9 Epic Responses To Legal Threats

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Lawyers don’t often get an opportunity to really cut loose and say exactly what it is they (or their clients) are thinking. We couch everything in very neutral terms and our threats are often veiled. But apparently there are vanishingly rare occasions where the absurdity of the threatened legal action matches up nicely with the devil-may-care attitude of a client, and then you get the stuff of internet magic: the epic smackdown letter.

We all long to write one, but few of us ever will. Here are some of the best we’ve found. Some of these were ostensibly written by the clients themselves, but we are just going to pretend that some lawyer somewhere got to give the go-ahead to those as well.

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  • Jonathan Kleiman

    “I believe the slur ‘shyster’ is generally reserved for attorneys of the Jewish persuasion. I believe the proper term for someone like myself would be, ermm, eggplant.”

    Enemy of the State (1998 spy thriller film), one of the gangsters calls Will Smith’s character a shyster, to which Smith responds ^

    • Paul Spitz

      What kind of idiot picks a fight with Groucho Marx and doesn’t expect to be humiliated?

      • Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day.

        I’d roll my eyes, but I’m laughing too hard.

        The “epilogue” is actually the best part:

        Unamused, Warner Bros. requested that the Marx Brothers at least outline the premise of their film. Groucho responded with an utterly ridiculous storyline, and, sure enough, received another stern letter requesting clarification. He obliged and went on to describe a plot even more preposterous than the first, claiming that he, Groucho, would be playing “Bordello, the sweetheart of Humphrey Bogart.” No doubt exasperated, Warner Bros. did not respond. A Night in Casablanca was released in 1946.

  • Jonathan Kleiman

    (FYI I love these)

    Second complaint: you don’t drink Jack??

    • We broke up after freshman year of college.

      • Ginger Tye

        hahahahahaha!

  • Paul Spitz

    Absolutely brilliant. It is necessary to point out, however, that the Cleveland Browns have never been able to replicate that epic smack down on the playing field.

    • I never get tired of that letter. While the others have their charm, the Cleveland GC’s letter has to be the most satisfying response to a legal threat in history. My only regret is that nobody was around to take a picture of Dale O. Cox’s face when he read it. I’m guessing he got all red and splotchy, but I’ll never know for sure.

      • Paul Spitz

        Well, the display on my fancy MacBook Air is apparently vulnerable to the coffee that erupted from my nose all over the screen, when I read that response.

      • garthpool

        I never will either. Here are some other examples from “Congressional Anecdotes” by Paul F. Boller, Jr.:

        Ohio Congressman Wayne Hays had a standard reply to nasty letters from his constituents: “Dear Sir: Today I received a letter from some crackpot who signed your name to it. I thought you ought to know about this before it went further.”

        Ohio Senator Stephen M. Young became famous for his tart replies to venomous letters. Sometimes he returned them with a note saying, “Some jackass is using your name.” To a woman who had been sending a series of vituperative letters, he finally wrote: “Dear Madam: You should know that some idiot in your town is sending me a series of crazed letters – and signing your name.”

    • Doug Humes

      As a “rest of the story” ps to this one, check here: http://www.snopes.com/business/consumer/browns.asp

  • Mark

    These are great! It reminds me to keep a sense of humor in a humorless profession.

  • This fails to list one of the best in recent memory, Funnyjunk v. The Oatmeal. See:

    http://www.popehat.com/tag/oatmeal-v-funnyjunk/

    • Oh man, you’re right. We totally forgot about that one somehow.

      Edit: Added!

    • CQ

      Wow, I read the first 3 letters and I’ve seen enough where it was heading. What a classic.

  • Adam Goldberg

    You forgot Wikipedia’s response to the FBI’s demand that Wikipedia remove the FBI logo from Wikipedia. See http://mashable.com/2010/08/03/wikipedia-fbi-seal/.

    • That’s the first I heard about it, but it’s pretty good!

  • Legendary win in .pdf format here: https://goo.gl/JfLb05

    Randazza –
    (1) Humiliates a professional jerkface and his lawyer using their own words;
    (2) Employs Mazinga, with picture, as part of a legit argument and reference to his client, 8chan; and
    (3) Educates the adversary as to why, both legally and prudentially, failing to take heed would be ruinous.

    Too many lines to quote, but I picked:
    “I can not express how much joy I would find in watching you try and articulate how your client’s reputation has been harmed by anything other than his own asinine, racist, sexist, rapey-creep-scumbag statements.”

    Marc Randazza has written a number of great legal letters and briefs that have been circulated around over the past decade or so. Surely after republishing the article from two years ago, it merits being updated with one like this. . . .

  • Amy Alkon

    I have to second the Randazza recommendation. There are a lot of hilarious Randazza letters and passages, but this is one of my favorites, especially for the ending:

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1362088/randazza-v-rsd-asshats.pdf

    Lets go back to page one. Your client is the guy who seems to advocate sexual assault against random women, on the basis that he’s Caucasian, and they’re not. Neither Mike, nor I, are in any danger of winning the “Male Feminist of the Year Award.” But Jesus Hello Kitty Christ on a Rocket-Powered Toboggan, are you FREAKIN’ SERIOUS?

  • M Berns
  • Daniel Flynn