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Charles Carreon Drops Bogus Lawsuit Against The Oatmeal Creator (eff.org)
269 points by kevinpacheco on July 4, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

How is Carreon going to be punished?

It's great that Inman won, but he won not in small part because he's a famous personality that helped gather internet rage--and then the EFF--to his side. But what if he was a nobody? EFF would have very likely told him they were too busy, Carreon would have pressed on, and lots and lots of hard-earned money would have gone down the drain. It makes me so mad that the legal system is so one-sided. Surely Carreon at least must be paying Inman's attorneys' fees!

> How is Carreon going to be punished?

Not, unless Inman decides to sue.

> It's great that Inman won

Inman did not really "win", he did get intimidated in not withdrawing the money (he took a picture of his own money instead) and Carreon filed a "Notice of Voluntary Dismissal" without prejudice (as the court ended up not being involved) so he could always pick it up again later.


> Ars called Carreon to comment and found him declaring the lawsuit a success. "Mission Accomplished," Carreon announced on the phone with Ars.

While this end is certainly favorable for Inman, I'd have preferred if this was decided in court. This way Carreon can pretend that he had to abandon his just campaign under pressure of the savage hordes of the Internet and try again with a softer target than Inman. If he had been thrown out of court with a clear statement, things would look different.

A similar situation occurred in the UK, with a legal firm sending out extortion letters threatening to take people to court for copyright infringement.

A number replied demanding their day in court and, in the same way, the complainant withdrew the case.

However, the judge in the case refused the application and demanded they come to court, so he could enforce judgement, and punish the complainant for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

If i remember correctly, the complainant went bankrupt, dispanding his company, in an attempt to avoid going to trial.

ACS:Law was the firm in question which as you say subsequently disbanded although not before getting a verbal hiding from the judge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACS:Law).

Thanks for the link. I remember the details were about accusing customers of downloading copyrighted pornography, which I was reluctant to search for from my work machine.

It's a similar tactic to the one often employed by banks and insurances in germany. They pretend that they are not liable, and every time someone sues and things start looking bad, they settle out of court to prevent a lost case. Keeps the stats clean.

> This way Carreon can pretend that he had to abandon his just campaign under pressure of the savage hordes of the Internet and try again with a softer target than Inman.

He's actually claiming he won, and essentially that it's thanks to him the money went to the charities and Inman did not take a picture of it.

Also, because he dismissed his own suit he can re-file at will later on.


Mr Carreon has a history of actions that could be considered frivolous, antisocial or abusive. It is unlikely that his character has suddenly changed, so it's quite possible that he will behave in the same way again.

(I've said the same thing elsewhere, but I used more cuss-words)

Well, even worse so.

What is the legal punishment for filing frivolous lawsuit? For every case backed down like Carreon, there must be a lot more people caved to legal backmails.

If you do it enough, you can get disbarred: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vexatious_litigation

It took years for anyone to take responsibility for allowing him to continue to practice and abuse the system, and he was famous for trolling the legal system. That tells me the bar needs some serious reform.

The 'bar' needs competition. It has a monopoly on who is allowed to practice. If there were multiple bars then there would be competitive pressure for them to clean themselves up. The medical associations need this as well. Anywhere there is one accrediting society there should probably be multiple ones. With transparent feedback on how the members of each perform.

It's one of those funny things that people never seem to notice. We believe in competition and a marketplace but look past the obvious monopolies!

If there were multiple bars there would be ones specializing in douchebags. Carrion and his ilk would never face permanent disbarment.

The courts could presumably bar the douchebag bar.

I talked to some folks recently who oppose the requirement that one be bar-certified in order to represent someone in court...i.e., they believe you should be able to bring your friend, who watches a lot of Law and Order or something, to court with you as a representative. The more I think about it, the less crazy it sounds. You can already represent yourself in court; why shouldn't you be able to bring some help that doesn't cost $500/hour? And, it wasn't always that way in the US; the bar association pulled some strings and made it happen (conveniently, most politicians and judges are also lawyers, so they're possibly the most powerful special interest in the country).

I dunno if this is the only way to solve the problem...but, right now, our legal system strongly favors the wealthy (this can be seen in convictions and sentences of rich folks vs. poor folks). Some of the disparity is legislative (i.e. cocaine possession having a vastly shorter sentence than crack), but a lot of it is simply in the difference in quality of representation.

Not to mention that when it comes to lawsuits, only rich people have the money to play at those games. Which may be why the worst polluters always seem to end up in the backyards of poor people. Rich people would sue them out of existence. Poor people have no recourse, unless some ambulance chaser sees an opportunity for a class action suit (where he'll make millions and the people affected will get a few measly bucks). I dunno if removing the bar as an impediment to representing someone in court would solve this problem (probably wouldn't; there are lots of things stacked against poor people in our court system, not just the lack of affordable representation), but it might be a start.

Whew...I didn't know I had such strong feelings on this issue until I started ranting about it. I guess that's how a lot of folks are...never thinking about the bar (or the medical association), or what unintended consequences it might have.

Exactly where would the pressure for a bar-competitor to clean up come from? Assuming their income comes from applicants and membership fees, wouldn't they want to let in as many people as the inevitable regulations allow?

Slow reply so you may never see this. But you raise a very good point. As do the other people who replied.

* If a company misbehaves then people can boycott it and/or protest against it. It can be punished in a way that affects it's competitiveness. Public pressure can't be applied in the same way to an organisation without competition.

* If we had multiple bar associations then hypothetically certain bars would preferentially attract good lawyers and others would attract bad. Good lawyers would transfer from a bad bar to a good bar (Please excuse simplistic use of good/bad). So there would indeed need to be an overreaching feedback mechanism that would punish a 'bad' bar association full of bad but cheap lawyers.

I suppose a simplistic solution could be:

* Enforcing multiple bar associations that are not allowed more than (say) 15% of the total number of lawyers

* A mechanism for banning any of these associations if they don't keep there members in check.

A thought just jumped into my head that the Bar Association and the AMA are essentially organisations that are, 'Too Big to Fail'. If you (The public through your elected reps) can't punish something then you can't control it or force it to enforce standards.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think your reasons make a lot of sense. Potentially, some associations get known as "the good ones" and then they're more competitive than the others.

Ultimately though, it comes down to the laws/regulations. If they leave room for an association that doesn't care about its reputation, the lawyers who would be kicked out of the reputable associations will simply transfer to it and nothing is solved.

And what makes you believe the one monopoly bar association doesn't have the same market pressure to let as many people in as possible? They are also funded through membership dues, and have no public or government oversight.

Nothing. I never asserted as much. I'm disagreeing with the claim that more associations create a pressure to "clean up." I can see no source for that pressure so I'd like to know what the person meant.

Cool. I agree with you. There isn't very strong pressure to play nice in the current system...what pressure there is comes from judges, who often have been practicing lawyers and may be again in the future (or they may be hired by the bar association itself), so they may be inclined to keep the status quo if it is economically beneficial to them. Competition probably wouldn't put any additional pressure on this, though it might, if the higher standards led to some sort of better economic outcome for the membership. But, I don't see how that would necessarily come to pass given the incentives to play dirty.

It depends on the jurisdiction and circumstances. In Federal Court, there are sanctions as a penalty (to deter more frivolous action) and damages (to compensate the other side). See http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_11#rule_11_c

A court may: - Order one side pay for the other side's attorney's fees - Order one side to pay for the court's wasted time - Dismiss the case - Issue a public reprimand

Also, an attorney may violate professional responsibility laws which could have other penalties, such as being disbarred.

California has the US's strongest sactions against SLAPPs (strategic lawsuits against public participation). I'm sure this had something to do with dropping the suit, since it was brought up in Californian court.

I'm quite glad this brouhaha is over - it not only threatened a legitimate fundraiser, but also (should it have gone through) potentially threatened freedom of speech and expression across the web.

Enough is enough, and Carreon saw fit to realize this.

Unfortunately I wouldn't bet on the fact that this is really over. Mr. Carreon sounds, charitably put, like a rather unhinged person with a streak for vendetta.

From the Popehat's excellent coverage of this sordid issue:

"2. Dismissal is, without court intervention, without prejudice, meaning that Mr. Carreon could re-file if he wanted. Will he? Who knows."

The whole post here : http://www.popehat.com/2012/07/03/oatmeal-v-funnyjunk-chapte...

Ahh, interesting. Thanks for posting that link.

I'll go with the whole thing was a well orchestrated multi party facade to pump money into cancer research.

Scandal, controversy, entertainment, and fundraising? All the elements of a juicy story with positive outcomes all around!

But as far as we know, he has not (yet) rescinded his threat to sue the person who started the Satirical Charles website, right?

The fun part for him is that even if he does, the Doe in that case has already filed suit against him. It will be difficult/impossible for him to get out of that one without settling.

I wish they would go to court. I'd love nothing more than than the judge saying when he was issuing his ruling: "By the way, I must add I'm ashamed that I'm working in the same legal system as you, Mr. Carreon. I wish I could disqualify you from doing legal stuff from now on". That would make my day.

This is sad. It would have been much better if it had gone to court, with carreon losing the case, and made to pay the legal fees to Inman, and probably a fine for wasting court's time.

At least, the charities will get the money - for all the drama and time wasted, something good came out of it

Charles Carreon and his wife are almost as bad as Westboro Baptist's Fred Phelps and his cronies. Just doing it because they're too stubborn, ignorant or righteous to see the fallacy of their ways.

People like these only fuel my misanthropy.

A better comparison might be made with Jack Thompson, the lawyer who first appeared on the scene as an upstanding moral crusader against the evils of video game violence, and eventually ended up disbarred for abusive and erratic behavior.

This isn't the last we'll hear of Mr. Carreon, rest assured. He hasn't hit bottom yet.

I honestly believe his wife is mentally ill. Have you read her posts on the forum she runs... that only she and Charles are allowed to post on?

At last sanity prevailed, it will be one of those real comic legends "once upon a time a lawyer tried bullying an artist and the artist fought back with satire"

I'm kind of disappointed this is over, it was actually starting to become entertaining.

I also felt disappointed because I wanted to see Carreon punished for his abuse of the legal system. But it's probably for the best, since it will free up all of these wonderful people who were providing pro bono counsel to keep fighting the good fights.

That would've been great to see cuz he sure deserves the shxtstorm he was dragging himself into. I just can't imagine being so full of myself as to pursue such a worthless suit.

I think items like this are probably not useful or worthwhile as targets for upmodding on HN. We're basically just clicking up-arrow because we like the outcome and see the post here.

We will all hear about this, unless we live under a rock. And for those of us under a rock, it's probably for a good reason.

News items like this and a lack of community discipline to disregard them are how I remember reddit beginning its slide in quality.

The comments this story will attract on HN will not likely add anything to the discussion that's been going on across the Interwebs.

I see you your personal observations of Reddit and raise you my 20 years of online discussions in many different kinds of forums, from usenet to email to a variety of websites.

In that time I've consistently found that people who try to set meta rules are a bigger drag on communities like this than occasional offbeat stories with no strong tie to the community. The remit of this site is supposed to be things of interest to hackers. Clearly a lot of hackers find this story interesting, and are interested to hear the end of it.

Speaking personally, I don't follow a lot of news aggregators at the moment, and so am glad that it appeared here.

HN has clearly defined 'meta rules' that have been casually and sometimes not so casually enforced since its inception.

It seems like we have an equal number of decades of experience, and it also doesn't matter either way. It's irrelevant and a logical fallacy in itself.

So, where's your rules list?

Those rules I happily agree with. I also think that the original article fits within those rules. And, "Sparks conversation that cannot be found elsewhere on the Internet" is not among those rules.

And that is enough navel gazing for me tonight.

I'll just point out that some people rely on the crowd at HN to help them find good and interesting news that gets lost in the crowds. If one does this long enough, one decides not to spend as much time at other sites, finding deep and enjoyable conversation among folks here.

For those folks, it's possible they won't hear much about this story elsewhere, and certainly not the interesting opinions of the HN folks.

The reddit point is appropriate, but still, I'm actually interested in the spin HN folks put on these types of non-startuppy stories.

> The comments this story will attract on HN will not likely add anything to the discussion that's been going on across the Interwebs.

Please share where these magical communities can be found and I'll leave Hacker News. As far as I'm concerned, the HN community as a whole is extremely diverse, intellectual, and inquisitive - something I have yet to find elsewhere. That's why I'm still here. The quality discussions are exactly why I stick around.

The reason I know about this case and its updates is precisely because of HN. You make it sound like this is a mainstream news story. It's not. It belongs here.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb here for thinking it's common and mainstream news for the Internet. It's also been covered multiple times.

If this isn't mainstream, then very few things are. Trending on Twitter, frontpage of reddit, it's had coverage in many newspapers, and so on. I think a weak test of it being 'mainstream' on the Internet, assuming that is the optimal way to determine, has been met.

I respect your opinion and agree with the viewpoint in regards to many other pieces of contet being submitted to HN these days, but not in respect to this.

While there has been an almost farcical air around this whole case, there are important legal matters underlying it. Those matters, relating to freedoms of speech and copyright, are very important to our audience here on HN. I submit the argument that this particular posting is valid based on those terms.

I am happy that there are still those of us who wish to continue the high quality of content and commentary we have grown to expect on HN, so I do salute you for your opinion and shared ethics.

Know what bugs me? Sanctimonious meta-analysis of the content of HN. Guess we all have our bone to pick...

The moment a community loses its sense of humor is the point at which it is little more than someone's hype machine. There has to be something to break the mood every so often or the community will burn itself out! Especially in a high tension environment like the startup world.

In this instance, not covering yet another current event piece like this doesn't constitute a community 'losing its sense of humor'. This story has been here before, and humor has been present since the start of HN. That's not really a concern.

This case, had it gone to trial, would have had very grave repercussions for anyone who makes a living on the Internet. The fact that it is being dropped is (A) good news for the people that like Oatmeal and (B) good news for anyone who tries to make a dime online. Since I would wager the bulk of the people that frequent Hacker News fall into one or both of those camps, I would think that this story would be relevant.

Back in the old days your comment would've been in the top spot here (despite what my profile says, I lurked for far longer so I do remember). Now, as of this writing you're at 3. You are totally right and your position in these comments can only support your view.

I'm guessing he's about to be disbarred again.

Doubtful. This is not really "abuse of the legal system". There are people who have filed thousands of frivolous lawsuits over a period of years, and that is abuse of the legal system. One lawsuit that was dropped a few days later is not abuse.

He will, however, have trouble being taken seriously as a lawyer.

This free publicity was the best thing to ever happen to the Oatmeal.

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