A closer look at the Kelly/Warner case
Two attorneys are facing a complaint filed by the Arizona Bar Association for allegedly filing bogus defamation lawsuits. Aaron Kelly and Daniel Warner of Kelly/Warner Law deny the allegations.
According to TechDirt, Richart Ruddie, proprietor of Profile Defenders, a reputation management firm, filed several lawsuits in multiple states fraudulently seeking court orders for URL delistings. The lawsuits featured fake plaintiffs, fake defendants, and fake admissions of guilt from the fake defendants. Some judges issued judgments without a second thought. Others had second thoughts but they were identical to their first one. And some found enough evidence of fraud to pass everything on to the US Attorney’s office.
Ruddie allegedly hired Kelly and Warner to assist with the ULR delistings.
The Arizona bar alleges that the respondents engaged in “the filing of fraudulent and/or frivolous lawsuits aimed at removing online criticism of the firm’s clients.”
The complaint further states that there were two procedural schemes. The first involved the client identifying online criticism, such as negative reviews for services or allegations that the client was engaged in a scam, and hired Respondents to remove the criticism from the Internet. Next, a defamation suit would be filed on behalf of the client alleging the criticism was false and defamatory.
“Rather than attempting to prove the online criticism is defamatory, Respondents fabricate, or allow their clients to fabricate, an admission from the purported defendant that the online criticism is false.
“The plaintiffs/clients then produce a fraudulent stipulation for permanent injunction signed by the purported defendant. The stipulation for injunction states the plaintiffs/clients and purported defendant(s) agree that the online criticism is false and constitutes defamation.”
The court is then asked to enter an order requiring removal of the online criticism and/or to de-index the criticism. Website where the criticism is posted, such as Ripoff Report are served with the injunction.
The second scheme involves hiring the Respondents, who then locate the originator of the post and name the originator as the defendant. Respondents obtain an admission that the content is false from the defendant, even if the content is true. The Respondents then seek an injunction, citing that all parties agree the content is false and constitutes defamation.
The Arizona Bar alleges that the Respondents filed false and/or frivolous lawsuits to achieve the desired outcome.
Kelly/Warner responds to allegations
In related alerts, Kelly / Warner has discussed its concerns associated with individuals fraudulently obtaining court orders to remove information from the internet, as well as the exploitation of this concern by the firm’s detractors. These detractors, who include Richard “Rich” Gorman and Charles “Chuck” Rodrick, have gone to great lengths to put pressure on the State Bar of Arizona to pursue an investigation of Kelly Warner Law. These individuals have filed multiple bar complaints, published countless “media” articles about the firm (i.e. fake news), and sent numerous emails to the bar. See Rodrick’s Motion for Reconsideration, Ex A (Maricopa County Sup Ct. CV2016-05228). One of these individuals has even gone so far as to accuse the State Bar of Arizona of conspiring with Kelly / Warner. See http://www.barcomplaint.com/article-of-interest-copypaste-ok/arizona-state-bar-how-the-sham-really-works/
As anyone can see from doing a quick search of the internet, it appears these individuals are using the pending bar investigation as fodder for their smear campaign against the firm.
For reasons that remain uncertain, the State Bar of Arizona has decided to continue its investigation by filing a formal bar complaint against Aaron Kelly, Daniel Warner and Raees Mohamed.
Some might say….WOW…and jump to conclusions. However, Kelly Warner Law is pleased to have an opportunity to demonstrate publicly that no one at the firm has engaged in any wrongdoing.
Internet defamation attorneys cannot and will not be held to a higher standard of care than normal attorneys. After a quick reading of the ethical rules, the comments thereto, and a case filed by the Texas Attorney General against a reputation management company, it should be evident to any reasonable person that the old saying, “where there is smoke, there is fire” is not necessarily true in the digital age today.
“An advocate is responsible for pleadings and other documents prepared for litigation, but is usually not required to have personal knowledge of matters asserted therein, for litigation documents ordinarily present assertions by the client, or by someone on the client’s behalf, and not assertions by the lawyer.” ER 3.3 cmt 3 (emphasis added).
“The prohibition against offering false evidence only applies if the lawyer knows that the evidence is false. [And] [a] lawyer’s reasonable belief that evidence is false does not preclude its presentation to the trier of fact.” See ER 3.3 cmt 8. “[A] lawyer shouldresolve doubts about the veracity of testimony or other evidence in favor of the client . . . .” Id. Although the firm practices far within and from “the line,” the comments to the ethical rules indicate that “the line” extends rather far.
The Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Solvera Group, Inc., a reputation management company, for engaging in a scheme to fraudulently remove information from the internet. In the complaint, the Texas Attorney General identified both the consumers and the attorneys as being victims who were misled by the reputation management company. See Complaint, ¶ 17.
We, at Kelly Warner Law, intend to vigorously defend against all allegations of wrongdoing.
And to all of our loyal clients, we thank you for your support and encouragement; please know that we will never stop fighting for you and defamation victims like you.
If you are contacted by alleged “reporters,” please let us know, by emailing us at [email protected].
How the scheme was uncovered
The scheme was first reported by Eugene Volohk, who publishes Reason. “Back in Fall 2016, Paul Alan Levy and I wrote about one such scheme that we had uncovered (thanks to a tip from one of the scheme’s targets, Matthew Chan). The operation was run by one Richart Ruddie, of a company that had various names, including Profile Defenders,” Volohk, who also write for the Washington Times, wrote on his blog. “Ruddie apparently arranged the filing of some such fake-defendant lawsuits; we linked him to several, though I found a total of about 25 lawsuits in various courts that had very similar boilerplate, and 15 of them gave addresses for the defendants — addresses that didn’t seem to correspond to any such defendant, at least based on the public record searches that we ran (with the invaluable help of Giles Miller, a private investigator at Lynx Insights & Investigations). But all these lawsuits were ostensibly filed by the plaintiffs without a lawyer. (I say “ostensibly” because it’s possible that the reputation management company filed some of the lawsuits without telling the plaintiffs, and the plaintiffs weren’t even aware that the lawsuits were going to be filed — much less that they were fraudulent — but were relying on the seemingly reputable reputation management company to just “do something” behind the scenes. The Arizona lawsuits, though, were filed by lawyers Aaron Kelly and Daniel Warner of Kelly / Warner Law, a prominent Internet libel law firm.” Levy is an attorney with Public Citizen.
Gorman, who is cited in Kelly/Warner’s response, runs the USA Herald news website.
There has been no word as to what the next step will be.