Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge and a sense of proportion

by Ted Frank on May 3, 2007

We’ll agree: the posters at the AutoAdmit/Xoxohth board—like commenters on DailyKos, Google and Yahoo! boards, Legal Underground, The Volokh Conspiracy, and even Overlawyered—can be distasteful or obnoxious, and all the more so because in Xoxohth’s case because the board is largely unmoderated. Posters have engaged in racial slurs and misogynist remarks; they are notorious for threads where posters evaluate the looks of female attorneys and law students. (Even my girlfriend was the subject of a brief thread.) The site has recently had negative publicity from a Yale Law student who blames a thread there for an inability to find a job and from a Boalt Law student who is facing expulsion because he briefly posted to AutoAdmit and quickly withdrew a poor-taste-joking threat of a Virginia-Tech-copycat at Hastings that resulted in the latter school being shut down for a day.

A Penn Law student who was an administrator on the site resigned in response to some of the shenanigans on the board in March. The WSJ Law Blog is reporting today that that was not enough for his future employer, Boston law firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, which withdrew its job offer to Anthony Ciolli, who (to my knowledge) is not accused of making any objectionable remarks himself. Now, an employer can reasonably decide that it does not wish to associate with a controversial employee (though the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act imposes on private employment relationships in some circumstances what are in most other states thought of as constitutional speech and freedom-of-association protections applicable only to governmental relationships, which may mean that Ciolli has a cause of action against the firm).

But the decision of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge to find Ciolli’s association with the AutoAdmit board disqualifying is curious if only because one of the attorneys at the same office of the law firm has been indicted for felony homicide for allegedly killing a man in an auto accident while driving under the influence of sleeping pills. (Three and a half pills were missing from a three-hour-old Ambien prescription, and the attorney allegedly admits “tasting” them.) Now, that attorney is entitled to a presumption of innocence in his criminal trial (he pled not guilty in the summer of 2006, a motion to dismiss was denied later that year, and I cannot find any reference to the current status of his case). But if you ever wanted to know how damning it is in the modern legal community to be associated with a controversial website accused of misogyny, you now have an answer: it’s worse than being accused of killing someone.

More blogosphere commentary: Concurring Opinions; Above the Law.

{ 4 comments }

1 Justinian Lane 05.03.07 at 4:07 pm

Two points.

1: It is ridiculous and disgusting for a man accused of homicide to keep his job when a guy who was associated with a web site that called girls ugly loses his.

2: I was smart enough to take my own personal blog down years ago out of fear that my misogynistic, misanthropic rantings could someday embarrass me. You would think law students and lawyers would also be smart enough to use a pseudonym and get a fake gmail address.

2 Ted 05.03.07 at 4:14 pm

1) To be fair, there may be legal considerations we are unaware of that preclude adverse employment action from being taken. For (purely speculative) example, if the attorney is claiming a drug addiction and ADA protection, the firm may feel it is precluded from firing him.

2) Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of taking down a personal blog when you admit that you made misogynistic rantings?

3 David Wilson 05.03.07 at 5:11 pm

1. The original WaPo story is typical liberal-MSM self-service: a) this Internet thing sure is bad, because ‘inappropriate’ comments slip out (so stick with us!); b) if a member of a protected class claims that something bad happened to them, the allegation is good enough for the anecdotal lead of the story and won’t be tested by the reporter (i.e., So-and-So KNOWS she was s victim of discrimination); and 3) protected class complaints are otherwise a good juicy story, but if you’re not a member, don’t bother us, even if 4) your life is destroyed as a result (see the Duke players, Don Imus, etc).

2. The Boston firm’s decision to withdraw its employment offer to Anthony Ciolli is a testament to the awesome power of political correctness in America today. When victims have this much power, are they still “victims”?

4 Zubon 05.05.07 at 2:59 pm

I must admit, I am looking forward to the first lawsuit citing this post as an example why its plaintiff has been harmed by a (false?) claim that s/he was associated with the site. “Here we have a representative member of the legal community arguing that this is literally worse than an accusation of murder!”

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