Two of my clients in the pilots litigation flagged an article by conservative Republican activist and attorney Debbie Schlussel reporting that I am funded by the Bin Laden family and using the Brown family as a front for an Islamic radical agenda. Ms. Schlussel previously attracted national attention by writing in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death “1 down, 1.8 billion more to go.” She was also denounced for her statement that CBS reporter Lara Logan deserved to be raped while covering the protests in Egypt — a statement rightfully criticized by David Drumm (which she attributes to me). The article by Ms. Schlussel is clearly defamatory and neither she nor her attorney has responded to inquiries over the last couple days.
The article is entitled “EXCLUSIVE: “Sister Wives” Lawsuit is Front for Islam, Sharia Bigamy; Lawyer Got Big $s From Islamic Terrorists” published on July 13, 2011. In addition to the false headline, the article contains repeated false statements, including but not limited to:
“Make no mistake, Turley–sleazebag lawyer for Islamic terrorists, including Islamic Jihad founder and convicted terrorist, Sami Al-Arian–is filing this one for his Muslim friends and patrons and using these bozos from Utah as his cover for what he’s really seeking here. Reportedly, the Bin Laden family paid for Turley’s failed defense of Al-Arian, just as the Bin Ladens reportedly paid for the Al-Arian kids’ expensive college and grad school educations.”
It is rather hard to locate Ms. Schlussel who lists her address on copies of complaints on her blog as “The Law Office of Debbie Schlussel, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have sent a letter to one address found on a brief and I have tried to contact the lawyer who represented her as a defendant in a prior action, Mr. Andrew Kochanowski of Sommers and Schwartz. It is not known if Sommers and Schwartz or Mr. Kochanowski represents Ms. Schlussel in such matters.
I honestly do not know much about Ms. Schlussel. Her blog describes her as “a lifelong conservative Republican activist.” She solicits contributions and advertisers on her blog, which blog features ads from such groups as The International Federation of Christian and Jews, though the blog is characterized by hyperbolic and often hateful commentary. Ms. Schlussel cites her appearances on shows ranging from Bill O’Reilly to Rush Limbaugh. The blog claims “[h]er online fan club is the Internet’s second largest for a political personality–behind only Ann Coulter.”
The blog further states:
Schlussel, who speaks Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Russian, works closely with several Federal law enforcement agencies, consulting on fighting the domestic War on Terrorism, and has provided them with much useful information. She has gone undercover, infiltrating many Muslim organizations in the Detroit area (the heart of Islamic America), exposing their radical nature and support for terrorism. Schlussel continues to represent a very valuable Muslim confidential informant to several federal government agencies, who has been responsible for putting hundreds with terrorism connections behind bars.
It is not clear how one puts a terrorism “connection” behind bars but presumably that means hundreds of terrorists put in jail with the help of Ms. Schlussel. Given the relatively modest number of terrorism cases each year, that is an extraordinary feat.
It is widely known that I represent both the Brown and Dr. Al-Arian on a pro bono basis. I, of course, have received no money from the Bin Laden family.
For years, I have defended people on these pages accused of hate speech or blasphemy crimes in other countries. For examples, click here and here and here. It is therefore highly ironic to find myself the target of such hateful speech.
Like many civil libertarians, I oppose the criminalization of speech. Ms. Schlussel’s past statements (such the statement concerning the deaths of all Muslims) would likely be viewed as criminal speech in some these countries and I would be the first to defend her right to such opinions, no matter how hateful or vile. However, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Indeed, I have long encouraged for countries like France and England to allow citizens to seek relief in civil lawsuits when hateful statements are false. People will often publish false statements — like attorneys being extensions of terrorist groups — to deter others from considering controversial cases or simply to punish those who take such cases. The result is to not just defame people but degrade the level of discourse in our society.
The question is whether people of good faith should simply walk away from such libelous and malicious statements or whether we have a duty to bring such people to the courts for judgment. A defamation action against Ms. Schlussel may serve the public as a pro bono effort in maintaining the minimal standards of civility and accuracy in public debate. I will be discussing such an action with friends and colleagues.
The article remains posted and Ms. Schlussel has not issued a retraction or an apology, as requested.