The Best Defense

The axiom “the best defense is a good offense” seems to be practiced ever more frequently in litigation these days. It’s not terribly clear how effective the tactic is, but civility in litigation certainly seems to be waning, particularly among the well-known.

Consider these examples from the past few months:

  • Fox talk show host Bill O’Reilly was threatened with a sexual harassment suit by network producer Andrea Mackris. His lawyer responded by filing a lawsuit alleging her settlement demands were nothing more or less than attempted extortion. O’Reilly also sued her attorney. That, of course, was shortly before Mackris sued and O’Reilly quickly settled.
  • Late last year rapper Snoop Dogg sued a woman (who he did not identify in the suit), charging that she had tried to extort him by threatening to disclose her allegations that he had assaulted her. He also sued her lawyers. Emmy award winning makeup artist Kylie Bell responded by counter-suing the rapper, alleging she had been drugged and sexually assaulted.
  • Actor Burt Reynolds sued his former girlfriend, alleging that she had tried to extort him and had threatened to go public with claims that he had physically and mentally abused her. A day later, Pamela Seals filed a counter suit against Reynolds.
  • Comedian Bill Maher sued his ex-girlfriend saying she had tried to extort him.

Other entertainment and sports figures have defended criminal cases by alleging that those who have brought criminal complaints against them are actually just trying to shake them down.

The temptation to go on the offense hasn’t stopped there. A management advice book written by Thomas Neff and James Citrin received a favorable reception. Until Michael Watkins claimed that the Neff-Citrin book contained extensive parallels to two books of his own. Watkins said he was thinking of suing Neff-Citrin for copyright infringement. Meantime, Watkins wrote complaints to persons who had written endorsements for the book’s jacket. Now Neff-Citrin and their publisher are considering a possible defamation suit. There seems to be little doubt that if one side fires the first shot by filing suit, the other side will shoot back.

Whatever happened to the old days when you had a plaintiff and a defendant? Even parties who feel they are the victims or aggrieved ones now find themselves on the defensive.