Difficulties of Marketing a Law Practice
|Levitt: self-described "bad ass" attorney.|
Originally from Oakland County, Todd moved to his beloved Mt. Pleasant and developed a great gig over the past few years by becoming the "go to" lawyer for Central Michigan University students charged with drug and alcohol crimes.
Promoting himself as a middle-aged snowboard-riding nutty adjunct professor, and Saul Goldberg-style lawyer, Todd sure looked like he was having fun in and around the haunts of his alma mater. About a year ago, just as he was taking his game to the next level with a self-crafted lawyer reality tv show, "In Todd We Trust", he suffered a backlash from within the heart of the campus he calls home.
Apparently, homie's antics caught the attention [and ire] of a fellow CMU professor whose son, a student at the university, had the technological chops to develop a mock twitter account called Todd Levitt 2.0. Todd did not like being the subject of satire and a brawl broke out in the twittersphere.
Then Levitt sued in the Isabella County Circuit Court on theories of defamation, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and interference with a business relationship; all standard tort theories designed to cover such a mess. A few weeks ago, the circuit court ruled against Levitt, finding that the CMU student's parody Twitter account of the lawyer was speech protected by the First Amendment.
We here at the Law Blogger agree wholeheartedly with this result. As a self-promoter of the first order, Todd became a public figure around CMU over these past several years. The court correctly held that statements made about such a figure, even if untrue, are nevertheless protected by the cloak of "parody" and satire.
Seeing opportunity within his defamation case, Levitt has apparently vowed to appeal what he sees as, "a case of first impression that needs to go to a higher court." Well, as every litigant has a right to appeal the final order of a trial court, we wish him the best of luck with all that.
As a barometer of local public opinion regarding our colleague, take a look at these 17 comments posted to CMU's announcement about his reality tv show.
Like any self-respecting self-promoting lawyer, this guy is not giving up; this guy is not going away [see the post script, below]. That is what still remains great about our free society.
We predict, however, that the Isabella County Circuit Court's order granting the defendant-student's motion for summary disposition will be affirmed on appeal. So Todd, we have to ask you about the old Hollywood adage: is there no such thing as bad publicity?
04/03/2015 Post Script:
We have received some additional information from Mr. Levitt regarding his law suit and have adjusted our view of his chances and his characterization of the defamation case as one of first impression. According to Mr. Levitt, the n'er-do-wells that parodied his twitter site did so for two months without any indication whatsoever that the site was a parody.
Todd says it was a 100% identify theft situation -not to rip him off financially- but to embarrass and harass him and his family. Identity theft in the social media context.
If he offered some proof of that dynamic in the circuit court, that changes the playing field and we agree with him that the Court of Appeals will take, or should take, a close hard look.
Here's another thing we've come to recognize about Todd's case: we sure would not want this to happen to us and if it did, we'd sue too.