Friday, September 12, 2008

Nut Cases

The USCF has been plagued by lawsuits lately. Most members don’t know or care much about it. Unfortunately, that means what information the members do receive tends to be biased and inaccurate. Discussing the matter is distasteful, but hiding it is not going to help matters.

There have been four lawsuits filed since last October, maybe five if you stretch a point. To take them in order:

1) In October 2007 Sam Sloan, a former USCF EB member and contumacious Internet troll, sued the USCF, the Board members individually, and a laundry list of people who had said mean things about him. He demanded $20,000,000 in damages and a re-run of the 2007 USCF election, with his enemies disqualified from running. His theory, to the extent one could follow his tendentious ramblings, seems to have been that a series of scurrilous Usenet posts by a “Fake Sam Sloan” had been made by Paul Truong, that their purpose was to keep Sloan from being re-elected in 2007, and that Bill Goichberg and the USCF had known about this and failed to stop it. Problems: Sloan’s accusation against Truong was one of dozens of charges he made, almost all false; Sloan finished a distant ninth out of ten in the election and never had any serious chance of winning; and, given the 1st Amendment, there was nothing the USCF could have done about the FSS posts if it had wanted to. The case was dismissed by Judge Denny Chin on August 28 (full text here). Dismissal was on procedural grounds – the case never belonged in Federal court in the first place – but while he did not reach the “merits” (using the term loosely) of Sloan’s claims, his comments (“(T)he complaint largely interweaves purported 'facts' with Sloan’s own subjective rantings and commentary and commentary about their alleged shortcomings. For the most part, these are simply personal, vindictive, and nonsensical attacks that do not belong in a pleading filed in a judicial proceeding.“) do not inspire confidence in Sloan’s prospects in state court.

2) A few months later, one Gordon Roy Parker, who operates a web page on how to seduce women under the name of Ray Gordon, filed another lawsuit. He had a slightly different theory: that Truong, Goichberg, Sloan, and the rest of the USCF had conspired to make those fake Usenet posts in order to defame Parker. Exactly why anyone would bother is hard to fathom, and was not explained in his prolix pleading. Parker, who hasn’t been a USCF member since 1996, is chiefly noted as a "serial and vexatious litigant." (He lost one case, against the University of Pennsylvania for not offering a clerk’s job, when he refused to show up for a court-ordered psych test.) This case too was dismissed, and although it was “without prejudice” – the judge wrote that “We grant Plaintiff leave to re-file his Complaint if he is able to cure the deficiencies“ – he wrote in addition “We also caution Plaintiff to review Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f) allowing a court to strike material from a pleading which is 'redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous.' A review of Plaintiff’s Complaint shows that he has alleged immaterial facts which are both scandalous and redundant in contravention of Rule 12(f)." Parker may pop out of his hole again, but he’s a nuisance, not a threat.

3) The next one was filed by the USCF, against “John Does 1-10.” In July, excerpts from e-mail correspondence among EB members, and between EB members and their attorney, Karl Kronenberger, began to appear on the Internet, notably on Susan Polgar’s chessdiscussion forum. Polgar used them as examples of how everyone was plotting against poor Paul. Since the only way the e-mails could have been obtained was through illegal access to EB members’ accounts (a Federal crime which can carry serious jail time), the USCF got nasty about it. Polgar and Truong have denied responsibility for the hacking, but have not offered a satisfactory explanation as to where they obtained the material (“We saw it somewhere on the Internet” won’t fly.) The USCF has not accused Polgar or Truong specifically, but is seeking to depose them, which would require them to testify under oath. Unlike the others, this suit actually has merit. Not coincidentally, was drafted and filed by a real attorney.

4) In response to “3,” Susan Polgar filed suit against the USCF, Sloan, the Board members other than herself and her husband, the USCF’s attorney, and another laundry list of enemies, demanding $25,000,000. (Probably wanted to keep ahead of the Sloans.) Her pleading alleged various torts, but no specific actions, and included a long and rather whiny complaint that those mean Americans had all been against her because she was a woman and a foreigner. Suing the organization of which she is an officer was probably not a good PR move. Naming attorney Karl Kronenberger as a defendant was not a good move, period. The case has been removed to Federal court, and is currently pending. (Text is here, as an appendix to the motion to remove.)

5) Sloan has filed a response to #4. It’s as rambling and prolix as most of his output. He apparently wants to file a cross-claim, for another $20,000,000, though his legal theory escapes me. Perhaps it’s buried in the verbiage. I doubt this is going anywhere, but I include it for completeness.

The law is supposed to be a shield. Every time someone files a frivolous or abusive lawsuit, respect for the law declines, and we’re all a bit less safe.

Update 9-23: Sloan is apparently attempting to appeal the dismissal of #1. His filing is (surprise!) tendentious drivel. He asserts that Bill Goichberg's house in New York does not exist (the people who have been there will be surprised), and that a federal criminal statute creates a private right of action (the judge will be surprised). The people who voted for this doofus in 2006 should be ashamed of themselves.

Update 9-27: The USCF's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss #4 on grounds of failure to state a cause for which relief may be granted, or, alternatively, to require a more definite statement of pleading.

Update 10-17: Polgar's attorney has filed a response to the motion to dismiss. The legal arguments are for the judge to decide. But merely filing such a lawsuit makes it extremely unlikely that I would vote for Polgar, Truong, or anyone they endorsed in any future election. Not that I have a lot of use for their opponents, either. "None of the above" is looking better and better.

Update 10-24: More news on Number 3, as Kronenberger Burgoyne filed an amended complaint naming two of the John Does.

Update 12/21/08: Gregory Alexander (one of the named "John Does") has filed a somewhat rambling motion to dismiss. I'm not going to comment on his legal arguments, but it's worth noting that his assertion "... the identical allegations are already being litigated in a lawsuit which was filed in state court in Lubbock, Texas" is simply false. Polgar's lawsuit has absolutely nothing to do with the charges of e-mail hacking against Alexander and Polgar, except perhaps in the area of motive.

Update 1/14/09: Litigious crank Gordon Roy Parker re-filed #2, and nearly all of it has now been dismissed "with predjudice" (meaning he can't waste any more of the court's time). The only part the judge allowed was a libel claim against Truong and Polgar for two specific statements. So, if Parker can demonstarte that Polgar and Truong have sufficient "connections" in Pennsylvania to be subject to its courts, and if he can prove that Truong and/or Polgar were responsible for the two Usenet posts, and if he can convince a jury that the statements would be taken by a rational observer as fact (rather than satire, opinion, or hyperbole in context), and, oh yes, if he manages to serve the defendants properly, he might have a case. Tort reform, anyone? At least it won't be the USCF's money being wasted.

1 comment:

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for this fascinating summary. I had no idea everyone was so nuts. I thought it was restricted to Sloan. Wow!!!