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Attorney Philip J. Berg

Misplaced trust: hacking, punking and birthers

I was looking at Birther Report this morning, and noticed the article about their acquiring a new server (mentioned by commenters here previously). I and others have expressed some skepticism about the ability of Birther Report to remain secure once it leaves the Google umbrella and goes to a privately-owned server. The particular words from the author Helen Tansey that caught my attention were:

This process includes hiring a trusted programmer who will manage the migration from Blogger to the new server.

I don’t think birthers are very good at knowing whom to trust. Birther Report regularly publishes articles that are nonsense. They use advertising providers who let themselves get hacked, resulting in BR having been a vector for malware.

Of course, the poster child for misplaced trust is probably Orly Taitz who is regularly punked by commenters on her blog, filed no less than two fake birth certificates in court, and allowed malware to be placed on her web site on multiple occasions. Searching for “hacked” on this site returned more hits for Taitz than for any other. Taitz ended up suing her former webmaster (I express no opinion on the merits of that suit). Orly also claims to be hacked when she hasn’t been.

I put Mike Zullo in the number 2 position. While Zullo’s failures are not as transparent as Taitz’, it appears that he’s been fooled many times. He trusted the various birther document forensic volunteers much to his embarrassment. First there was Mara Zebest, who showed basic misunderstanding of technical details, and then Garrett Papit who led the Posse into false declarations about PDF files, the ones debunked by a Xerox machine. One also must at least wonder at the money spent by Zullo on the Reed Hayes report, which is yet to be released. Zullo’s biggest lapse in judgment was when he believed the fake 1961 vital statistics manual and then made it the centerpiece of his 2nd press conference. I should add that the Cold Case Posse web site itself was hacked last December, apparently because they used old software and didn’t apply security patches. They also went down a couple of time when they didn’t pay their bills. Whoever was entrusted with the site didn’t do a responsible job.

Phil Berg’s site was hacked too.

I think most of the birther and anti-birther web sites are hosted by blog providers, either Google Blogger™ or WordPress.com. These will shield their users from most forms of hacking except for third-party advertising that got Birther Report. For this reason, we don’t see a lot of hacking on these sites. Orly, however, runs her own software, as did Berg and the Zullo. I run my own software and the Fogbow does also.

I don’t want to make too big a deal about a birther site getting hacked: “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” the saying runs. A while back, the URL shortening service used my Twitter feed got hacked. That didn’t affect my visitors, but I did have to change URL shortening providers (Twitter does this automatically now). Someone else who runs a site on the same server as I, was hacked and started sending spam. I do some of the basic anti-hacking stuff like obfuscating database tab names, using secret keys in cookies and always installing the current versions of all the software I use.

Berg to byline book about Obama

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that birther attorney Philip J. Berg has lost his privilege to practice before the US Supreme Court, following a two-year suspension from the practice of law in his home state of Pennsylvania for matters unrelated to his anti-Obama lawsuits; however, in an interview with his local newspaper, the Lehigh Valley News, Berg admits that it was spending so much time pursuing Obama that caused him to neglect his own clients.

Berg, who said that he would re-apply to the Supreme Court after his suspension ends, also said he was writing a book about Obama.

Did you know?

  • Phil Berg is a volunteer fireman

Taitz gets lump of coal for birthday

Taitz v. Obama appeal postponed

Here’s what Orly said [link to Taitz web site]:

Suddenly, on my birthday (yet again, never fails), another road block was placed in front of me.   My September 26 hearing in Taitz v Obama was postponed till October. No explanation was given aside from a short note that it was done.

She has a point. It was on her birthday, August 30, 2011, when Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed Taitz v. Astrue. I wrote about that in my article “Taitz gets sucky birthday present.” On her birthday in 2012, Orly reports that someone called her on the phone and cussed her out and in 2010, she says her Facebook account was suspended [link to Taitz web site].

I got a cake for my birthday this year and a replica Dr. Who (Tom Baker) scarf.

Note: The case is G047746, and you can search for it here.

Update:

Oral argument rescheduled for October 23, 2013. On Sept. 10 Taitz filed a motion for leave to submit a supplemental brief and CD with “newly discovered information.” It was denied.

Birther Berg bounced

There was a misfire some months ago with the premature reporting of the suspension of birther attorney Philip J. Berg based on the findings of a Pennsylvania disciplinary board. That two-year suspension from the practice of law is now final as of June 19, as  ordered by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The suspension is not related to birther lawsuits.

It is likely that this precipitated the notice filed in the case of Liberi v. Taitz the following day that attorney Stephen H. Marcus will be representing Berg and other plaintiffs.

I don’t provide much coverage of the Liberi lawsuit because it is an internal squabble between individuals, and not really about Obama. Berg, however, is an important figure in the birther movement, popularizing many of the main points of the “born in Kenya” conspiracy theory.

The birther contribution to American jurisprudence

Dealing with frivolous litigation, whether filed by a seasoned attorney or a novice pro se litigant, is a bit like wrangling cats.

Robert J. Davis

Where's the Birth Certificate? billboardWhile one doesn’t usually combine “birther” and “contribution” in the same sentence, the birther phenomenon has left its mark on the US justice system through educational examples, black letter law, and a bit of humor to spice up otherwise dull legal briefs. This article details ways in which the birthers in general, and Orly Taitz in particular, have contributed to the law.

A good example of bad behavior

I don’t know whether they teach this at the William Howard Taft online law school, but there are certain standard reference works that attorneys rely on to inform their practice and to find the citations that they need to make legal arguments. One source is the Practicing Law Institute whose mission is:

To enhance the professionalism of attorneys and other qualified persons by providing, in a cost effective manner, the highest quality and most innovative programs, publications and other services to enable them to practice law competently and ethically, and to fulfill pro bono responsibilities.

In 2010, the PLI published a paper by Koral and Price titled: “Trying the Court’s patience instead of the case: common litigation mistakes” to draw the line between “zealous advocacy” and “impermissible or injudicious tactics.” One way of brightening the line is to give examples of what constitutes “impermissible or injudicious tactics” and the birthers, in the person of Orly Taitz, provide a featured example of being on the wrong side of the line. Writing about Rhodes v. MacDonald, where Judge Clay D. Land sanctioned Taitz:

Attorney Orly Taitz provides a notorious recent example of an attorney’s conduct succeeding more at irritating the judge than at advancing the interests of her client. A member of the “birther” movement, which challenges President Obama’s citizenship on the grounds that he had failed to adequately prove that he was born in the United States, Ms. Taitz filed a motion in connection with this litigation on behalf of a Captain in the United States Army to enjoin her deployment to Iraq. District Judge Clay D. Land held that the motion was frivolous, and further found that “Plaintiff’s motion is being presented for the improper purpose of using the federal judiciary as a platform to espouse controversial political beliefs rather than as a legitimate forum for hearing legal claims.”

Taitz was sanctioned for her conduct in the case because, as Judge Land said:

[t]his pattern of conduct reveals that it will be difficult to get counsel’s attention [and so a] significant sanction is necessary to deter such conduct.

The PLI article was written in 2010, before Orly Taitz brought a federal lawsuit against Judge Land. I wonder what the article would say if it were written today!

Black letter law

The Wikipedia article on Precedent says:

gavelIn common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.

Black letter law is the body of cases that attorneys and courts look to for established precedent. If you have ever read a birther legal decision that involves dismissal for lack of standing, you will almost invariably see Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife cited. Once the body of birther lawsuits built, one began to see citations on standing to decided birther cases, notably Hollander v. McCain and Berg v. Obama. More recently we see extensive citations to Ankeny v. Governor of Indiana alongside US v. Wong on the question of whether Obama is a natural born citizen and Robinson v. Bowen on ripeness of election challenges.

The precedential value of birther lawsuits now extends beyond the backwaters of birtherism; they have become mainstream precedent in several areas of the law and now appear in the standard reference resources used by attorneys.

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Bad blood boils: Berg blasts birther

It happened to me: I mistakenly believed that Philip J. Berg’s law license had been suspended and even wrote it into an article (now corrected). Apparently I wasn’t the only one fooled.

According to Phil Berg (letter to the Court embedded at the end of this article), defense counsel Kim  Schumann and Jeffrey Cunningham in the Liberi v. Taitz lawsuit bought the story from their client Orly Taitz too, and contacted the court and had Berg removed as counsel for the plaintiffs saying he had lost his license.

Berg states in his letter to the Court that this false statement was “repeatedly posted all over the Internet  and sent through RSS feeds to millions of websites and Individuals; and repeatedly mass Emailed….” (I learned about it from a mass email directly from Orly Taitz.)

Berg demands sanctions and costs for having to respond to the false allegation.

As best I understand the facts, a recommendation was made that Berg be suspended, but no decision has actually been made to do it.

Somebody give Berg a cookie

In a more bizarre part of the story, Berg alleges his computer system was attacked by Taitz, who attempted to put tracking software on it. He shows a screen shot from Norton Internet Security detecting an “intrusion attempt” while visiting her site: Norton rated the threat “high.” Google reports that the Taitz site has been clean for the past 90 days. Recall that the Taitz web site has had problems in the past with malicious software on it and the early days of her web site were accompanied by claims of being hacked, and PayPal contributions stolen, directed against Lisa Ostella, another plaintiff in the Liberi suit.

Read all 167 legal documents in the case. What mess!

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