Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Bad Idea?

Well, as various comments posted around the Virginia blogosphere will tell you, I am reserving judgment on the merits of the lawsuit filed today by former 50th District House of Delegates candidate Steve Chapman against the blog "Black Velvet Bruce Lee" and its contributor and/or former contributor. Let's start with a few basic facts.

1. The fact is, I don't know all of the facts.

2. The fact is, virtually everyone commenting on the matter does not know all of the facts.

3. The fact is, so many of those commenting on the legal merits of the suit are doing so anonymously/pseudonymously, so it is virtually impossible to judge their credentials to do so. Anonymous/pseudonymous commentary is always immediately suspect, because it is impossible to judge the biases and/or training underlying the commentary.

4. The fact is, most of those commenting anonymously/pseudonymously are doing so with such bile and hatred that it is difficult to imagine that they (like the ever present and bilious AWCheney) are not personally invested in the matter, and hide their identities with good cause (i.e., they have much to hide).

5. The fact is, rantings and commentary about the merits of the suit, the identity of Chapman's attorneys, and possible ethical violations, and possible conflicts of interest in the fact that Chapman once served as a Jury Commissioner are so many nonsensical smears, as most of their authors apparently lack the courage of their convictions to take action upon their assertions, especially those made against Chapman's attorneys. Of course, to do so, they would have to reveal their identities (at least to those accused), and put their reputations on the line. It is little more than cowardice. And while I say this with some reservations, as an attorney who does not charge a fee for his services, legal free advice is frequently worth exactly what you pay for it.

With all that having been said, Chapman's actions may well be ill-advised. The burdens placed upon litigants raising his cause of action are, to the best of my recollection from Constitutional Law (taken in college, law school, and taught once), severe. Politically, his action might be disastrous. 'Fact is, Chapman may have made the assessment that he has nothing to lose, and possibly much to gain. Of course, those are assessments best made by those involved, and those who know all of the facts.

Which, as I have said previously, above and elsewhere, excludes virtually everyone commenting in the blogosphere.

This is a battle best fought out in the courts. Suffice it to say, if Chapman's suit succeeds, there will be plenty of people around the blogosphere who will need to decide upon how they want their crow prepared. If it fails, it will be a sad denouement giving succor to those whose best response to the issues Chapman championed in a nearly-successful run against long-time incumbent Harry Parrish --- a campaign which failed perhaps only because Parrish's campaign advocated the filing of felony charges ultimately dismissed --- is "He's a bad guy!"

Both the cowardly BVBL and Greg Letiecq responded to the lawsuit by saying "Bite me." Serious legal advice (i.e., that rendered by those with a stake in the matter other than their own desire to provoke controversy) would likely counsel a more temperate approach. For it is quite possible that Chapman will do precisely that, and that the bite that he takes will be out of the posteriors of those he is suing.