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If you go to the website of the Los Angeles law firm of Lavely & Singer and click the bio of cofounder Martin Singer, you find a Los Angeles Magazine article in which Singer is described as a “pit bull” who has “rabid” tactics and the nickname “Mad Dog.” The article quotes a journalist saying, “I’ll make one call to a publicist to check out a tip, and pretty soon I get a hand-delivered letter from Singer threatening all sorts of disasters and financial damages.”

Journalists publishing items about Singer clients — who have included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Céline Dion, Eddie Murphy, and a Swiss bank and its Cayman Islands operation — receive intimidating letters from the lawyer threatening lawsuits and admonishing writers to avoid being reckless. Singer is “the scourge of the tabloids…the man to call when a celebrity is in trouble,” says Variety.com.

It’s a pretty good bet that few law firms boast that their cofounder’s nickname is Mad Dog. It’s also a pretty good bet that few newspapers would hire such a lawyer to stridently threaten another newspaper about the consequences of inaccurately reporting charges contained in a civil lawsuit. Charges in lawsuits are “privileged,” meaning that the press can cite documents from a suit as long as the report is fair and accurate.

But Beverly Hills’ Platinum Equity, the buyout firm that recently acquired the Union-Tribune, has hired Mad Dog Singer to fire off a letter to the Reader.

Last month, the business/financial TV station CNBC quoted from two civil lawsuits, filed within the past three years, that charge Platinum Equity with sexual harassment, with giving special consideration to female employees who sleep with executives, and the like. There were settlement discussions with two of the plaintiffs, and both suits were dismissed. But Platinum won’t say if there were settlements with the female plaintiffs. (See adjoining column.) After getting the voluminous records from the lawsuits, the Reader asked Platinum’s public relations executive, Mark Barnhill, for a response.

Then the Reader received the letter from Singer. Among many things, the letter warned that if significant facts were omitted from a Reader story or if the story implied that the charges were true, Platinum would file a defamation suit “giving rise to potentially astronomical damages.” Warning of “immense monetary damages,” Singer’s letter admonished, “You proceed at your peril.” At the top of the letter were these words: “CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL NOTICE. NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR OTHER USE.” In a number of instances, the Reader has found, Singer’s threatening letters have been published despite his warning of a possible copyright violation. The letters we have seen contained the same language — words such as “malicious,” “defamatory,” and “violation of Copyright Act,” for example — that Singer uses in his letter to the Reader.

Lawyers say that such a confidentiality command is good only if the recipient agrees to the prohibition. The Reader does not honor Singer’s attempted ban.

“I have never heard of one newspaper threatening another regarding the publication of any material, whether it was allegedly privileged or not,” says Wayne B. Giampietro, a First Amendment lawyer for Stitt, Klein, Daday, Aretos & Giampietro of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. “I know of no basis on which an attorney can write a threatening letter to some party he does not represent and then [contend] that the recipient cannot quote from the letter. All of this sounds like a very clumsy attempt at intimidation.”

Attorney Jon Katz of Silver Spring, Maryland, who also does First Amendment cases, says he has never heard of a newspaper threatening another over publication of privileged material, although he has not done research on the matter. As to Singer’s warning that his letter could not be published or used in any other way, Katz says, “As a free expression zealot, I would be surprised if any judge treated the lawyer’s threat letter as confidential, where the recipient made no such agreement.”

The Letter

Download a PDF copy of Martin D. Singer's letter

  • Lavely & Singer
  • Professional Corporation
  • Attorneys at Law
  • Suite 2400
  • 2049 Century Park East
  • Los Angeles, California 90067-2906

June 26, 2009

  • CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL NOTICE
  • NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR OTHER USE

Gentlemen:

We are writing as litigation counsel to Platinum Equity, LLC regarding the story about my client being prepared for publication in an upcoming issue of the San Diego Reader (the “Story”), concerning specious lawsuits which have since been dismissed, after being filed by disgruntled former employees who hid behind pseudonyms while making prurient unsubstantiated allegations. In the event that you proceed to recklessly and maliciously publish a Story which falsely states, either directly or by implication, that my client engaged in wrongdoing as alleged in those lawsuits or otherwise, you will be exposed to substantial liability for claims including defamation and interference with prospective economic advantage. In the event that you proceed to recklessly and maliciously publish a Story which falsely states, either directly or by implication, that my client engaged in wrongdoing as alleged in those lawsuits or otherwise, you will be exposed to substantial claims for defamation, giving rise to potentially astronomical damages.

The Story is premised on salacious and unproven allegations contained in lawsuits which were ultimately dismissed, and which had been filed by disgruntled former employees of Platinum Equity who were not even willing to put their names on the suits. The fact that the lawsuits were filed under aliases speaks volumes. All three of the plaintiffs hid behind “Doe” pseudonyms. The fact that none of the individuals who made the sordid allegations contained in the suits were willing to stand behind their claims and sue in their own names is indeed telling.

The absurd “John Doe” lawsuit filed by the disgruntled former security guard was thrown out by the Court, after the Court struck his sordid and salacious allegations. After being fired for allegedly moonlighting, the former employee had sued claiming that he had been fired for refusing to sign an agreement that he claimed was unenforceable — an agreement that the Court later specifically held was valid and enforceable under California law. After the Court found that the lawsuit had been improperly filed under an alias, “John Doe” filed an amended Complaint, this time including a laundry list of gratuitous, inflammatory, unsubstantiated, false and defamatory allegations which had not been included in his original lawsuit, and which were irrelevant and completely unrelated to his lawsuit’s claims. Platinum Equity immediately filed a motion to strike those improper and scurrilous allegations. Significantly, the Court agreed with Platinum Equity, and granted its motion striking the improper allegations from the record.

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Comments

Visduh July 15, 2009 @ 3:47 p.m.

Appears to be another attorney who gets paid by the word. But a letter like that one, which is probably loaded up with the firm's usual boilerplate, could easily intimidate plenty of people, or at least scare them into watering down a story. In the days of the old wild west, there were hired guns. Now we have hired mouths, or at least hired word processors.

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SurfPuppy619 July 15, 2009 @ 3:58 p.m.

LOL...Marty Singger just got OWNED!

Hey Marty, you rolled the dice, and lost.

You just got called on your bluff.

My advice to Marty- don't bluff, if you're going to go around threatening someone you better be ready to follow through, or else you become just a little chicken hawk getting punked out.

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SurfPuppy619 July 15, 2009 @ 4:08 p.m.

Hey Marty, you're a joke.

I dare you to come after me.

Two words for you Marty: Anti SLAPP.

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 4:56 p.m.

Response to post #1: In the process of researching this column, I found several Singer letters that had been posted online. Yes, they used the same words and the same threats. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 4:58 p.m.

Response to post #2: You'll be the next to get a Singer letter, SurfPuppy, if he can find out your identity. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 4:59 p.m.

Response to post #3: I'm sure he doesn't think of himself as a joke. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 July 15, 2009 @ 5:26 p.m.

You'll be the next to get a Singer letter, SurfPuppy, if he can find out your identity.

Marty can send me all the letters he wants. Wait until he tries to sue me.

And if he wants to find out my name he is just two subpoena’s away-not real hard. . . . . . I'm sure he doesn't think of himself as a joke. =================================== I'm sure Marty doesn’t, but everyone else does.

You simply cannot go around making these types of merit less threats to silence free speech issues, especially when it is opinion or satire, and not expect to be called a joke when you get called on your bluff. (Note to Marty, look up NY Times v. Sullivan and Huslter v. Falwell).

Guys like Singer-who try to use their legal expertise and knowledge of the law to silence other view points by baseless threats- are a threat to our way of life and our free speech.

Anti SLAPP laws were designed with guys like Singer in mind.

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 6:14 p.m.

Response to post #7: What is most important here is that Platinum, the owner of a metropolitan daily newspaper, hired such a lawyer. Best, Don Bauder

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David Dodd July 15, 2009 @ 6:18 p.m.

I started to review the court cases cited in the letter, but the court decisions cited are nebulous and irrelevant to what is going on here. The letter smells like some cookie-cutter horsecrap sent off to try and scare anyone without a spine. Goodbye, U-T. Consider me another rat jumping off of your sinking ship.

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 7:53 p.m.

Response to post #9: Several Singer letters have been posted online, including in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, they are quite similar -- boilerplate with some localizing. A publication named Smoking Gun regularly prints his letters when received. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh July 15, 2009 @ 8:47 p.m.

Response to post #8. Don is right. Let the significance of this all sink in. The owners of the U-T hired this "intimidator" to try to muzzle the Reader. A few years ago--heck, a few WEEKS ago--the U-T tried to pretend that the Reader didn't exist. No recognition of the upstart (which has been around for, what, four decades?) paper that was constantly sticking things into the ears, eyes and other orifices of the U-T.

Yeah, the U-T, the paper of the high road, is trying to scare the little Reader into silence. How the mighty have fallen!

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Don Bauder July 15, 2009 @ 9:41 p.m.

Response to post #11: Well, I would say that if you have an asset worth $1 billion, and five years later you sell it for $50 million (for significantly less than the value of the real estate), you have fallen by definition. Best, Don Bauder

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Fred Williams July 16, 2009 @ 3:04 a.m.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR OTHER USE

Gentlemen,

We are writing as the litigation counselor for Fred_Williams, a frequent poster on the Scam Diego Blog.

We have become aware that you may potentially one day possibly consider the thought of maybe considering writing a response to a blog post he may or may not be contemplating writing in the unforeseeable future.

Publishing this blog posting will result in the immediate and irrevocable release of a squadron of winged-monkey lawyers who shall swoop down upon the India Street offices of the Reader, file lawsuits, fling excrement, and howl at passers by on the sidewalk.

If you procede to publish said blog posting, which shall be preceded by the words "NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR OTHER USE", the aforementioned flying monkey lawyers intend to sue for astronoical...nay...intergalactic damages up to and including the entire net worth of the known universe.

You proceed at your peril.

This does not constitute a complete or exhaustive statement of all of my client’s rights or claims. In fact, the winged primate advocates at our disposal may indeed determine that only the forced public humiliation of the entire Bauder clan, including any and all forebears, ancestors, and offspring, now or in the unforeseeable future, can suffice to compensate our client, Fred_Williams, in the event this blog post is published in print, online, or in any other format whatsoever.

Sincerely,

Hugh G. Rection Partner Bicker, Back, and Forth, Attorneys at Law

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David Dodd July 16, 2009 @ 3:32 a.m.

"flying monkey lawyers?"

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Great response, Fred. The Reader should print this.)

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Fred Williams July 16, 2009 @ 4:32 a.m.

If they print it, or even display it on the website as a comment, I'm suing!

:-)

Thanks, Refried. I enjoyed writing it. Flew off the keyboard. It's so easy to mock a pompous dorkwad like Singer, even Fumber could do it.

Fred (aka Hugh G. Rection, Esq.)

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Duhbya July 16, 2009 @ 6:40 a.m.

"You proceed at your peril."

Words whispered to his spouse on the wedding day?

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 7:30 a.m.

Response to post #13: Great satire. My favorite law firm is Dewey Cheatum & Howe. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 7:37 a.m.

Response to post #14: Why wouldn't the Reader print it? Fred is a great satirist. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 7:39 a.m.

Response to post #15: We haven't heard from fumber for quite awhile. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 7:42 a.m.

Response to post #16: Marriage was one of Pauline's lesser perils. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 July 16, 2009 @ 8:12 a.m.

Fred brings the funny....I think Im going to have to email Marty a link to this thread.

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:17 a.m.

Response to post #21: My guess is he already knows it. The focus has shifted to the owner of the U-T hiring Marty. The sex part of the story -- which has not gone to court, so can't be proved now -- has faded into the background. Best, Don Bauder

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paul July 16, 2009 @ 9:57 a.m.

"Response to post #15: We haven't heard from fumber for quite awhile. Best, Don Bauder"

Haven't we? Based on this rambling and repetitive threat letter I am left wondering whether we have discovered Fumber's day job.

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MURPHYJUNK July 16, 2009 @ 11:28 a.m.

a lot of good a letter will do marty when someone decides to feed him his teeth

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Duhbya July 16, 2009 @ 12:05 p.m.

Response to #17:

Sue Innocent and Bill Overly, Attorneys at Law

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MURPHYJUNK July 16, 2009 @ 12:29 p.m.

why not put a picture of Martin Singer in the media, I would guess he would not want to be out in public if he was a "public figure"

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SurfPuppy619 July 16, 2009 @ 1:31 p.m.

Marty looks a little like Tom Arnold here;

http://www.blogcdn.com/www.tmz.com/media/2006/06/lavely_singer_revised.jpg

Suit Alleges Defendant is "an A**hole" Posted Jun 22nd 2006 9:39AM by TMZ Staff

Celebrity lawsuits have become a brutal business. The fictitious headline of this item is only a slight overstatement. The things the stars want to say about the people they hate but never could are now surfacing in suits.

Let me introduce you to the kings of the legal rant -- Marty Singer and his law partner, Jay Lavely have brilliantly become the go-to lawyers when celebs believe they've been wronged.

Jay is the guy who filed the Reese Witherspoon lawsuit, claiming Star Mag violated her privacy by falsely stating/implying that she was pregnant. Most lawsuits I read are so boring it reminds me why I'm glad I'm not practicing law anymore. But the lawsuits Marty and Jay file, well, you want to read them while munching on popcorn. Jay trashes Star, alleging the article on Reese was a "tall tale brazenly published" to turn around "sagging sales." And with all due respect to Jay, no one is as deliciously brutal as Marty.

The fact is, these days, the stars are turning to Marty and Jay rather than publicists. First of all, it feels good to get things off your chest -- things that publicists just won't say for you out loud. Second, Marty and Jay can say pretty much anything they want about anyone in a lawsuit because it's all considered "protected speech," which means no one can sue for defamation. Searing language in legal documents gets favored nation status.

Jay and Marty are feared. I remember when I started "Celebrity Justice" I did a story Marty didn't much like, and I felt his wrath and I must say, he kinda scared the crap out of me. These days, I "get" Marty. He's not to be messed with, but I think I now know the game. It's not always about getting a verdict -- it's about getting people to cry uncle.

And there's something else about Jay and Marty -- they're actually really nice guys, and funny! They will probably sue me for that. After all, they have an image to protect.

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MURPHYJUNK July 16, 2009 @ 2:41 p.m.

I bet if some ( if not most) lawyers had to face the ppl they are suing face to face and not hide behind the law they would wet themselves and run away

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SurfPuppy619 July 16, 2009 @ 3:56 p.m.

Hey Don, any word from Marty over this piece yet?

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:19 p.m.

Response to post #23: I don't remember fumber ever citing alleged legal precedents. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:21 p.m.

Response to post #24: Marty has the Governator to back him up. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:22 p.m.

Response to post #25: Wonderful. Haven't heard of that law firm before. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:24 p.m.

Response to post #26: His clients are public figures. He isn't. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:29 p.m.

Response to post #27: One of the tightropes Singer has to walk is that when they are on the rise, Hollywood actors and actresses want all the publicity they can get -- good or bad. When they get really big, they only want the good publicity, but even Singer admits that his star clients need the media. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:32 p.m.

Response to post #28: There's an old saying that bluster is 9/10ths of the law -- something like that, anyway. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder July 16, 2009 @ 9:34 p.m.

Response to post #29: I haven't heard from him. I don't know if the Reader has. If it has, no one has told me. Best, Don bauder

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realnews July 17, 2009 @ 10:31 a.m.

I love Slapp suits. My attorneys has won many. But that's not the only reason I like him.

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Don Bauder July 17, 2009 @ 11:05 a.m.

Response to post #37: Good for him. What else has he done for you? Best, Don Bauder

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