Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Paul Alan Levy, lawyer who works for Ralph Nader's nonprofit, helps violate my attorney-client confidentiality and proves to be a monumental asshole

Paul Alan Levy
(From rcfp.org)
Less than 24 hours after my release from jail in March 2014, I began to see signs that Birmingham lawyer David Gespass had violated attorney-client confidentiality -- and stabbed me in the back, in the process.

On March 27, 2014, the day after my release the previous evening, I sent an e-mail to Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer with Public Citizen, a D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Ralph Nader, with the stated purpose of helping regular citizens fight injustice brought by the wealthy and the powerful. It took only a few minutes for Levy to prove to me that he didn't stand for anything upon which Nader had built the organization. Here was my introductory e-mail to Levy, which I thought was lucid and well stated for someone who had just spent five months unlawfully incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail:

Mr. Levy:

I am a journalist/blogger in Alabama, and I was released from jail yesterday after being incarcerated for five months because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. It's all very similar to Dietz v. Perez, and I thought it might be of interest to you. I need legal representation and wanted to see if we could talk. My case has been widely covered in the NY Times, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post and many other news outlets, and even right-wing commenters seem to acknowledge that the injunction without a trial (in fact, without any discovery at all) is wildly unconstitutional.

I would appreciate any insights or guidance you can offer.

Best regards,

Roger Shuler

I thought I showed Levy plenty of respect. Did he return the favor? Not exactly, although he did take only 21 minutes to respond:

From what you say, you must be the guy who was enjoined and simply refused to comply with the injunction, and, from what I have heard from others, you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice. Not a very attractive client for pro bono work!

In any event, we don’t handle defamation cases on the merits at the trial court level, so perhaps it depends what representation you are seeking.

As I noted in our previous post in this series, Levy came across as one of the biggest assholes I've ever encountered. You can see how I reached that conclusion. His "I have heard from others you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice" was particularly interesting. He seemed to be referring to legal advice, and the only person who had given me legal advice regarding my incarceration was David Gespass.

Levy was not done being an ass. Here is how our conversation continued, with a response from me:

Thanks for your response. I don't think some of your assertions are correct, but I appreciate you getting back with me.

I decided I probably was showing Levy way more respect than he deserved, so I followed up:


A few thoughts come to mind that might be worth making:

* My wife and I never were served with the temporary restraining order, and a lawyer who has seen the file indicated to me the record shows that. It's hard for me to know because the record was sealed until well after my arrest.

* We received notice of the preliminary injunction hearing barely 24 hours before it was to be held. That is insufficient notice under Alabama law, which contemplates notice that allows for calling of witnesses, introduction of evidence, etc.

* I challenged service, which seemed to be the first order of business considering that we received papers during a dubious traffic stop. I was arrested before receiving an order on the motion to quash and before having an opportunity to address the preliminary injunction.

* I assume you are referring to advice I received while in jail, just a few days after being arrested, beaten, and maced in my own home. I hope you can appreciate that meeting with an attorney under such circumstances is difficult. It also was difficult for the attorney. The file was sealed, so he had virtually nothing to review and had to go to the other side to get court papers. Everyone who has seriously looked at the case, from all political sides, seems to agree that the preliminary injunction is unconstitutional, so I was having to seek advice while unlawfully incarcerated. Imagine if Ms. Perez had been hauled into jail, and you'd had to meet with her under those circumstances. It probably would have complicated things for both of you. In my case, I think it's more a matter of being traumatized than being pigheaded.

* Finally, all the evidence I've seen indicates I was arrested on an unsigned warrant. It appears such a warrant is "utterly void" under Alabama law. From Kelley v. State, 316 So. 2d 233 (1975):

Often rules relating to arrest warrants parallel those applying to searches and vice versa. Significantly unsigned arrest warrants have been held void. Oates v. Bullock, 136 Ala. 537, 33 So. 835 (warrant utterly void).

Again, I shouldn't have been having to discuss complex, constitutional issues with a lawyer while incarcerated. It makes for a very uneven playing field. Hope you will find these thoughts worth considering.

Best regards, 

How did Levy respond to that? With absolute silence. You will notice, however, that he did not deny he was referring to legal advice I received in jail, which could only have come from David Gespass. Levy appeared to be acknowledging that my right to client-confidentiality had been violated.

That was the end of that exchange, but Paul Alan Levy and I were not finished with each other. I had occasion to communicate with him one other time -- and he proved to be as big an asshole the second time as he was the first time.

(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

Ralph Nader hires assholes? Who knew?

Anonymous said...

Attorney-client confidentiality seems like a real simple concept. Why can't these clowns follow it?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like Mr. Levy doesn't care all that much about constitutional rights. He knew you had been wrongfully imprisoned, and his response was to call you "pigheaded"? Sheesh!

Anonymous said...

May Mr. Levy come to know the joy of being beaten up and kidnapped from his own home. That might change his perspective.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I see: Gespass was butt-hurt because you didn't just go along with whatever scam he was selling (protecting Rob Riley) when he visited you in jail. So he goes whining about it, and trashing you, to guy at Ralph Nader's org. Most second graders I know aren't that childish.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone take our constitution seriously? We know Repugs don't. Looks like these so-called libs don't either. No wonder our country is a wreck.

Anonymous said...

This is the first comment on this page that is not actually from Roger Shuler, pretending to be an anonymous supporter.

legalschnauzer said...

You're wrong, but then, you obviously have nothing substantive to say about the issues raised in the post. You probably have nothing substantive to say about any issues. I guess when you have no brain-wave activity, the result is comments like yours.

Anonymous said...

Hey, @8:39 -- Just out of curiosity, I'd like to hear your take on issues raised in the post, such as:

(1) Did Gespass and Levy combine to violate attorney-client confidentiality? Does that issue concern you?

(2) Is Levy a thoughtless asshole? He received an email from someone he knew was unlawfully incarcerated for five months, and his response essentially was to blame the victim, to call him pigheaded. Does that kind of response to a victim of law-enforcement abuse you concern you?

(3) Does Levy's response represent what Ralph Nader has come to stand for?