Thursday, March 13, 2008

Response to Duke Motion Concerning Rule 3.6

Charles Cooper, attorney for the 38 lacrosse players, has filed a response to Duke's motion claiming a violation of Rule 3.6 by the plaintiffs' attorneys. has posted the response pointing out both the legal and logical absurdities of Duke's motion and much more credibly claiming ethical violations by Duke's lawyer Pam Bernard:
Duke’s motion is extraordinary. Duke not only acknowledges that the specific extrajudicial attorney statements it challenges either directly quote or closely paraphrase the allegations of Plaintiffs’ Complaint, it concedes that such statements are expressly authorized by Rule 3.6(b)(2)’s so-called “safe harbor” for attorney comments that relate “information in a public record.”


But Duke’s motion is even more remarkable for what it does not say. Nowhere does Duke cite a single case in which a court, state or federal, has imposed sanctions or otherwise enforced the attorney speech restrictions of Rule 3.6 in civil litigation, and our research has turned up no such case. Duke’s motion thus seeks a ruling from this Court that appears to be without precedent in American jurisprudence.


Nor does Duke, finally, even refer to, let alone cite any evidence for, this Court’s supposed “very strict practice forbidding lawyers from discussing their litigation with the press” in civil cases such as this. We assume that Duke’s counsel had a good faith basis for making this representation to Plaintiff’s counsel, notwithstanding their failure to provide any.


We note initially our disagreement with Duke’s claim that the passages from the press release excerpted in Duke’s brief are framed in “incendiary language”... indeed, even now we are hard pressed to see how we might edit the statements to make them less embarrassing to Duke. [emphasis added]


If Duke had not so callously and deliberately violated its contractual and legal duties to its innocent students, it would not now be facing these historically unprecedented legal actions by what effectively amounts to its entire 2006 lacrosse team.


Duke accuses Mr. Henkelman of speaking “in a manner calculated to engender sympathy,” Duke Br. 12, but no calculation or artifice is necessary to render sympathetic the prolonged anguish of a parent who has been forced to watch helplessly as his innocent child was falsely condemned by officials, professors, and students of the very institution that agreed to educate and care for him. Yes, Mr. Henkelman’s words were indeed poignant and moving, and it is not surprising that Duke cringes with embarrassment to hear them. But that is hardly a reason to silence him. [emphasis added]


Duke itself, of course, also has a very sophisticated website on which it provides links to news stories and posts its own frequent press releases, including those about the lacrosse incident. Duke includes one such press release as an exhibit to its submission here, in which Duke’s General Counsel, Pamela Bernard, openly violates the confidentiality of settlement negotiations by revealing what purport to be details of a settlement offer made by Duke to the Plaintiffs...In contrast, when asked about Ms. Bernard’s press statement during the Plaintiffs’ February 21 press conference, Mr. Cooper declined to discuss the substance of the parties’ confidential settlement discussions. [emphasis added]

Duke’s counsel represent to this Court that Ms. Bernard’s press release was issued only “[i]n the face of [plaintiffs’] publicity,” and out of Duke’s “belie[f] that a statement was required to protect the Duke Defendants from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of this publicity which was initiated by the Plaintiffs . . . .” Duke Br. 6. But Duke issued a materially indistinguishable press release on December 18, 2007, in response to the filing of a similar civil action in this Court by three other lacrosse players, a filing which was not accompanied by any press release or press conference. (link) And Ms. Bernard also issued a press release in response to the state court action filed against Duke by former lacrosse team coach Mike Pressler, although the filing of his suit was not accompanied by a press release or a press conference. (link) Perhaps Duke’s counsel will be able to explain the purpose of these unprovoked press releases in their reply brief. [emphasis added]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lawsuit Breakdown: The Coleman Report and Dean Bryan's False Statistics

[The series Lawsuit Breakdown will attempt to highlight the main points of the lawsuit filed on 12/18/07 by attorneys for Ryan McFayden, Matt Wilson and Breck Archer with a focus on Duke University's involvement in the scandal.]

In what is one of the more surprising revelations in this lawsuit, Ekstrand's lawsuit introduces allegations that the Lacrosse Ad Hoc Review Committee's report (Coleman report), long recognized as a "stunning vindication" (link) of the lacrosse team from every accusation of significance about the lacrosse team's culture, was based on deliberately fraudulent statistics. It should be noted that the lawsuit does not fault James Coleman or others on the committee for the conclusions of the report as the suit seems to believe the committee was mislead by Director of Judicial Affairs Stephen Bryan.

The significance of this allegation cannot be underestimated. Of all the assertions of horrific misbehavior - racism, violence, misogyny and of course rape - hurled at the lacrosse players publicly and privately by both faculty and administrators, the only accusations that have held any water amounted to minor, alcohol relate
d irresponsibility and inconsiderateness. These kinds of infractions were so insignificant that the University did not even keep statistics of them until October 2004. Now it seems even those allegations were exaggerated by Duke nearly to the point of fabrication.

This section of the lawsuit is highly intriguing and seems well substantiated. It is worth reading in full to view the entirety of Ekstrand's substantiation. In summary the most incriminating assertion of fact is that Dean Bryan provided to the committee phony data from before October 2004. In October 2004, "the University began systematically recording data of incidents of all alcohol policy violations involving students" (p. 254). Furthermore, "it was Bryan's arbitrary enforcement of the alcohol policy that prompted the Campus Committee's 2004 Initiative" (p. 254). Yet inexplicably "Bryan concealed the existence" (p. 255) of the data collected systematically after October 2004 and "provided the Committee with unreliable and grossly misleading data sets [from before Oct. 2004] in order to induce the Committee to conclude that the lacrosse team members' conduct was out of step with that of comparison groups" (p. 255).

As brief examples of their absurdity, Bryan's statistics, as reported by the Ad Hoc Committee, held lacrosse players accountable for "50% of noise violations and 33% of open container violations" (p. 256) based on single instances of such violations by lacrosse players. If the idea that there were fewer than 5 such violations combined by Duke students in any significant time frame isn't in itself preposterous, Ekstrand notes that the University was well aware of a well publicized incident in the fall of 2006 where 7 students were given 7 noise violations and 7 open container violations in one night alone.

The report was slanted by absurd statistics to begin with, but even more relevant is the overtly slanted way in which the report has been used by administrators. Though Ekstrand does not mention it in the lawsuit, Brodhead, speaking of the report on June 5, asserted, “though it did not confirm the worst allegations against this team, [it] documents a history of irresponsible conduct that this university cannot allow to continue” (Until Proven Innocent p. 237).

Perhaps most telling of all is that the report, which was scheduled ("forced," claims Ekstrand) to present one day before the primary election for Nifong, was given to Nifong in advance but not to the players or their counsel: "Defendant Burness delivered an advance copy of the Ad Hoc Committee Report to the City of Durham Defendants so they could prepare statements for the press conferences. Burness did not send a copy of the Ad Hoc Report - in advance or after its release - to the Plaintiffs, their teammates or their counsel" (p. 260). An oversight? Perhaps. The problem for Burness and the rest of the Duke Administration is that it fits into a rather telling pattern of efforts by Duke not only to aid Nifong in his attempts to railroad Duke Students, but to assist in his reelection. These efforts by the Duke Administration are continued in shocking fashion before the general election in the fall of 2006, explained in the next segment of Lawsuit Breakdown.

"The myth of the Plaintiffs and their teammates as out-of-control, aberrant, abusers of alcohol, with a history of 'deplorable' behavior persists up to the present day" (p. 260), incited and continuously perpetuated by Brodhead and other Duke administrators and faculty.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Download Indoctrinate U

[The following is a message from Indoctrinate U]

We're very happy to announce the arrival of the Indoctrinate U online store!

You can download the film today and watch it on your computer or TV.

The film is available as a high-quality MPEG-4 file or as a Virtual DVD, which allows you to burn your own DVD copy of "Indoctrinate U" and watch it on your TV. (The Virtual DVD is a standards-compliant ISO file.)

The MPEG-4 file and the Virtual DVD are compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux.


There are a number of new screenings that have been added to the schedule over the coming weeks:

Note: Physical DVDs are not yet available, and will not be available for a number of weeks. If you can't make it to a local screening, downloading the MPEG-4 file or the Virtual DVD is the only way to see the film soon.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lawsuit Breakdown: Attempts to Establish Plausiblity of Potential Frame Victims

[The series Lawsuit Breakdown will attempt to highlight the main points of the lawsuit filed on 12/18/07 by attorneys for Ryan McFayden, Matt Wilson and Breck Archer with a focus on Duke University's involvement in the scandal.]

Ekstrand explains that before indicting Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty, Himan and Gottlieb not only had almost no evidence on which to indict the clearly innocent players, but also had "very little evidence that either Collin or Reade were present at the party at the relevant time" (p. 249). Fearing the possibility "one or both of those young men could immediately prove that they had no opportunity" (p. 249) to commit the alleged crime, "Himan and Gottlieb colluded with Duke Police officers to compel several team members to provide the information necessary to place Collin and Reade" (p. 250) at the party. As we now know, both Colin and Reade could prove they were miles away at the time of the alleged rape, and as Nifong and the officers had feared, Reade presented his impenetrable alibi one day after being indicted, making it clear that they had just indicted one - if not two - clearly innocent people.

The alleged conspiracy took form in two parts, both on April 13, 2006. First, on the morning of April 13, "conspirators whose identities are not as yet known to the plaintiffs sent an email through Breck Archer's '' email account. The email stated, 'I am going to go to the police tomorrow to tell them everything I know'" (p. 250). It seems Ekstrand is alleging that this email was created at the request or demand of Durham Police and may well have been facilitated by cooperation from the Duke Police and other Duke entities. If Ekstrand is correct, the purpose of the email would likely have been to stir up commotion on the team's email list that might have revealed information.

Second on the evening of April 13, Duke Police officers allowed Himan and Gottlieb into the Edens dorms "where most of the sophomore team members lived" (p. 250) in an effort to "develop evidence that Seligmann and Finnerty" (p. 250) were at the party (Reade and Colin were sophomores). The officers "cornered team members in their dorms" (p. 251), but instead of asking about the party, they "only asked who was (and was not) present at the party" (p. 251).

One player targeted by Gottlieb and Himan was Michael Young, who the investigators already knew had not attended the party. Furthermore, Himan "had specifically been told by Young's attorney that he was not to speak with his client" (p. 251). When asked, Young "guessed that Collin [sic] and Reade were both at the party because he did not see them in the dorms until after midnight" (p. 251).

All of this constitutes significant misconduct by the police that was aided and later condoned and justified by the Duke Police. When news broke of this police misconduct, Police Chief Graves publicly acknowledged the Duke Police's participation, condoned the misconduct and even left out the word "alleged" when referring to the rape.

Ekstrand characterizes these actions as a conspiracy "to force the waiver of plaintiffs' and their teammates' asserted constitutional rights" (p. 249).