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Judges rule in favor of California attorney in Simon case

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A divided Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the decision of a Marion Superior judge that denied a California attorney’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Herbert and Bui Simon for lack of personal jurisdiction. The lawsuit stems from comments the attorney made to an Indianapolis television station regarding lawsuits involving the Simons.

Joseph Davis, a California attorney representing plaintiffs in several suits against the Simons in California, was contacted by an Indianapolis TV station for comment on the lawsuits, including one involving the Simons’ former house manager in California. Over the phone, Davis said “[t]he firing is because my client refused to engage in an unlawful, meaning a criminal, act pursuant to our immigration laws. . . . This was all designed to conceal from local and state authorities the existence of this undocumented worker.” The comments were aired in Indiana.

The Simons sued in Marion County for defamation and false light publicity based on those statements. Davis wanted the suit dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction or grounds of forum non conveniens. Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch denied the motion.

On interlocutory appeal, the majority ruled in favor of Davis. The judges relied in part on the “express aiming test” outlined in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 104 S. Ct. 1482 (1984), and Ticketmaster-New York, Inc. v. Alioto, 26 F.3d 201, 203 (1st Cir. 1994).

Davis’ act of responding to the questions of a reporter who initiated the contact with Davis in California regarding a California lawsuit, in which he is the plaintiff’s attorney, wasn’t done with the purpose of expressly targeting a resident of the forum state, the majority ruled.

“Davis neither wrote nor disseminated the news story which is the object of the Simons’ defamation and false light claim. In short, the record does not reveal ‘purposeful conduct’ which was ‘intentionally directed at’ Indiana on the part of Davis to defame the Simons in Indiana, and accordingly Davis did not ‘expressly aim’ conduct at the State of Indiana,” wrote Judge Elaine Brown in Joseph A. Davis v. Herbert Simon and Bui Simon, No. 49A04-1101-CT-5.

The majority concluded that an attorney, in answering a reporter’s unsolicited questions - in which the attorney made comments regarding the allegations of a lawsuit and represented that the allegations were truthful -  without more, doesn’t constitute expressly aiming one’s conduct at the forum state.

Judge James Kirsch dissented, writing that Davis engaged in intentional conduct in Indiana that was calculated to cause injury to the Simons in Indiana by “intentionally communicating defamatory statements … to a reporter for an Indianapolis television station.” He believed Davis’ conduct was “expressly aimed” at Indiana.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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