Ken over at Popehat has a post up about his friend Marc Randazza. I’m not part of Ken or Marc’s group. I’m not a lawyer, I’ve never met Marc Randazza, and I wouldn’t know him if he walked up to me and punched me in the face while using the word “f–k” repeatedly.
But I wanted to pull together some thoughts on the Hon. Marc Randazaa, and why I’d like to shake his hand and buy him a beer.
I think part of the reason for that is one of the small regrets I have in my life. When I was younger, I was inspired by the work of Nat Hentoff: not as a jazz critic, but as a First Amendment activist. My school libraries had books like The First Freedom and, later on, “The Village Voice” (a week or two behind, but…). For those who don’t remember, the VV ran Hentoff’s column on the First Amendment up until 2008.
I thought seriously about becoming a lawyer. But I didn’t want to be just any kind of lawyer: I wanted to be a First Amendment lawyer. I wanted to fight the good fight for little kids like me who were fighting high school newspaper censorship, and big newspapers and magazines who were fighting the government.
In the end, though, I gave up that idea because I didn’t think I could make any money at it. Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t want to get rich, but I wanted to be able to pay off my loans for law school and buy a new car every few years. Just being a First Amendment lawyer didn’t seem like it would lead down that path.
Many years later, I became aquatinted with Mike Godwin. Yeah, that Mike Godwin. I would recognize Mike if he walked up to me and punched me in the face, though it has been about…greeez, 15 years? since I last saw him in person. (He didn’t punch me in the face then, for what that may be worth.) The thing that strikes me about him, thinking back on that time, is that he did something interesting that I didn’t have the knowledge or ability to do: Mike Godwin was one of the people – perhaps the person – who pioneered Internet law. Literally, Mike pretty much invented a whole brand new field of law from scratch as the first general counsel of EFF.
And then there’s Marc Randazza. Why do I think he belongs in the company of people who make me wish I went to law school? Why do I praise a man I’ve never met? “Because that’s just the kind of hairball you are,” say some of my friends. They’re probably right about that. But:
- He’s one of the people who stomped Righthaven like a bunch of vatos locos.
- He’s also a backer of righthaven.com, the “spineful hosting service”.
- He’s a loyal friend. Ken quotes him as saying “in three hours he could be on my driveway camping out with a shotgun and a thermos of espresso”. And let’s face it, a guy who is willing to camp out in your driveway with a shotgun and a thermos of espresso is good to know; at least as good as, perhaps better than, a Lithuanian hit man or someone who knows the best way to mail a dead gopher.
- He and Eric Turkewitz are defending a bunch of bloggers being sued by Joseph Rakofsky, a spectacularly bad lawyer who doesn’t like being called a bad lawyer. And they’re doing it pro bono. (“Pro bono” is an old Latin term that means “I ain’t making any money off of this.”)
- People often say that it is easy to defend the popular causes, but harder to defend the unpopular ones. I’m not 100% convinced of that: I think, regardless of how people feel about Illinois Nazis, people tend to give you credit. “Oh, no, he doesn’t like Nazis, he’s just consistent in his beliefs. Isn’t that wonderful?” “He wasn’t a Communist, he just believed in their right to free speech. Wasn’t he a hero?” I don’t want to trivialize those who defend the Commies or the Nazis, but it seems, in some ways, harder to defend the speech of the people that the proverbial “cool kids” don’t like: the people who are unpopular, but not unpopular enough. People like radio talk show hosts.
- I will have to remember to steal murum aries attitigt and use it in an inter-office email when the time is right.
- He has a hugely entertaining blog. And he doesn’t just cover legal issues: The Legal Satyricon is the place to go for people playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” inside a VW Polo in a field somewhere in Finland and photos of attractive young women in addition to perceptive legal coverage and TSA bashing.
- The man’s not above a good dick joke when it is called for.
- And getting back to the TSA, Marc Randazza is defending Amy Alkon, who is being sued by the rapist TSA agent Thedala Magee.
I’ve been thinking about this since last night, and it seems to me that Marc Randazza is a modern day exemplar of the kind of people Melville Davisson Post was talking about:
And I saw that law and order and all the structure that civilization had builded up, rested on the sense of justice that certain men carried in their breasts, and that those who possessed it not, in the crisis of necessity, did not count.
No one of them believed in what the other taught; but they all believed in justice, and when the line was drawn, there was but one side for them all.
He was a just man, and honorable and unafraid.
“a just man, and honorable and unafraid”. I like that phrase very much. I believe there is a shortage of people in the world about whom that could be said, but I think it fits the honorable Mr. Randazza well.