It should come as no surprise to readers of this Blawg that I cruise the internets, looking into and through the tubes of various jurisdictions (in Bad Lawyer speak) to bring you the stories that I resonate with me and if I'm lucky, you. So let me tell you about Derryn Hinch, an Australian radio personality, investigative reporter and and author. He 's also a jail bird (like moi)--in his case because he defies court orders by intentionally broadcasting the names of child molesters.
The Derryn Hinch matter takes me back to the case of Linda Boyd (<--fakename, real person) Linda was one of the most striking people I ever met. The daughter of a a wealthy scrap metal dealer, Linda alleged that her brother Vito and her Uncle Giancarlo sexually abused her from the time she was a child and into her adult years. Linda's parents knew about the abuse and were unsympathetic. Linda had read about a case that I tried in a small town west of Our Town that resulted in a $5.5 million verdict for a victim of child sex abuse.
At the time Linda contacted me I was co-counseling matters with a very smart lawyer who had recently departed a "big defense firm." Our approach to Linda's case was to send out a draft lawsuit and impose a deadline by which the matter would be filed unless otherwise resolved by settlement. The proposed lawsuit included claims against Linda's wealthy parents for negligently failing to protect her from her predator brother and uncle. Linda's parents hired a local attorney associated with the Scrap Metal business who I acknowledge to be one of the really brilliant guys in town. Rocky Gee was a former public defender who made into the top ranks of Big Firm litigation.
Rocky called and proposed a meeting to discuss "negotiating Linda's claims." We agreed believing we held all the cards; at our face-to-face Rocky asked us to make a "demand" which is customary in negotiations. We did. He informed us he would run our demand by his clients and get back to us. Would we consider filing the lawsuit "under seal?" No, of course we wouldn't. Rocky wanted to know our drop dead date, which we provided, 4pm the next Monday a work week.
That Friday, Rocky filed a preemptive lawsuit, and obtained a court order from Judge Irishname ordering Linda Boyd not to file any lawsuit in state or federal court unless she did it "under seal." Within days, Judge Irsihname was nominated to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. The local alternative newspaper published an article about this mystery lawsuit with the header "Silent Lawsuits" questioning how a Judge has the power to "seal" a lawsuit, Judge Irishname went wild. He ordered the attorneys into his courtroom for the sole purpose of imposing a strict gag order on the civil case. Next, Linda Boyd was featured on the front page of Our Town's big daily paper as the founder of an organization helping incest victims. The reporter asked Linda about a lawsuit she had "against her father, brother, and uncle"--"I can't talk about that," she said, "Judge Irishname has gagged me." You can probably guess, at Judge Irishname's reaction, let me just say, I've seen apoplexy firsthand. Clearly, Judge Irishname was justly concerned that his flagrant violation of the first amendment was going to haunt him during his confirmation hearings. In reality he really need not have been concerned, as you will recall President George H.W. Bush was not reelected and Judge Irishnames' appointment lapsed before he could be confirmed.
There is an expression lawyers use to describe claims like Linda's--career case. Having a career case is not a good thing, it is a curse. I have greatly digested the procedural fact of Linda's case, partly because Bleak House and the fictional case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce more eloquently illustrates the nightmare of a "career case," and partly because I'm trying to repress the memories of it all.
After much warfare, Linda settled her claims and moved away. All of her male relatives including her brother (prematurely), died. Judge Irishname is a longtime Assoicate Justice of Our State Supremes where as we discussed a disciplinary action against me is pending.
More on Derryn Hinch: