A prominent South Florida plaintiff's attorney has filed a defamation lawsuit against famed retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz after he accused attorneys representing alleged sex abuse victims of his client, billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, of intentionally fabricating and lying in court documents by claiming he had sex with one of the alleged victims and labeling their efforts to impugn his reputation and the plea agreement he brokered on behalf of Epstein as extortion. Dershowitz gave interviews to multiple national newspapers and media outlets in which he threatened to sue the victim's lawyers for defamation and seek their disbarment from the practice of law. But before he could head to the courthouse, those attorneys slapped him with their own lawsuit accusing him of defaming them.
The two attorneys suing Dershowitz are Utah law professor and former federal judge Paul Cassell and Bradley Edwards, a former Florida prosecutor and prominent South Florida attorney. The attorney filing the suit on their behalf is John Scarola, a former Palm Beach County prosecuting attorney and prominent civil litigator. "Immediately following the filing of what the Defendant, ershowitz, knew to be an entirely proper and well-founded pleading, Dershowitz initiated a massive public media assault on the reputation and character of Bradley J. Edwards and Paul G. Cassell, accusing them of intentionally lying in their filing, of having leveled knowingly false accusations against the Defendant, Dershowitz without ever conducting any investigation of the credibility of the accusations, and of having acted unethically to the extent that their willful misconduct warranted and required disbarment," their complaint reads.
The lawsuit filed by Scarola cites, in particular, statements Dershowitz made during an interview with CNN's Don Lemon. In that interview, Dershowitz referred to Cassell and Edwards as "two sleazy, unprofessional disbarrable attorneys" who "sat down together . . . and contrived and made this up" about me having sex with one of the alleged victims. Dershowitz compared their actions to "scrawling something on a bathroom wall." Dershowitz acknowledged he was "opening myself up of to a defamation lawsuit" by saying things he said during his interview with Lemon. Dershowitz claimed the two lawyers hurt "real rape victims" by "putting forth a fake rape victim." Dershowitz boldly predicted that neither Cassell nor Edwards would be able to practice law when this was all over. Dershowitz described himself in media interviews as "the innocent victim of an extortion conspiracy."
Prominent George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley was highly-critical of Dershowitz's public statements attacking the accuser and her attorneys earlier this week. He was also highly skeptical of his claims that the attorneys' actions were disbarrable offenses.
As I mentioned, it is hard to see how it is a disbarring offense or defamation for these attorneys to reference the allegations of their client in court papers, particularly given the immunity protection afforded from allegations in court. However, in addition to the extortion reference, Dershowitz said “I’m planning to file disbarment charges against the two lawyers who signed this petition without even checking the manifests of airplanes or travel itineraries, et cetera.” Thus, he has made public comments (outside of protected court statements) linking the lawyers to extortion and unprofessional conduct, both per se categories of defamation. He is also quoted as calling Cassell and Edwards “sleazy, unprofessional, unethical lawyers” who should have known that their client is “lying through her teeth.” Once again, the reference to being “unethical” can be alleged to be more than opinion. It is stating something that can be challenged as factually false and per se defamatory.Dershowitz says he is "thrilled" the attorneys are suing him, but Turley doesn't think he should be. Dershowitz had fought past efforts by the two attorneys to depose him in the ongoing civil litigation they filed on behalf of sex abuse victims. "Now, instead of fighting of the stronger ground of his own claimed innocence, he will have to defend against raw and frankly ill-considered statements about counsel for the accuser," Turley said. "Moreover, Cassell and Edwards will go get what they long sought: Dershowitz in deposition under oath." You can view the lawsuit filed against Dershowitz by clicking here.
UPDATE: The Daily Beast's Alexandra Wolfe has an eye-opening story about how the morally-challenged elites rallied around Epstein after the ex-offender's release from prison in 2010. Her story begins:
On the evening of December 2nd, 2010, a handful of America's media and entertainment elite—including TV anchors Katie Couric and George Stephanopoulos, comedienne Chelsea Handler, and director Woody Allen—convened around the dinner table of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. It wasn't just any dining room, but part of a sprawling nine-story townhouse that once housed an entire preparatory school. And it wasn't just any sex offender, but an enigmatic billionaire who had once flown the likes of former President Bill Clinton and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak around the world on his own Boeing 727. Last spring, Epstein completed a 13-month sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor in Palm Beach. Now he was hosting a party for his close friend, Britain's Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the throne.
When a photo later surfaced of the two men walking in Central Park that weekend, the British press seized on the story, spinning out weeks of headlines about the 16-year relationship between Epstein and Andrew, with salacious details of underage "masseuses" and even a cozy weekend in Balmoral. Members of parliament began calling for Prince Andrew's resignation as Britain's trade envoy, and when another photo surfaced of Andrew and a 17-year-old concubine Epstein had allegedly "loaned" him splashed across the London tabs, even Britain's business secretary wouldn't confirm the royal could keep his role. But the uproar over "The Prince and The Perv"—as the British headlines screamed—mysteriously drowned in the Mid-Atlantic. New Yorkers barely batted an eye about the scandal-mongering across the pond. "A jail sentence doesn't matter anymore," says David Patrick Columbia, founder of New York Social Diary. "The only thing that gets you shunned in New York society is poverty." . . .