Rule of Law

Breitbart (and PJ Media) vs. Shirley Sherrod

Imagine if a white government official with the Alabama Department of Agriculture stood before a Tea Party crowd and said words to this effect:

The first time I was faced with having to help a black farmer save his farm, he took a long time talking, but he was trying to show me he was superior to me. But he had come to me for help. What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him. [Laughter from Tea Party audience.] So many white farmers were having a hard time, and I was faced with having to help a black person. So I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I took him to a black lawyer, one of his own kind, to take care of him.

Imagine if a white government official admitted on camera that he initially didn’t help a black farmer as much as he could have helped him, and that the official took the farmer to “one of his own kind to take care of him.” Imagine what would happen next.

We all know exactly what would happen. The New York Times, NAACP, establishment media, civil rights lawyers and community organizers would unleash a coordinated hurricane at the Alabama official. They would wreck his reputation and leave him lucky to retire in peace, unharmed. As for the Tea Party, it would endure weeks of scorn and racial accusations.

But what if the official included a story of redemption in his Tea Party speech? What if he said he came to understand race shouldn’t matter, but instead poverty should be the focus, not race? Would that redemptive statement provide the Alabama official any sanctuary from the hurricane?

Do I need to even ask?

But when the speaker is former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod, and her audience is the NAACP, reporting on events similar to these might get you sued for defamation. Just ask Andrew Breitbart. Sadly, you’ll have to ask his widow Suzy because Shirley Sherrod is now suing her.  (See, “Vampires: Shirley Sherrod’s Lawyers Seek to Sue Widow of Andrew Breitbart.”)

sherrodNot content to enjoy any portion of a $13,000,000 settlement Sherrod’s husband Charles’ group earned in a lawsuit against the Agriculture Department for government racial discrimination against black farmers (including a $150,000 award for “pain and suffering”), Sherrod is still entangled in years-long defamation litigation with Andrew Breitbart’s widow and Larry O’Connor.

Now, Shirley Sherrod has served a subpoena on me, your author, to testify in a deposition in the litigation and turn over documents and emails between Andrew Brietbart and me. We’ll return to my subpoena in a moment.

In the meantime, savor Sherrod’s shameless irony: Plaintiff’s family receives money from a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination by the Department of Agriculture; plaintiff later admits on video being motivated by racially discriminatory intent while employed by very same Department of Agriculture and sues journalist who publishes the video.

Do the lawyers who took Sherrod’s case not recognize a laugh line when they see it?

Here are some other facts from the full Sherrod video. Sherrod’s tale is certainly one of redemption. But every redemption requires prior misbehavior or dark motives, and Sherrod says she once had, even but for a moment, a racialist approach to her life.

In a lesser reported portion of the famous video, Sherrod speaks of prayerfully seeking discernment about her future, ultimately deciding to commit to helping people. But it was a commitment with a twist. “When I made that commitment, I was making that commitment to black people, and to black people only.”

Those who knew Andrew Breitbart knew how repugnant he considered such racial exclusivity.

Let’s hope that the federal government isn’t filled with many other employees who share Sherrod’s old (and unconstitutional) attitude about helping Americans based on skin color. Let’s hope they hold the views of the redeemed Sherrod, not the racialist Sherrod.

Back to my subpoena.

Beginning in early April, the crack legal team representing Sherrod commenced a two-month long escapade trying to serve me with the subpoena. Shirley Sherrod better hope her lawyers are better at examining witnesses at trial than they are serving the subpoenas to get them there.

Process servers attempted to serve the subpoena on me on days when Google could have told you I was speaking at a Chicago law school. When I was out of town, process servers tried to serve process. But when I was in town and appearing live with Megyn Kelly on Fox News multiple times with the Capitol Dome in the background, no attempt was made to serve me at a place they were certain to find me. Nobody came to my office when I was there day after day. Sherrod’s team even took to paying someone to sit outside my house in a car, naturally on days I was in downtown Washington, D.C., scheduled to give a well-publicized talk at the Cato Institute (which is where I was ultimately served).

The company Sherrod hired to serve me boasts about being able to serve difficult process.  But there’s no mention of how good they are at serving easy to find people like me.  The answer is they aren’t very good.

Someone must have money to burn, especially in this purportedly pro-bono lawsuit.

But Sherrod’s lawsuit isn’t about justice and doing what is right. If it were, after Andrew died in 2012, a person who seeks discernment would have told her lawyers not to seek money from widows raising fatherless children. Sherrod’s case isn’t about justice; it’s about shutting up the new and increasingly powerful conservative media.

Recently, a best-selling author with a book launch this summer told me that his publisher nixed all of the perfectly truthful material in his manuscript about Sherrod because of her twitchy trigger finger. Breitbart News can’t touch Sherrod while the litigation is ongoing. Apart from PJ Media, Twitchy, the Daily Caller and few others, hardly anyone even covered the disgraceful story of Sherrod dragging Suzy Breitbart into the lawsuit.

Sherrod’s lawsuit may eventually fail in court, but her lawsuit is winning where it really counts: bullying conservative media.

PJ Media, on the other hand, isn’t going to stay silent. From this posting forward, we will continue to cover Sherrod’s effort to obtain a monetary judgment against Andrew Breitbart’s widow. We’ll cover the ongoing litigation. We’ll cover any effort to take funds which would otherwise be used by Suzy for the raising and education of her four fatherless children. We’ll be covering my deposition later this month.

We will also be examining an inside-the-Beltway big law firm culture that would take Sherrod’s case pro bono in the first place, and look closely at the other pro bono cases Kirkland and Ellis has taken, for free. Here’s a preview: they have an uncanny ideological homogeneity. (More on the law firm representing Sherrod, Kirkland and Ellis, here, here and here.)

So my deposition is scheduled for later this month. In June, I provided Sherrod documents pursuant to the subpoena, including emails to editors at PJ Media about the case and stories about how Sherrod’s law firm once represented a Nazi slave labor camp guard from Treblinka.  (See, 782 F.2d 1374.)

Sherrod Lawyer Alex Stege

Sherrod lawyer Alex Stege

Not satisfied with my document response, Alex Stege, the junior of junior associates on Sherrod’s case expressed blustery dismay to my lawyer, former Justice Department official Robert Driscoll. Driscoll’s response to Sherrod’s lawyer is a story in itself. Every lawyer who has confronted overbroad discovery demands and grand pomp from opposing counsel would enjoy Driscoll’s response. A snip:

In response to my production to you of every document in my client’s possession, custody or control that is responsive to your subpoena, you chose to write an accusatory, inaccurate, and self-serving letter to me (dated July 3, 2014) instead of picking up the phone and having a conversation. Having worked at large law firms for the better part of 20 years during my career, I can only presume that your decision to write (on impressive Kirkland & Ellis stationary, no less, rather than in email) instead of call signals that you intend your letter to serve as “Exhibit A” to some discovery motion currently being crafted deep within the bowels of Kirkland & Ellis by associates eager to escape yet another soul-deadening document review for a brief, pro bono, taste of the adversarial process. Should such a motion come to fruition, which I certainly hope is not the case, I have made the life of your paralegal or secretary a bit easier by labeling this letter “Exhibit B.” Please include it with your letter should you chose to file a motion.


To recap briefly: you subpoenaed my client, a non-party to the litigation captioned above, and, on his behalf, I produced the few responsive documents in his possession. I glean that you are disappointed that Mr. Adams, like most normal people who are not parties to lawsuits, is not in possession of many documents, particularly emails, from 2010, i.e., four years ago. . (Cf Tommy Vietor, spokesperson for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in response to questions about events in Benghazi in 2012: “Dude, this was two years ago.”)

You can, and should, read the whole thing here.

I’ll be reporting much more on the saga of Shirley Sherrod vs. Suzy Breitbart, Larry O’Connor and the in terrorem defendant not mentioned in the pleadings, Conservative Media.

Until then, ponder why members of the NAACP audience laughed out loud at this statement by Shirley Sherrod about a white farmer – “What he didn’t know while he was taking all that time trying to show me he was superior to me was I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.”