Monday, July 1, 2013

Bullies, big and small

I hate bullies. I suspect that not many people like bullies, but I really despise them. In my day job as a lawyer, I run across bullies, big and small. The worst bully is one who believes he has the right to dominate another. Whether this right is conferred by law or his perception of superiority doesn't matter.

In June, 2013, a good friend Jake Freivald received a cease and desist letter from the West Orange Township, NJ. I won't dwell too long on the details since the story went viral, but I'll give you the Cliff Notes version. Jake had run for mayor. He lost. Shortly after he received a letter from the city attorney, Richard D. Trenk, who demanded Jake cease and desist his use of the website, In addition to demanding that Jake cease using the site, Trenk also demanded that Jake turn it over to the Township. Jake hired an attorney, Stephen B. Klappit, with an acerbic wit. The resulting response letter went viral.

The legal community is a small one. Trial lawyers in Virginia had copies of Klappit's letters within hours. In my opinion, one of the reasons the letter went viral (aside from its fabulous writing) was the air of David not only taking on Goliath but making him look like a fool.

According to Above the Law, a blog that comments on the law and law firms, Mr. Trenk's name is becoming synonymous with messing up big time or having a "lackadaisical attitude toward the law, with catastrophic results for the client." Quoting Jake Freivald on Above the Law's site. This is every lawyer's fear. Tremk, who was no doubt following the orders of the town's mayor, is likely to lose his job over the incident. Certainly his reputation won't recover any time soon.

The funny thing about bullies is that when someone finally stands up to a bully, the results can be disastrous. .. for the bully. 

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