Update: lawyer’s baseless demand letter amounted to extortion

by Walter Olson on September 18, 2009

Updating our March 2008 coverage: The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last month that an attorney could properly be convicted of extortion for sending a demand letter threatening patently baseless litigation. The lawyer had sent the letter (which included a demand for monetary payment) to a hair salon threatening litigation over its purportedly discriminatory setting of different rates for men’s and women’s haircuts. A crucial element in the decision was that the lawyer did not in fact have a client in hand with a potential complaint as an actual customer of the salon. [Eugene Volokh, Above the Law; State v. Hynes, PDF] “Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Baker said Hynes sent letters to at least 19 salons in the state.” [Concord Monitor 2008 coverage]