Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Counsel Carasso

In one respect, Susan O’Malley’s lawsuit against Sharad Karkhanis is a deadly serious assault on a basic tenet of academic freedom—the right of professors, at a publicly funded university, to publicly criticize their elected faculty leadership. In another respect, however, the lawsuit could best be compared to a bad Country Western song—“The Ballad of 'Thin-Skinned Sue',” the professor who seemed to stand for election to every faculty post under the sun, and who then struck back at one of her most caustic critics by filing a lawsuit that she herself described as “very, very silly.”

It seems as if “Thin-Skinned Sue” has managed to find herself an equally thin-skinned lawyer. In a posting on his website recently forwarded to us by a reader, attorney Joseph Carasso lashed out against the authors of this blog. In a line that doesn’t indicate judicial temperament, he fumed, “It is scary to think that young impressionable students are taught by people who not only are cowards and lack honor, but misinform and lie with ease.” He further labeled us a “coward” for refusing to “proclaim their identity to the world.”

In the blog’s founding statement, we addressed the question of our posting pseudonymously. As we noted, “Lest we, too, be subject to a lawsuit from the PSC leadership, this blog is published pseudonymously by CUNY faculty members.”

In that respect, we concede that the O’Malley/Carasso lawsuit already has had something of a chilling effect. As full-time faculty members at CUNY, we have suffered through the last seven years of ineffectual leadership by the faculty union, as O’Malley and her cronies in the leadership have focused on international causes and their base among the adjuncts, while avoiding the pressing problem of low salaries for full-time professors. As a result, we simply don’t have the money to hire competent counsel if O’Malley should decide to drop one of her “very, very silly” lawsuits on us.

In our post about Carasso, we cited a trade website to note that Carasso was a literary agent for ARP. In his posting, Carasso denies any association with ARP. Despite his ad hominem attacks against us, we accept him at his word, apologize for repeating the trade website’s error, and have corrected the original posting.

The rest of Carasso’s screed is all huff and no substance—a little like O’Malley’s lawsuit itself. In our original post, we observed that Carasso has “advertised himself as providing ‘low-cost legal advice for independents.’” We linked to a column in Filmmaker Magazine by Carasso himself. The article was subtitled, “Joseph Martin Carasso on low-cost legal advice for independents.”

Carasso now claims, “I certainly never advertised for low cost legal services.” Is he now asserting that he, in fact, never wrote the linked column? If so, his beef would seem to be with Filmmaker Magazine, which claimed that he did, not us. Or is he asserting that Filmmaker Magazine reached out to someone with no knowledge in the field to pen an article on “low-cost legal advice for independents”? Again, if so, his beef would seem to be with Filmmaker Magazine, not us. Or is he suggesting that he falsely advertised himself to Filmmaker Magazine as an expert on “low-cost legal advice for independents,” even though he knows little about the topic?

Whichever of the three arguments Carasso is presenting—his post is wholly unclear on the matter—there’s nothing he has offered that rebuts our original post.

Carasso’s rebuttal doesn’t even attempt to challenge our suggestions that he isn’t exactly a word-class attorney with expertise on academic freedom issues. As we noted in the original post, Caraaso is “a graduate of the William Mitchell College of Law (not an institution many would confuse with a Tier-I law school), [and] Carasso’s Lexis/Nexis entry lists his specialties as entertainment litigation and personal injury matters.” He doesn’t deny the description.

Indeed, had we been so inclined, we could have provided more detail in our original post about Carasso’s apparent mediocrity, such as the peculiar fact that this veteran (26-year) attorney lists on his website a grand total of one reported decision. His client in that case? None other than . . . Susan O’Malley, in an ugly lawsuit described in the following manner by the ruling: “This personal injury action arises out of an accident involving five teenagers, some illegal drugs, and a paintball gun.”

Despite the insinuations of his posting, Carasso has been rather cavalier with facts in his own work. In his filing against Karkhanis, Carasso—who describes “computer and software technology” as one of his firm’s “areas of practice”—stated that Karkhanis’ IP address is is a domain name, not an IP address—a basic fact with which, we would think, an attorney who specializes in “computer and software technology” would be aware.

Finally, our post also mentioned that Carasso served as a consultant to a film called, “How Do You Spell Murder?” Carasso responds not by challenging the point in any way, but by terming himself “proud” of his work. The filmmakers, he adds, have also produced such high-quality intellectual fare as “ELVIS ’56.”

In the name of free speech, we think it’s best to let Counsel Carasso’s pride speak for itself.


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