Libel and Legalistic Bullying

Whether you’re new to Quiche Moraine because you’re curious or follow one of the main cobloggers here on Twitter or Facebook, chances are good you’ve seen the words “libel” and “defamation” floating around very recently. Here’s the scoop.

On Tuesday, I received an email from Mike’s first wife, Shelly Leitheiser.

I have sent this to Greg Laden but I suppose I should send it to you too.

You have a situation of libel on your blog written by Mike Haubrich. I don’t intend to let this go until the posts mentioning me are removed. I intend to take legal action if the lies he wrote are not removed.

Hello,

Are you the editor of the Quiche Moraine blog? If so, or if you know who is, I’d like to request the removal of the posts Mike Haubrich wrote where he talks about his “first wife” and how she was so terrible to him, cheated on him, was undiagnosed mentally ill, etc. etc.

[...]

No one should have to tolerate (damaging) lies about themselves on a blog if it’s hosted by someone else who is editor. I couldn’t do anything about the lies on his own blog but it looks like he took care of that himself due to someone else complaining.

If you want your blog to have credibility, and it’s fairly well-known, then you should remove these false and slanderous remarks about me that he has incorporated into his fantasy writing about his past.

There was more, but it’s all about her marriage to Mike, so I won’t share it with you. I think it was inappropriate to share with me, particularly if she thought I was Mike’s boss at Quiche Moraine. It’s also inappropriate, of course, to send such an email to Greg instead of me if she thinks that Quiche Moraine has that kind of editor. I pointed out that it doesn’t in my response (corrected so as not to accuse Shelly publicly of something she didn’t do).

While I edit Quiche Moraine, I do not exercise editorial control over the content of my co-bloggers’ posts. I edit only for punctuation, spelling and the occasional infelicitous turn of phrase, and there is a great deal of correspondence and edit history to back that up. With respect to legal responsibility, Quiche Moraine is no different than any of Mike’s other blogs, over which you have not previously seen fit to try to exercise control. Any problems that you have with Mike’s posts are problems that you should take up with Mike.

I assume, although you were not specific in your demands, that you were referring to the post on which you left the comment and Mike’s post regarding charity. I suggested as much when I forwarded your email on to Mike. I also told him I didn’t see anything in those posts that rose above opinion and, thus, into the realm of libel. Mike decided, however, on slight changes to wording to make it even more clear that his statements reflect only his opinion of you. That has been done.

Your comment makes reference to retractions. While we can put a retraction on the front page of Quiche Moraine stating that those posts have been edited to clarify that his statements reflect only his opinion of you, I presume that you will not want that done. After all, Quiche Moraine, your statements about reputation aside, is a small blog and was even smaller when those posts were published. Adding a retraction would only serve to draw attention to Mike’s opinion of you and to you partially identifying yourself in the comments.

Note that commenting on an old post on a blog with a recent comments widget is one of the best ways to draw attention to it. Your comment was, by sheer accident, held in moderation until it would no longer appear on the widget. Otherwise, you would have pointed readers to a post that no one but you had read in the last month.

Given all the points above, I consider this matter closed and don’t expect to hear from you again. I do, however, expect you to understand that accusations of libel are serious matters that also fall under defamation law, per se. The comment that you made on Quiche Moraine has been removed for that reason, and I expect the comments you made elsewhere accusing Quiche Moraine of libel to be removed promptly.

Were we done after making the changes? Well, no.

You missed my point. I wasn’t asking you, I was telling you to remove libelous content about me from your blog. I already have a lawyer who has told me I have a solid case of libel. This post in particular:

[incorrect link removed]

is clearly libelous to me. It contains serious lies about me and it is presented as fact, which is certainly is not. It does not clarify that it’s his opinion, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because what he wrote in that post and others are lies about me. Do you get it? I’m sure if someone did the same to you, you would be pissed off and incredulous as well. What is wrong with a person who has to write about something that happened 25 years ago? But what he wrote about me was intended to hurt me NOW, in the present day. This is typical of his personality.

As I explained, he uses his real name and anyone will know who he was talking about. The length of time that has passed since originally wrote is completely irrelevant, anything can be googled as you well know. His comments about me are completely false and obviously done with malice. His posts contain direct lies that reflect on my character and contain outright false information that could easily negatively impact my reputation.

I don’t intend to drop this and if you do not remove that post and others like it by him, and if you don’t remove the libelous content (and I have NO problem using that legal term, as I know exactly what it means) then I will. You are the editor of that blog so it is YOUR content legally, not Mike’s. I have a legal background, FYI, and it’s obvious you don’t.

[...]

You are at fault here, and your silly mention of libel being a serious charge is correct. You’re damn right it is, and I take it 100% seriously. I expect you to remove all posts of his mentioning me in a negative light, lying about me, and fantasizing that I did anything “bad” to him. ALL of them. I demand it.

I asked her to tell me exactly what she wanted changed. She pointed at this post. She made one objection that didn’t seem unreasonable, so another change was made to the wording and another opportunity for a front-page retraction presented. However, that wasn’t the only thing she objected to.

Another is this:

“the way she’d betrayed me” That didn’t happen either. Another lie.Any mention of his belief of my mental state or how I’m at fault in that marriage is libel. Any claim I harmed him is libel. It’s the very definition of it. [...] Why would anyone have to still discuss a breakup that is 25 years old? Doesn’t that strike you as odd? I had forgotten my past with him a long time ago and I can’t imagine why he can’t move on and stop writing about me. It’s astounding and it makes me furious that he’s still dredging up this old shifting of blame on his part. You have no idea how he hurt ME, but I’m sure as hell not going to write about it. Why would I? I have a good life and have been happily married for 22 years. I never think about Mike, and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t found that he was still writing BS about me.

Remove these posts, and let me know when it’s done. This matter is not settled until all his writings of me in a negative light are gone. I’ll give you a few days to get it done. Then I’m meeting with my lawyer again.

I think the post is pretty clear on the relevance of the first marriage, particularly as the mention is so brief.

“Betrayal,” like any reference to your mental state at the time, is clearly opinion. It doesn’t indicate any specific behavior, simply an opinion that you did not meet the expectations set out in the relationship, whatever they may have been. As I have stated before, Mike is entitled to publication of his opinion of you. That you don’t like it, or even that you disagree with his opinion, does not rise to the level of defamation, as you should know with your legal background.

Now, when can I expect that you will address your public accusations of libel?

You can, perhaps, guess the answer to that question.

This is my last request that all references to me, all his nasty inferences, all his ridiculous claims and lies about me be REMOVED, which includes the paragraph I sent you and any other nasty references to me or his perception of my health.

Your blog is public. This is not his private journal. Set your blog on “private” and I won’t mind what he writes about me.

Or, if not,

If you feel that he can write whatever he wants about me then you must feel I can write whatever I want about you, or about him, which according to your logic, I now have permission to do where ever I want. According to you, everyone is entitled to any opinion they want, and can write it anywhere they want with no repercussions. As long as it’s opinion, it cannot rise to the level of defamation.

Or, you can remove the libelous things he has written.

Mike is entitled to “publication of his opinion of you”, according to you. So that gives me implied permission to publish whatever opinions I have too. Great!

You have until Monday to remove his BS about me, or I will feel free to share with the world my facts and opinions about him, which I have a right to do, and I will not hold back anything. Since I don’t use my real name online, I’ll feel free to use his. Yeah, there might be something to this “opinion” sharing.

So much for the lawyer. Something tells me they don’t suggest this as a legal strategy. Still, she’s got the right. But only as long as she gets it right.

Well, Shelly, I think this makes it clear that the legal definition of libel isn’t your concern here. I’d suggest you be very careful and seek legal advice before publishing anything about Quiche Moraine, me or Mike, as you’ve done an excellent job in this correspondence of documenting both your intent to harm Mike and me and your inability to distinguish between factual assertions and opinion. You’ve also provided a tie between anonymous assertions about either of us on the internet and your intent to harm.

In fact, I should make you aware, although you should be aware of this already, that none of this correspondence is in any way private. Not your threats or your inconsistent pseudolegalistic attempt at coercion.

Good luck to you.

And then it gets weird.

You have taken this to a ridiculous level from my original request and now you are harassing me.

Nope, I have no intent to harm anyone, just to prove my legal point. Harm and libel was Mike’s intent, which is what I documented. It’s also his clear intent from what he wrote on YOUR blog, which is your legal obligation. Your intent by not removing his comments about me is that YOU intend to do harm to me also. You have made that very clear.

And your correspondence has not been private either. I’m sharing it with quite a few people and I’ll be sharing it with a lot more very soon.

You told me Mike has the right to publish his opinion of me and I do also of him, of you and of your blog. As I said, you have until Monday to change your mind.

Mike’s intent from the beginning was to harm me and he has committed libel, but that’s because you have published it. I have every right in the world to write anything I want about you and him and QM as a result. It’s my opinion, which you said is not defamation. No opinion, according to you, is defamation. The “legal definition” is what I sent to you, but you have said published opinion is perfectly fine with you.

I don’t have to seek legal advice, I already have. I have every right to share my opinion of you, of Mike, of QM and reprint any and all of your emails in any public venue I choose to.

If you want to both be assholes, after I have been very clear and polite, that’s fine with me. I’m done corresponding with you and from now on will do exactly as I choose. It’s not my problem if you don’t like my opinions, but you have made your intentions very clear.

Tell Mike I’ll be writing a lot this weekend, it should be interesting to revisit some of the fun I had while in the company of a total sociopath/asshole.

Of course, Shelly hasn’t been waiting. The same day she sent the original emails, this appeared on a blog-rating site.

Libel Accusation1
She (or someone using her IP) has left two comments here badmouthing the blog and Mike and a comment at Lousy Canuck calling Mike a liar and wondering, “Why wish him a happy anything?”–all moderated but saved. And her Twitter stream has been all about me and Quiche Moraine for much of this evening.

Libel Accusation2
All in all, it’s been an interesting day. I’ve mediated changes (Shelly didn’t want to talk to Mike) to protect someone else’s reputation and seen mine attacked for my troubles. I’ve replied to something demanding a response, only to be accused of harassment. I’ve seen thousands of words written about a paragraph. And as I mentioned, it’s not even Monday yet.

So if you see a strange comment attacking Mike or Quiche Moraine floating around on one of the sites that mention us, let me know. They’re trophies at this point, but they may be very useful later. And if you’re trying to sort this all out, I recommend this information from the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

Tags: , ,

24 Responses to “Libel and Legalistic Bullying”

  1. January 29th, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Stacy says:

    Holy Guacamole Batman!! Is this supposed to be an adult ? “sucks … lame … nutzoid … biyatch…”

    Maybe it’s just an adolescent trying to be funny?!!

  2. January 29th, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Ronja A-M says:

    Stacy at #1 got it just right “Is this supposed to be an adult ?”. She is so shooting herself in the foot.

    Thanks, Stephanie, for the EFF link about Online Defamation Law – very useful!

    Keep up the good work, dear QuicheMoraineans – this is one of the most interesting, well written and thought-provoking blogs/sites that I’ve bumped into (and I was browsing the Net already well before WWW – started reading Usenet newsgroups in 1988).

  3. January 29th, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Alden says:

    Weird. She’s certainly doing her best to undermine her own credibility.

    I’m wondering if this is related to a strange comment I had pop up on my blog today.

  4. January 29th, 2010 at 1:49 am

    ERV says:

    Shelly Leitheiser is obviously new to the internet.

    Its called The Streisand Effect.

    lol, newb.

  5. January 29th, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Lou FCD says:

    Wow, after reading all that melodrama, this Shelly Leitheiser does not come off as very bright, and her claim to have sought out legal advice lacks much in the way of credibility. She reminds me of a 14-year-old on Facebook, frankly. Perhaps the attorney she consulted was Casey Luskin?

    Further, in my opinion (which is mine), Mike is much better off without her. Belated congratulations to Mike for being free of her.

  6. January 29th, 2010 at 6:06 am

    CyberLizard says:

    It is always such a joy to watch you work, Stephanie. :-) How is it you manage to get the pleasure of dealing with such “colourful” personalities? I think megalomaniac $10 word bitches are hot! ;-)

  7. January 29th, 2010 at 6:33 am

    a daughter's mother says:

    Uff Da!

    As somebody who 1) reads your postings regularly and 2) blogs myself about whatever strikes my fancy including stories about my ex, I found the above fascinating. I was starting to wonder if I might need my own lawyer, but then of all the charming things I’ve said about my ex, I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed he was mentally unstable. (Besides, nobody reads me.)

    Watching the devolution of the logic and overall quality of Shelly’s comments, it sounds like (my opinion) the lady’s got some issues that are not limited to way overblowing whatever might have been said about her. Considering her name change, and the fact that many of us who read this could talk to her for an hour and never connect her to Mike, what does she think the harm is, anyway? Those who read Mike’s comments and who know Mike and Shelly well enough to connect the two likely already have their own opinion of the both of them independent of any comments on a blog. With a 22-year new marriage after that divorce, and a claim to having moved on, why does she care? Why draw the unnecessary attention?

  8. January 29th, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Jason Thibeault says:

    Yeah! I got a trophy! I sort of feel the need to unmoderate that post since it was mentioned here.

    I don’t understand “you’re replying to my e-mail and saying ‘no’ to my request ergo you’re harassing me”… there’s a logical disconnect there, though I’m sure she can’t see it (and would accuse me of libel for suggesting it).

    I also don’t get the accusation that you use $10 words. I always thought the implication was that you use large words inappropriately and/or where smaller ones suffice, but everything I’ve ever read of yours seems to have exactly the right words for your meaning.

  9. January 29th, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Greg Laden says:

    Mike, this is your own fault. You are a frank, straight forward, honest, and always well meaning person. This is not the recommended way to be if you want to hang out with other people, because the average person is not any of those things.

  10. January 29th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    Ben Zvan says:

    Yes…I’m sure she “had forgotten [her] past with him a long time ago and I can’t imagine why he can’t move on.” That must have been why she was googling “Mike Haubrich” in the first place…

  11. January 29th, 2010 at 10:39 am

    rob says:

    i’ve got a lawyer and i’m not afraid to use it!!! remove the sutff NOWWW>

    no, really, this time i have a lawyer and im gonna use it!!1. i demand it removal. stomp. stomp. stomp.

    okay, you called me that first time. and the second. but i have at least four close personal acquaintances who have neighbors that are paralegals. and paralegals KNOW LAWYERS!!! so remove the stuff. or i will twitter that your a poopy head.this is the third an last warning!!! lawyer lawyer lawyer.

    okay. i just went online and downloaded a lawyer degree for three easy payments of $69.69. now I AM A LAWYER!!! so im going sue you if you don’t do what i want!!!! stomp. stomp.

    and no. i am not stocking my ex. i don’t rabidly peruse google search dumps for phrases in blog entries and tweets where i am mentioned by my mean ex. it’s been 25 years and i don’t care. and i are lawyer–well, with the last payment i will be.

  12. January 29th, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Kevin Sooley says:

    Seems her mental state hasn’t gotten better?

  13. January 29th, 2010 at 11:55 am

    NewEnglandBob says:

    This is just so childish. Shelly Leitheiser should just be ignored and any posts of hers should be removed. Twitter is just a lame celebrity system anyway, so don’t even bother looking at that nonsense there.

  14. January 29th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Unikraken says:

    Crazy lady is crazy.

    And not a lady at all.

  15. January 29th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    a daughter's mother says:

    Hey Rob, don’t you still have to pass the bar first? Or does it count if you just limbo under it?

  16. January 29th, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    John says:

    Well, technically Rob will be a paralegal. That’s even better, it means he can file briefs while jumping out of airplanes. Super sweet!

  17. January 30th, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Azkyroth says:

    Holy shit, this DOES remind me of my ex-wife.

  18. January 30th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by szvan: Libel and Legalistic Bullying: http://quichemoraine.com/2010/01/libel-and-legalistic-bullying/

  19. January 30th, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    khan says:

    Nothing like proving your ex was correct in assessment.

  20. January 30th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    kevin Z says:

    I just want it to be known that the following is only my opinion and should not be construed as fact:

    This was some hilarious shit! Who the hell does crazy lady think she is? Queen of England? But I really want to know more. This is like “days of our lives” material here. What is the motive. Is she looking for new work? Did she get rejected from a job opportunity or a lover because of things that were said about her?

    If she is so concerned about her reputation then this post is probably the most damaging. It is currently the #3 page out of 1750 (Greg’s is #9) for “Shelly Leitheiser” and reveals alot about her character.

  21. January 31st, 2010 at 9:26 am

    trish lewis says:

    i’ve had my own share of people being mad at me blogging about them…and the irony is, no one’s name or other identifying information was ever used…but they STILL didn’t like it. Well, get over it. If people had any clue how often they’re talked about and even identified they’d be shocked…but then again they shouldn’t be…think about it!

  22. January 31st, 2010 at 9:27 am

    No name says:

    I know Shelly Leitheiser (found this page while searching for her global warming web site) and none of this surprises me. She is a person with certain (good) qualities, but she is also a person who can not be trusted. She goes through phases of behavior that make her someone to not cross and not rely on. I am very sorry for Mike that this is happening. I don’t know Mike but he is clearly a victim. It is a shame.

  23. February 25th, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    A friend says:

    Please be kind, and remove Shelly’s name from your website.

  24. February 25th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    This is not a question of kindness or unkindness and hasn’t been since Shelly threatened legal action. That’s one of the problems with trying to use it as a wedge.

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline