The internets are all abuzz with the story of Joseph Rakofsky, young attorney with almost no experience, prone to inflating his credentials on his (now removed) web page, who is suing a large portion of the internets in what has been dubbed Rakofsky v Internet.
It all started when the Washington Post reported that the judge in a murder trial booted Joe Rakofsky as counsel for the defendant because he was so inept. The story said Rakofsky’s incompetence was reason enough to grant a mistrial. The story was told over and over again by bloggers, and soon Joey was suing them all!
Rakofsky’s lawsuit says the judge never called him incompetent, and if he did, it was defamatory… and those who repeated it were also defaming him, since they should have read the court transcript and should have seen how fabulous he was.
So what did the judge really say about the mistrial? Look no further than the transcript of the hearing in which the judge granted the mistrial and criticized Rakofsky. Specifically, the judge said:
I must say that even when I acquired (sic) of Mr. Deaner, I — as to whether or not, when the Court found out through opening, at least near the end of the opening statement, which went on at some length for over an hour, that Mr. Rakofsky had never tried a case before. And, quite frankly, it was evident, in the portions of the trial that I saw, that Mr. Rakofsky – – put it this way: I was astonished that someone would purport ot represent someone in a felony murder case who had never tried a case before and that local counsel, Mr. Grigsby, was complicit in this.
It appeared to the Court that there were theories out there – – defense theories out there, but the inability to execute those theories. It was apparent to the Court that there was a — not good grasp of legal principles and legal procedure of what was admissible and what was not admissible that inured, I think, to the detriment of Mr. Deaner. And had there been – – If there had been a conviction in this case, based on what I had seen so far, I would have granted a motion for a new trial under 23.110.
So I am going to grant Mr. Deaner’s request for new counsel. I believe both — it is a choice that he has knowingly and intelligently made and he has understood that it’s a waiver of his rights. Alternatively, I would find that they are based on my observation of the conduct of the trial manifest necessity. I believe that the performance was below what any reasonable person could expect in a murder trial.
As I said, it became readily apparent that the performance was not up to par under any reasonable standard of competence under the Sixth Amendment.
So since Joseph was so insistent on people getting it right… now I have had the opportunity to spell out exactly what the judge did say.