About social networking
In its third motion for protective order my least favorite tourism company asks the court yet again to stop the plaintiff from filing motions in the public court file. Instead they want a special rule that requires us to give them five days notice before we can file a document so they can bring a motion asking the court to seal it or block us. Kind of like an early warning anti-missile system. We must tell them before we launch then they try to shoot us down before the paperwork can hit the courthouse file.
To justify this procedure, the defense attacks me yet again. According to them I’m: a) self-serving; b)misrepresenting the facts; c) garnering media attention; d) circumventing an existing court order.
I know I know. You’re probably getting tired of reading about defense lawyers picking on me over and over again in the blog. Trust me so am I.
But this time in its motion the company also attacks the media. They charge: ” The media stories are contaminating the potential jury pool with false narratives.”
This is bothersome. It is an echo of the “fake media” mantra that has been recently taken up around the country.
I believe we all need to stand up for our right to engage in free speech and talk to the media if they are interested enough to ask.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
U.S. Constitution Amendment I.
Photo: Nala on her 9th birthday.
Attachment: Declaration of Karen Koehler in Support of Free Speech and the Press: Koehler Decl. First Amendment
I have a job that is part of my soul. This means I fight for my clients with every ounce of my being. Sometimes people (typically those I sue) don’t like that.
The owner of Ride the Ducks Seattle is Brian Tracey. He has been investigating me by reading my Twitter feed, watching tv and reading the news. After completing his studies he filed a declaration to support a motion to prevent dissemination of discovery materials in the 20 cases we have filed against his business for the death and injury of victims of the Ride the Duck Aurora Bridge crash.
Mr. Tracey says that my Twitter feed is: “intentionally inflammatory, inaccurate and to my mind designed to mislead the public about the facts of her case. I also believe these inaccurate posts are part of a broader campaign to manipulate the media to publish stories that amplify these inaccuracies while helping market her law firm’s practice.”
He accuses me of “publishing falsehoods,” engaging in a “campaign to discredit RTDS’ safety worthiness,” casting RTDS in a negative light” by claiming the defense was “citing a federal law that was discriminatory and harbored anti-Asian sentiments.”
To top it off he cites to John Henry Browne’s defamation lawsuit against me on behalf of Tracy Nessl making the insinuation that I must be a habitual defamer.
You can read his entire declaration below.
I was pretty ticked off when I read his accusations. I hurt my knee a month ago and can’t run off steam. So I wrote an opus that went on for about 15 pages. Then slept on it and cut it in half. Ultimately I decided not to defend myself. Instead I pointed out the real reason why the case has been in the news and listed the headlines:
- When the fifth victim died
- When the NTSB preliminarily reported that the left axle housing (on Duck 6) had likely failed.
- When the NTSB preliminarily reported that a recommended fix to the left axle housing had not been performed.
- When the WUTC suspending the RTD operation
- When Brian Tracey testified in front of the WUTC
- When the WUTC announced 463 public safety violations
- When the WUTC fined RTD $222,000 for the violations
- When the WUTC fine was rejected by its three member panel and increased to $308,000
- When the Mayor opposed RTD resuming operations until its unsatisfactory safety rating was resolved
- When a new route was agreed to by the City of Seattle over the Fremont and Ballard Bridges
- When after the suspension RTD began limited operations of its modern duck fleet. “We’re thrilled” said Brian Tracey
- When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne March 31, 2016
- When another duck ran into a car in lower Queen Anne April 5, 2016
- When another duck ran into a car in downtown Seattle June 23, 2016
The Court heard the motion. Judge Shaffer granted the protective order that all photos, documents or other materials collecting in discovery including discovery inspections are to be used for litigation purposes only (and not disseminated to the media). And she added in this language: Nothing about this order limits counsel from, within the constraints of Rule of Professional Conduct 3.6, communicating with the media or from making social media posts or sharing information in public records.
Photo: This is the nefarious tweeted photo of Andrew at the Duck Inspection that resulted in Ride the Duck’s protective order motion
Shellie and I walk into the Triple Door on 3rd and Union. Late as usual.
Hi. Hi. Hug. How are you. Hand shake. Hi. Everyone is smiling. Am here to support Ada Ko Wong who is president Elect of VABAW (Vietnamese-American Bar Assn of WA) on its 10th year anniversary.
We figure out where our table is.
And then it’s time to start.
We sit and are joined by Tam Nguyen. We don’t know him yet. He is going to be the star of our evening.
Normally bar association dinners are… Well, they are exactly like you would imagine them to be. The food is bad. Talking heads reign supreme at the podium. And everyone politely claps even as they yawn .
This is not your typical bar dinner.
The presenters are in traditional Vietnamese garb instead of business suits. Ada is in a mint green flowing gown.
A law student speaks about her VABAW scholarship that placed her in a clerkship in Ho Chi Minh (fka Saigon – but still considered to be Saigon by many – including Tam). All followed by a fashion show of clothing primarily made of scarves. I like the horse head one the best.
We clap in delight. Occasionally lean over each other’s quickly emptying plates to whisper how fun this all is. But the best part of our evening is our table mate Tam.
Tam is not a lawyer. He and his family own the Tamarind Tree restaurant in “Little Saigon” as well as Long Provincial down on 2nd & Stewart. Up until a year ago, Tam also was a pharmacist. Shellie and I ooh and ahh. We love the Tamarind Tree. Particularly sitting outside in the summer. Shellie says – I’ll take a vegetarian pancake. My mouth waters.
Tam tells us that he goes to Vietnam once a year. About 13 years ago, he went to his former neighborhood. There sitting on a stoop was his best friend from grade school. Drinking rice wine. Unemployed like so many. Ill. His family’s assets confiscated by the communist government. His friend had two young girls. They were unable to go to school. Only those who had money could send their kids to school.
On his way home Tam worried over the plight of his old friend. Then had an epiphany. He conceived of a charitable organization. Enlisted the help of his best friend, an engineer. They applied for 501c3. Obtained charitable status after more than a year of hassle (the IRS wanted to know where the money would come from, how would it get delivered, and other details for over a year). The Vietnamese children’s scholarship fund was born. Each year elders or Buddhist monks in the various provinces are asked to identify children in need. Then the charity pays for them to go to school
How many children have you helped over the years, I ask.
Thousands he grins widely.
We are absolutely riveted by Tam’s stories (“I was a boat person”), experiences, and humanity. We are all beaming.
We take down Tam’s email address. It is long. Are you on facebook, I ask.
No, Tam shakes his head. Who has time for that.
So I struggle to thumb type his address into my phone.
Shellie and I need to leave before the fashion show ends.
That was totally worth it wasn’t it, I say, as we head to the parking garage.
Totally she nods.
We drive a mile south to go watch a friend perform at the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square. Are joined by one of her associates and another friend Bob. Laugh. Bob walks us back to our car. Which is a good thing. Because a few feet into our journey, we have to side step two drunks yelling and swinging fists at each other over twenty bucks.
Photo: Shellie and Tam Nguyen
Steve Gursten: I’d like you to consider joining the TAOS group.
K3: What kind of a group is it.
SG: Plaintiff lawyers who have become friends and share advice.
K3: Steve thanks for asking. Honestly, I belong to enough groups.
SG: This is unlike any group you belong to. We are small but geographically diverse. This is a real personal group where we are friends.
K3: That’s really nice of you Steve, but due to my schedule I’m not sure if I have time.
A couple months pass.
Diane Gober: Hi Karen – Steve and I would like to invite you to attend the TAOS meeting in Sonoma this fall.
K3: Hi Diane and Steve – Um…That is so sweet of you. But.. I don’t drink wine.
DG/SG: No problem there is so much else to do there. You will love this group. It is wonderful. We have such great times together.
K3: Can you share the list with me.
DG/SG: Sure here it is.
K3: (Impressed). I know a lot of people on your list. What a great group. I’m not sure about Sonoma. It looks like everyone is a couple, I don’t drink wine or play golf, or spa, and am a vegetarian. Maybe I should wait for the next meeting.
DG: Oh of course you’ll fit in. Not everyone is a couple. You can sightsee and go on hikes. I always order vegetarian options.
This goes on for a few more weeks. DG is optimistically indefatigable.
K3: Okay Diane and Steve – I’m coming and will bring my daughter. Thank you so much for inviting me.
DG/SG: You will have a great time.
Am then bombarded with menus, venues, directions, options, notices of whose attending, and loving emails of friends greeting friends. Diane may be the best party planner I’ve ever known.
A few weeks later:
SG: I found a great way to introduce you to the group. I’d like you to speak with me on blogging.
K3: Don’t want to steal your thunder. This is your time slot to speak. Am content to be the newbie, sit back and watch.
SG: No I insist. This will be fun. As a matter of fact – let’s blog about our talk to Taos on blogging. My blog is MichiganAutoLaw.com (see the Blog section)
And before we know it here we are. On our way to TAOS in Sonoma.
Photo: Cristina and I on a bumpy prop plane bound for Sana Rosa. She’s typing volunteer lists for the SCIAW Greenlake Walk & Roll Oct 19. www.sciaw.org. I’m typing this blog.
She is a stranger who sends me a handwritten letter after having read something about me. I email her back and invite her to lunch. She emails back and accepts. Two months later…
“Hi!” She says with her warm smile, walking into my room. “I love this office. You have great art.”
I take her over to chat with Paul Whelan. Tour her through the maze that is our office. Down to the old racket ball court now turned into a courtroom. Out into the cool sunshine. Down and across the street to the Boat Street Café. Where we spend a delightful hour over our tasty baguette sandwiches.
Dean Annette E. Clark, M.D., J.D. graduated from SU law (previously UPS law may it rest in peace) four years after me. She immediately was hired on as a professor. And now has been elevated to head the institution. By all rights she could be stuck up and full of herself. But she isn’t.
Her eyes dance. She is talking and chewing with me. She is so cozy to be with that I have no hesitation admitting a piece of lettuce is stuck in my tooth. Before I dig it out.
We talk of our children – she has two boys, one who is in law school , the other who is a mechanical engineer. The hopes for our profession. Whether I would agree to be an adjunct in trial advocacy at SU Law, now that my long time UW teaching partner Bill Bailey has become a full time professor. How this blog got started. Even Facebook.
And honestly the whole time I’m thinking, just how cool she is.
Photo: By Ryan Monahan our IT guy – in our parking lot before Dean Clark hit the road.
J.R.: Hi Karen, I thought of you when reading the SuperLawyer Top 10. Are you the first woman to do this? CONGRATS!
Go to www.superlawyers.com top list for Washington. Interesting. Appear to be in the top 10. Walk down hall to Catherine’s room.
K: Someone said I made Top 10 superlawyers.
C: I told you that months ago, but you were typing and said – oh nice – and didn’t even pause.
Return to own office. Look up past 11 years of superlawyers’ existence. Two other females have made the top 10. Carolyn Cairnes, an employment lawyer in 20o4. Karen Jones, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, the last time in 2009.
Write back to J.R.:
K: Hi J.R. I didn’t even look at the list until I read your email. I wish more women were listed in the top 100/top 10. At least there’s 1 this year.
And wish it didn’t matter.
Photo: by Noelle Greig of me looking not particularly lawyer-like at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville TN
There are a lot of lawyers in America.
Lots and lots.
With the demise of the telphone book, most lawyers now have websites. Growing numbers use social media. A few pay for TV and radio ads. And thankfully only a few (grossly) advertise on buses, cabs and billboards.
In days gone by, lawyers belonged to Martindale Hubbell. A formal widely respected peer vetting system was involved where lawyers were rated as Average, Good, Very Good and ultimately Best. Actually this system is still in place but appears to be an endangered species.
Then came Super Lawyers. First as a regular magazine. Now a once a year publication devoted to promoting lawyers with an associated website. It is primarily a popularity contest. But to the extent that lawyers are voting for those whom they know and respect, it is not such a bad thing. Though some of the cronyism can be annoying.
Enter the new lawyer advertising venues. Avvo.com tops the list. Oftentimes, an Avvo profile ranks higher on Google than an attorney’s own website. Started by attorney Mark Britton, Avvo uses a rating system that includes objective factors like date of graduation, bar activities, bar troubles. The system is sometimes criticized for its ability to be gamed by those who put forth the effort and expense to fluff up their ranking. I’ve found lawyers who have only practiced a few years who have higher ranking numbers than well known excellent longstanding lawyers. Despite its flaws, Avvo does have a certain level of rigor that puts it at the head of the marketing pack. Plus it does not try to pretend that it is something that it isn’t.
Dialing down to my specific profession, personal injury lawyers are very concerned about attracting potential clients. One of the ways that an attorney can bolster their resume, is by the addition of memberships in socieities and awards. The public is impressed by those sorts of things. And sometimes they should be.
Any personal injury lawyer who is a real personal injury lawyer, will belong to a state or national trial lawyer organization. The national organization is AAJ (American Association for Justice formerly known as ATLA – Association of Trial Lawyers of America). The state organizations affiliated with AAJ are all trial lawyer associations though some of their names have been changed to match the ATLA to AAJ transition. In Washington State, we are the Washington State Association for Justice formerly known as Washington State Trial Lawyer Association. These are legitimate organizations made up of peers and run as bona fide nonprofits. The common mission is to advocate on behalf of injured people in the courts and legislatures. When these organizations give out awards, there are actual legitimate peer vetting processes in place. The awards are covetted, treasured and have meaning.
There are other trial organizations that are real. Such as the invitation only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) which is a collection of experienced plaintiff and defense civil lawyers who have vowed to uphold the right to jury trial. And Public Justice which fights cases of broad public import and whose membership overlaps with AAJ.
And then there are trial attorney organizations that are really marketing organizations. You are invited to be a member. Pay a fee. And then get to put a sticker on your website saying that you are great, when in fact you did nothing other than pay the fee. These organizations make money catering to this hunger for accollades.
Today I received an invitation from AIOPIA. American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys. I went to their website to see who they were and found no evidence of humankind. Just the use of the royal “we”: “The American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys is an impartial third-party attorney rating service recognizing excellence of fellow practitioners in the field. We compile an exclusive list of the “10 Best” Attorneys for each State…”
I get the award if I fill out the form and pay them $275.00. Which leads me to Webster’s dictionary. Award: something (such as a prize) that is given to someone or something for being excellent or for doing something that is admired
Buying an award is an oxymoron.
Maybe AIOPIA is seeking to compete with Avvo. Maybe it is simply a Buy a Reputation organization. Don’t know which.
But this is what I do know. The only real plaintiff lawyer organizations are AAJ, the State TLAs, and Public Justice.
Photo: My 10 best nomination from AIOPIA before it hit the recycle bin.
- As I was reading his obnoxious email, I felt a PING in my heart. It was the string of our friendship breaking.
- And so I did what any modern American would do. I unfriended him. Instantly on Facebook
- This is the first time, I’ve ever ended a friendship emotionally and then confirmed by the delete key. It is somehow affirming.
Photo: Me and the former friend back when he used to work for my lawfirm.
The defense lawyer notes the deposition of one of our experts. It is at the end of a work day. So I elect to attend by telephone. This turns out to be a wise decision. Because the court reporter does not show up. Another court reporter has to rush over. This takes 40 minutes.
I pretty much do not complain. Or rub this in the defense lawyer’s face since his office arranged everything.
But I do float off to Twitter. Which I do from time to time. When a deposition grows boring. Or irritating. Or in this case, doesn’t start when it should.
As a result, see the above twitter feed. Which includes the deposition the next day as well.
The defense lawyer (or perhaps his associate) decides to stalk me through the internet. A few days later lo and behold. He discovers my twitter. And sends this letter:
Original version: Letter to Koehler, 3-22-13 re tweets.pdf
March 22, 2013:
It came to my attention that Ms. Koehler was “tweeting” during the depositions of Dr. Beck and Mr. Owings.
The only reason I am writing this letter is because some of the information provided by counsel was inaccurate and derogatory. For example, counsel notes that “the defense forgot to get a court reporter.” That is incorrect. The court reporter did not appear as scheduled.
It appears to me that this conduct is inappropriate and unprofessional. I have no interest in what you do on your computer. However, when the inaccurate commentary is occurring during an official court proceeding, I must respond. This information could be seen by a witness, a potential juror, or court personnel. Respectfully, I ask that it stop. If the conduct continues, I will consider all remedies, including court intervention.
Please call me if you have any questions.
Oh good heavens! Am stricken with fear….(or should be)… He is threatening to take my twittering to court. Pause. For a thoughtful nano second. And respond with this email.
From: Karen Koehler
Sent: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:28 AM
Dear Steve, Paul, Rachel and Vickie:
Thank you for your very thoughtful letter of this morning. I am so sorry, Mr. Lamberson, that you do not share my sense of humor. Particularly regarding some of the banalities of deposition practice.
I believe you are making two charges: first, that I made comments that were “inaccurate and derogatory;” and second that my conduct is “inappropriate and unprofessional.” I respect your need to fully express these opinions in writing and published to your office, my cocounsel and our paralegals.
There is a wonderful construct known as the First Amendment. It ensures that regardless of whether we are on the same wavelength or not, we can speak our minds as we deem fit. Yes, even though we are lawyers. So long as we do not jeopardize our client’s interests or reflect poorly on our profession. Even if I believe you are overreacting, or even just being a bit too negative in your outlook in sending me such a stern letter, I completely support your right to vent and even scold me to your heart’s content. In front of an audience of your own choosing.
Now, let’s turn to the subject of your ire. The twitter feed. To the extent that you represent you did not forget to order the court reporter, they just didn’t show up – I wasn’t privy to that. No explanation was given to me. I just waited and waited and was quite a good sport about it. Starting a deposition at 5:40 p.m. is not something that is fun. I’m sure you recall that Dr. Becker and I were nothing but kind and cordial to you. In fact, I even graciously stepped in to help out and provided you with my conference line. You were very thankful at the time. Let’s compare my actions in helping you fix the problem, to my tweet that the defense forgot to get a court reporter. Fairly benign wouldn’t you say. Regardless, I apologize to the extent that that I assumed you had forgotten to secure the court reporter. Now let’s take this mistake down the path of the threat inherent in your letter. Are you going to actually go to court to complain that my inaccuracy caused you personal harm. Will you say that members of the public now shun or mock you due to your lapse in securing a timely court reporter. How has the case been impacted in any way. There is no trial going on. I don’t ever publicly post about a case when I’m trial. Indeed, whom other than you and the members of your firm who enjoy following my twitter feed, know that in fact the subject of my conversation – was you. There is no identifying information whatsoever.
I suspect that you aren’t as upset with me talking about the court reporter’s failure to show up, as you are about some of the other comments. Like rolling around on my ball as the expert schools the defense lawyer. Note – I sit on a bouncy ball, not a chair in my office. Yet more proof, that I am not your standard issue lawyer. Or the question that tickled me at the time as to whether the plaintiff having a terminal witness could impact his ability to work.
I can be quite serious. But I also find great joy and amusement in the practice of law. I adore everything about it, even the mundane moments. I have a good sense of humor and engage it often. To the extent you do not share my sensibilities and are easily offended by them, I quite respectfully suggest – that you do not read my twitter or blog postings.
If you intend to seek court intervention over my expressions of opinion regarding an anonymous defense lawyer on an anonymous case, then that is your choice.
Thank you again for taking the time to let me know how you feel,
Moral of the story: Stalk an opposing trial lawyer’s social media websites at your own risk.
Bloggers are told one of the best ways to capture audience attention is to use a cool photo.
Yeah. That’ll do it. After all a picture is worth a thousand words.
Here’s how it plays out. You are surfing the internet. Voila. You see a shiny brand new professionally done photo of a big truck driving down the road. That definitely captures your interest so you click on the photo which is part of a blog that is talking about dangerous trucks. And then by clicking on that blog you end up attached to a lawyer’s website. And now you can hire them. Or at least think about hiring them if in the future you get hit by a truck.
Or some variety of that.
Actually, it is amazing how many even good blogs use stock photos. There are blogs devoted to telling you were to find photos. istockphoto, stock.xchng, yotophoto, Flickr, wikipedia, etc to name a few.
Here’s the reality.
Top 10 reasons why generic fake photos suck.
1. They were taken by someone completely unrelated to you. This kinda defeats the purpose of a blog. Which is supposed to be personal.
2. You are passing someone else’s stuff off as your own. Plagerizing is plagerizing even if you pay for the privilege.
3. They don’t have anything to do with what you wrote. Or who you are as a human being. Sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Searching through those reams of free photos. You like one just because. And then try to blog around it.
4. They are distracting. We’re thinking – wow this person really writes well. Why are they using fake photos.
5. This (#4 above) leads us to assume that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Because otherwise you would have your own photos.
6. They ruin your credibility. Kind of like inviting a new friend into your home, pulling out the photo albums. And…what – no real photos. No problem. I can tell you some fake stories to go along with those fake photos. How about Not.
7. They may be glossy. They may be pretty. They may even be cool. But they are no different than the fake photos inserted in empty picture frames. And we know it.
8. They detract from your brand. Imagine if in order to make a point, Warner Brothers, the producers of Man of Steel, asked Disney for permission to use an image of Johnny Depp’s Tonto wig. Would never happen.
9. They mute the collective richness, depth, and soul of a blog
10. You are what you post. If you post fake, generic photos. Then guess what.
Photo: My next door neighbor’s dog and Nala’s arch enemy, finds a cool seat during all the hedge trimming last weekend.