Contrarian talk: The epic cease-and-desist response from West Orange, N.J.

The great law blog Above the Law has a funny exchange between a big bullying government employee and a private citizen’s pro bono attorney.

Or is the pro bono attorney the bully?

Here’s the original exchange, in which a town attorney asks a local citizen (and one-time town council candidate) Jake Freivald to stop using the domain name westorange.info because it could be confused with an official site. As blogger Staci Zaretsky points out, the attorney’s letter has the occasional typo and some mangled legalese.

So then one Stephen B. Kaplitt, a fancy New York lawyer, stepped up on behalf of Mr. Freivald with three pages of snark and ridicule. In the first two paragraphs alone, he faux-congratumalates the town rep on his “legal satire,” then immediately jumps into victim mode, dropping the words “bully” and “big meanie.”

Just when you start to think we don’t need to take Mr. Kaplitt seriously, he lists 14 sites that also use “westorange” in the domain name, of which maybe two sites (at most) could reasonably be confused with a government site. Reading comprehension may be a dying art, but I don’t think someone who goes to westorangemassagetherapy.com is expecting Town Council info.

Mr. Kaplitt continues with a remarkably weak First Amendment argument, begging the question of how Mr. Freivald’s constitutional rights would be trampled if he used the domain name westorangechat.com or westorangeantitaxers.org instead of westorange.info.

Then it’s typically snide stuff — a rip on the township lawyer’s choice of words, a reference to the bar exam, a shot at the ACLU, and a couple of off-topic jabs at the township government.

(Gee, you mean this guy is ultimately all about tax bleating? I’m shocked!)

I don’t mean to say the people involved have no sense of humor except at the expense of others. If you go to westorange.info now, you’ll see this:

  • No, this is not the official web site of West Orange, New Jersey.

  • Nor is it the official or unofficial web site of the West Oranges of FL, TX, or CA. Nothing against those guys — just not what I’m here for.

Good stuff. Then he starts whining that this issue was in the Huffington Post before it was in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, a recent law grad has written the response letter that the township lawyer should have written but probably won’t. And he cites actual relevant case law instead of just smacking this poor dude around and beating his chest about the First Amendment.

So who’s the bully? I’m inclined to think it’s not Mr. Richard D. Trenk, who probably sent this out as a routine bit of legal business and had no idea he would end up as the legal equivalent of the news reporter who fell out off the platform while she was stomping grapes.

I for one salute Mr. Trenk, a guy just doing his job. And is probably right on the merits of the case. But he used the phrase “guided accordingly,” and for that, he must be punished. So sayeth the Web.


2 thoughts on “Contrarian talk: The epic cease-and-desist response from West Orange, N.J.

  1. So who do you think is the “big meanie” aka bully when it comes to this highly questionable cease and desist demand letter courtesy of Stikeman Elliott Barristers & Solicitors litigation lawyer Maitre Marc-André Coulombe?


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