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Thursday, September 29, 2011

CEO Threatens A Lawsuit Against Legal Schnauzer

Ted Rollins

The CEO of a student-housing development company is threatening to take legal action against me.

Ted Rollins, the head of Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, stated in an e-mail dated September 23 that "to the extent false or misleading information is published" about him or his company that he would pursue "all legal means available."

By "legal means," to remedy "false or misleading information," I assume Rollins is referring to a possible defamation lawsuit against me. There is only one problem with Mr. Rollins' threat--I haven't written anything false or misleading about him or his company. Everything I've written is supported by public documents and/or multiple press reports.

Ten minutes after I received Rollins' statement, sent via a spokesperson named Jason Chudoba, I received a letter from a lawyer named Chad W. Essick, of the Raleigh, North Carolina, law firm of Poyner Spruill. The letter was attached to an e-mail and informed me that Mr. Essick represents Ted Rollins and would be monitoring my future posts. It stated that Mr. Rollins might be "forced to protect his reputation and that of his company." (See the full letter at the end of this post.)

Why are Ted Rollins and his lawyer sending threatening missives to Legal Schnauzer? For one, we've written extensively about Mr. Rollins and his ties to Alabama, especially an alarming divorce case he filed in Shelby County against Sherry Carroll Rollins, his former wife and now a Birmingham resident. That lawsuit, styled Rollins v. Rollins, was handled in a blatantly unlawful manner--especially considering that Mrs. Rollins already had filed a divorce action against Mr. Rollins in Greenville, South Carolina, where the couple lived at the time. With jurisdiction already established in one state, it could not lawfully be moved to another. But it was, and Ted Rollins wound up with a hugely favorable result. He pays only $815 a month in child support for the couple's two daughters, plus $500 a month in alimony--a paltry sum for a man who belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families, with a company that completed a $380-million IPO last year. Ted Rollins and his lawyer friends at the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant probably are not happy that I am reporting on the Rollins v. Rollins case.

Second, I've written about a number of unsavory issues connected to Campus Crest Communities, which is planning a $26.3-million development at Auburn University here in Alabama. Several current or former employees have filed lawsuits, claiming the company practices race and sex discrimination. We also have reported on a recent balcony collapse at a new Campus Crest development near the University of North Texas, which sent three young men to the hospital.

I suspect that Mr. Rollins and his lawyer, Mr. Essick, are most concerned about my coverage of personal matters connected to the divorce case. Rollins' threats are ironic because I spoke with him via telephone on July 11 and requested an interview. He informed me that he doesn't give interviews to "bloggers," apparently even ones with 30-plus years of professional journalism experience. If I sent him questions in writing, Rollins stated, he would be "more than happy" to answer them.

Turns out that wasn't exactly true. I did send Rollins written questions, the first set dealing with his child-support payments that were roughly two weeks late for the month of September. He did not respond to those questions, but Sherry Rollins informed me that the child support soon was paid.

The second set of questions concerned actions by Ted Rollins and Michele Rollins in Jamaica and Colorado, where the family has business interests. Michele Rollins is the widow of John W. Rollins, Ted's late father, and she is a prominent figure in Republican Party politics. Michele Rollins is close to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she ran for a Congressional seat from Delaware in 2010.

Something in my second set of questions apparently alarmed Ted Rollins. Instead of answering them in a "more than happy" fashion, he threatened me with legal action. Here is his full response:

All claims and accusations listed in your e-mails dated 20 September 2011 and 14 September 2011 are absolutely false and completely unfounded. Any and all issues between me and my ex-wife have long been settled in court. I have always provided for my children and maintain an excellent relationship with them. I would encourage you to make sure all statements you make about me or my company are true and can be supported by facts. To the extent false or misleading information is published about me or my company, I will be compelled to protect the reputation of myself and my company through all legal means available.

I responded to Rollins and his lawyer via e-mail on September 26. I noted that the lawsuit business can cut both ways:

Mr. Essick:

I am in receipt of your letter, via e-mail, dated Sept. 23, 2011. Please be advised that every article I have written about Ted Rollins and Campus Crest Communities has been thoroughly researched and is supported by public documents and/or multiple press reports. The same will hold true for every article I write about Ted Rollins and Campus Crest Communities in the future.

Your letter alleges that my articles include false or misleading information, but it provides nothing to support that charge. That's because there is nothing to support that charge. You also allude to "allegations" in my e-mails that Mr. Rollins claims are false. In fact, my e-mail contains questions, sent at Mr. Rollins request, not allegations. The questions are based on reports from multiple witnesses who were present in Jamaica at the time, and I have written documents upon which I based these questions.

One of the questions in my e-mail is based on a public document from a South Carolina court, citing information that Mr. Rollins himself provided. In essence, Mr. Rollins now is claiming that information he provided in a court of law is false. What does that say about Mr. Rollins' credibility?

I am a professional reporter and editor, with a degree in journalism and more than 30 years of experience in the field. I also am well acquainted with communications law.

Please be advised that if anyone files a groundless lawsuit against me, I will immediately respond with a countersuit for abuse of process and any other applicable torts against the party and his attorney. I also will seek sanctions and costs against the attorney under Rule 11.

Rest assured that I will protect my rights as a journalist and a citizen. I'm hopeful that the actions noted above will not be necessary.

In the meantime, I would suggest that you actually research my articles, and the public documents and press reports upon which they are based, before firing off a threatening letter that is not supported by fact or law.

Sincerely,

Roger Shuler

Want some more irony? Ted Rollins is riled up, and I haven't even started writing in detail about the most serious issues connected to his divorce case. If he's ticked off now, his mood is not likely to improve in the coming weeks.

Below is the letter from Chad W. Essick:


Ted Rollins--Lawsuit Threat

19 comments:

jeffrey spruill said...

The North Carolina law firm of Poyner Spruill is threatening LS with a lawsuit!


I now invite the lawyer for the Va. Pilot- Conrad Shumadine -

http://www.willcoxandsavage.com/paa/attorney_profile.php?id=83

to file a lawsuit against this Spruill on behalf of the useless rag that employs him & David Bouchard Esq..

James said...

http://www.bluenc.com/campus-crest-communities-charlotte-hires-big-guns-silence-blogger-critic%3F

Got your back.

choggs said...

and the judge should order him to pay your legal fees!!! Your the man Roger.

legalschnauzer said...

James:

Thanks so much for your piece at bluenc.com. I've written quite a bit already on the Rollins/Campus Crest story and will be writing much more. Hope it will be of interest to readers in North Carolina, where Campus Crest is based.

Also hope Legal Schnauzer readers will check out your site. It's very well done.

Thanks for letting me know about Poyner Spruill's status in the NC legal community. I could tell from the Web site that it's a pretty big firm. Didn't know it was among the most prestigious law firms in the state.

Best regards,

LS

James said...

Stay strong, and don't let the (expletive deleted) get you down.

NC has a long history of major, well-connected law firms going to work for scumbags. Poynter Spruill has deep pockets and deep allies at all levels of government ... a lot like another firm, Womble Carlyle, which famously represented Eric Prince and Blackwater back in the day.

Ex-Governor Jim Hunt used to be an attorney with Poynter Spruill.

legalschnauzer said...

James:

Thanks again for your insights. I cross posted at Daily Kos, and the story is getting a fair amount of interest there.

In the comments, section, I published a link to your BlueNC post. Hope quite a few Kos readers will make their way there.

legalschnauzer said...

James:

Forgot to include link to Daily Kos piece. Here it is:


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/09/29/1021291/-CEO-Threatens-A-Lawsuit-Against-Progressive-Blogger?via=blog_694217

Robby Scott Hill said...

Tell Mr. Rollins to go ahead & add me to the suit as a party necessary... "All legal means" have already been employed against me courtesy of the State of Alabama itself.

choggs said...

If you research the Hobbs v. Natalie Maines you'll see what can happen if he does sue.

It might expose his flank.

Man I should really get into law or it must be the new meds. lol

http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/fair-report-privilege

Redeye said...

There's an old saying in Alabama, probably in North Carolina too...If you throw a rock at a pen full of hogs the one that squeals is the on that's hit.

Can't say I didn't see this coming LS. Hang in there and God be with you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Well atleast you know your blog is getting read!!!!

legalschnauzer said...

Anon:

Yes, and that is very much appreciated, even from the folks who give me a hard time.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking. Remember the threat on TV "Don't get to close to the family." Well if that family loans this family their hitperson we never will be able to hear the rest of the story Paul Harvey.. so post soon!!!

In a serious tone..I do not see how anyone can come after you for telling the truth. Especially if you have the actual documents that you show on your site to back it up what you post. It is public knowledge. Unless the judge makes it sealed then you can go to the courthouse and get almost anything. Sometimes will you explain how to obtain something using the Freedom of Info act. I need some records and I do not know how to go about doing it. You and Robby are full of piss and vinegar!! You both can get things started and keep it started! I enjoy your posts. Even the sad ones about how you were treated. It never occurred to me how the law works against honest people and protects the evil ones and criminals. It is scary.

Redeye said...

"It never occurred to me how the law works against honest people and protects the evil ones and criminals. It is scary."

LongTimeRez said...

Now that Wall Street used the nuclear option and inadvertently blew itself up, somebody had to pick up the "Big Swinging Dicks" moniker.

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2008/09/the_end_of_the_bsd.html

Anonymous said...

Well done Roger! Keep up the pressure on corporate hacks like Rollins. However, in his defense, the truth hurts. This is especially true when it exposes oneself as a terrible excuse for a human being.

LongTimeRez said...

Oh, and for your reference, we have a millionaire, pointy-headed, Rollins-type twerp (pathetically incompetent owner of the Washington Redskins) who recently withdrew his baseless SLAPP suit against the local counterculture rag.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/16/dan-snyder-city-paper-slapp-aclu_n_966257.html

W Teel said...

This is a bunch of nonsense....
The threat is to shut Legal Schnauzer up.

This means you must be hitting too close to home and you are spot on with your analysis. Public documents rightly prompt public comment. Besides, in order to win a libel case the Plaintiff must prove actual malice and that the statements are untrue. Truth is an absolute defense to libel.

WT

Mack Lyons said...

Rollins figures he can get you to back off by rattling your cage with legal action.

Prove him wrong by standing your ground.