourself and have a good day.

  5. Some years ago, I wrote about how we all need a change of pace after a while, as we get stale doing the same thing for too long no matter how well we do it. It’s not only great to see you enjoying success in a new niche (which, as Carolyn says, comes as no surprise given your many talents), but to see that spark as well.

  6. My lovely wife won one of these cases against Amanda Culbertson. Ms. Culbertson has had to deposit $85,000 in the court registry of Federal Judge Lynn Hughes. She eventually will have to pay close to $120,000 after the appeal costs are added.

    Robert, I am glad a criminal lawyer understands this law because Chip Lewis does not.

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