I previously posted a critical account of the lawsuit filed against former President Jimmy Carter by David Schoen of Montgomery, Alabama and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Ramat Gan, Israel. I view the filing as not just meritless but a direct threat to free speech in the misuse of common law and consumer protection laws. This morning, I received an email from David Schoen and I felt (with his approval) he has a right to be heard in full on the issue.
Here is David Schoen’s response:
I read your blog on the Carter case and you make your view of the case quite clear. Naturally, I disagree completely and don’t think it implicates free speech rights at all (or I wouldn’t have brought it); but I have no doubt we would never agree on that. Expecting that some would misunderstand it as putting the right to speak at issue, I went to the extraordinary step in the Complaint of expressly writing in the Introduction that the case was not intended in any way to challenge Carter’s right to say or write anything he likes, true or not on this subject or any other; rather it is a consumer action seeking compensation for those who spent their money in reliance on the further representations that all in the book relfects a completely accurate account of historic events – which Carter’s closest associates and colleagues, Middle East experts who in many case were there for the events depicted, say simply is false. leading them to publicly condemn him and disassociate themselves fully from him and his book. I don’t suggest for a moment that this will or should change your view of the case. I just would have liked to have seen that reflected in your blog – just as I would have liked to have seen the precedent an action of this nature reflected somewhere in your call for sanctions. I would have thought you would consider the same at least relevant to that discussion.
I wonder though, what it is that makes a guy in your position feel the need or believe it to be appropriate to engage in personal attacks toward me. (This one happens to me toward me; but I suppose my question, if rhetorical, goes beyond me). I don’t know exactly what you mean when you refer to my “wage array” of volunteer projects or something like that (and maybe “wage” is simply a typo); but I would think that maybe my background ought to have least given pause to lead you to perhaps contact me to see what motivated me or what the thinking is behind the case before writing such biting personal attacks. I don’t think you would have changed your view of the case; but it seems to me it would have been a decent thing to do before engaging in the personal attacks.
I think I have some sense of the First Amendment and its great value. In cases with First Amendment implications, I have represented folks as diverse as the Imperial Wizard of the KKK in Mississippi in a very difficult and emotionally challenging challenge to a march permit and anti-masking law (I am an Orthodox Jew and this man hates Jews most), to a Jehovah’s Witness sued by a hospital and doctor, on what they believed to be her deathbed, to try to force her to take a blood transfusion (winning the case, notwithstanding my own strongly held personal and religious views), to a Muslim inmate in Alabama locked in solitary confinement for a year and a half simply because he led a group discussion on the propriety of reparations for African-Americans as a result of the enslavement of their ancestors (leading to the appointment of the first Muslim cleric ever in the Alabama prison system), to university students challenging public officials’ public prayer to begin football games (representing the student who was beaten up for his protest and then charged criminally and a group of students suing over the practice, leading to more death threats than in any other case I have handled), and I could go on considerably further. With respect to other civil rights (public interest) cases, in giving me the award you blithely refer to, the American Bar Association wrote and announced that in researching the award, they determined that I have done more through my civil rights litigation to change the face of public institutions in the South, including prisons, jails, voting rights, public schools, child welfare, systems, etc,, than any lawyer of my generation. Two months ago, I successfully represented indigent and homeless sex offenders in Alabama in their constitutional challenge to the State’s Community Notification Act which, in effect, subjected them to a life sentence for their inability to comply. The point here is not to blow my own horn or to try to persuade you that you should feel differently about the Carter case. Rather it struck me that the title of your position, which I would think/hope reflects your life’s interests – holding an endowed Chair in “Public Interest Law” at least might have made you consider, even as nothing other than a courtesy, contacting me first to see if I am deserving of the personal attack, going well beyond the case. Assuming you have a genuine interest in public interest law, as I of course assume you do, after seeing on my website the kinds of public interest matters to which I have devoted my time, it really doesn’t strike you as the decent thing to do to perhaps reach out to me – maybe not before attacking the lawsuit, but before attacking me?
It is all your prerogative, of course, and you have exercised it as you deem appropriate. I find it disappointing, and maybe especially so, since you are a respected professor at my undergraduate alma mater and a person students undoubtedly identify as something of an authority on public interest law and lawyers. I guess we just have very different views on such matters.