Published on April 28th, 2022 | by Mitchell Driskell0
The Local Lawyer: Barstool Briefs Part 13: “Short Stories on Legal Affairs”
The Cost of Woke
An Ohio appellate court recently ruled that Oberlin College must pay $33 million in damages for defaming a local bakery by supporting a student boycott against the bakery without confirming the basis for the boycott. In November, 2016, three Black students at Oberlin College were arrested for attempting to steal bottles of wine from Gibson’s Bakery, an establishment operating close to campus for over 100 years. Oberlin’s Student Senate immediately declared the incident a case of racial profiling, and without investigating any further, passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the bakery. The college’s administration got on board too and sent an email to students heavily implying that Gibson’s had discriminated against the students on the basis of race. The Dean of Students and other college employees created and handed out flyers that supported the boycott and accused Gibson’s of having a history of racial profiling. Oberlin provided facilities, food, and supplies for the protesting students. As a result of the accusations of racism, Gibson’s lost significant business and was dropped from a major contract providing baked goods at Oberlin’s cafeterias. The bakery went from a beloved restaurant next to the college to a symbol of express and systematic racism.
Gibson sued Oberlin and proved at trial that it had not racially profiled the shoplifters and it did not have a history of racism. The students involved admitted in open court that they had indeed attempted to shoplift and even engaged in physical altercations with Gibson’s staff. The bakerry showed that the allegations about past incidents were inaccurate and or just plain made up. After a six-week trial, the jury returned a verdict of $11.2 million in damages and then tripled the verdict to $33.6 million to punish Oberlin for its conduct. Oberlin appealed the massive verdict but lost, and, in a 50-page opinion, the Court dunked on Oberlin. The Court held that Oberlin had no reason to accuse Gibson’s bakery of racism, past or present, and did so without making any effort to see if the accusations were true. The Court said that Oberlin participated in and perpetuated a witch hunt and violated the very principles an institution of higher learning is supposed to uphold. The appeals court said that the $33 million verdict was a reasonable punishment for Oberlin abandoning all principles of research, investigation, responsibility, and truth.
FBI vs. The First Amendment
This story is shocking and needs more attention. The ACLU is representing media outfit Project Veritas (PV) in PV’s case against the government for illegal FBI raids and searches. PV is a kind of shady, conservative, right-wing news gathering and publishing outfit—think somewhere between Info-Wars and Fox News. The fact that the liberal-leaning ACLU is representing PV shows that high-level constitutional watchdogs feel like the government is way out of line here. A month before the Trump/Biden election, PV was given what it was told was the diary of Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden. PV did not publish anything from it, but it reached out to Biden and asked him about some of the stories in the diary. Biden’s team did not respond, but PV soon thereafter was raided by the FBI. PV’s operations were halted, reporters were scared stiff and sources were scared off. On top of that, the FBI obtained warrants to search and monitor PV’s emails from Microsoft and made Microsoft keep it a secret under a Gag Order, an extremely unusual way to search and seize without giving the target notice and opportunity to contest the government invasion. The ACLU recognized the insanity of the FBI’s actions and the threat that it has on a free press. The media has constitutional protection. The Federal government sticking its nose in the media, stopping it from publishing or scaring away news sources, is a shocking violation of the First Amendment reporter’s privilege. And there is no reason why the FBI should be involved with investigating a possibly stolen diary in the first place. That is for local cops. The ACLU probably hates everything that PV has ever published, but I applaud it for stepping in to help protect PV’s right to investigate and publish.
It’s My Party and I’ll Cry Because I have Panic Attacks
At Gravity Diagnostics, a Kentucky laboratory, co-worker birthdays are regular events. One employee did not want a celebration because “being the center of attention” can trigger his medically diagnosed panic disorder, and he asked his office manager to not have a birthday party for him. When the company threw him a lunchtime party against his wishes, it triggered a panic attack, and he left abruptly to spend his break in his car. He texted his office manager asking why she failed to accommodate his request to not have a party. The next day, he was called into a meeting with two superiors, who “confronted and criticized” him for how he reacted to the party. This caused him to have another panic attack. He was sent home from work for the next two days and then fired the next week because the company considered his behavior to be so erratic that it constituted a danger to workplace safety. He sued Gravity Diagnostics, the case went to trial, and last week a jury awarded the man $450,000 in damages, $120,000 for lost wages, and $300,000 for “past, present and future mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and loss of self-esteem,” court records show. Gravity Diagnostics will appeal the verdict based on some alleged juror misconduct. Good grief, pay the verdict and leave this poor man alone.
Mitchell Driskell has been an Oxford lawyer for twenty-one years. He practices criminal law, family law, business transactions and civil litigation. Email him firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram @mdriskell, twitter @MODIIItweets, TikTok @DriskellLaw and on Facebook.