My favorite aspect of the brouhaha over James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces of Pure Fiction” is the desperate Jan. 6 letter that Frey’s Los Angeles law firm, Singer & Lavely, sent to the Smoking Gun website in an effort to prevent the site from publicizing what is now public knowledge, thanks to the Smoking Gun: that Frey wove out of whole cloth most of the dastardly deeds and prison gigs to which he “confessed” in his supposed memoir. The letter threatens a million-dollar lawsuit if the Smoking Gun dares to go public with the information it painstakingly collected from witnesses and documents indicating that Frey wasn’t really up to what he said he was up to–which is exactly what the Smoking Gun promptly did, on Jan. 8.
The letter, signed by Martin D. Singer, attorney at law, bears this heading:
“Confidential Legal Notice”
“Publication or Dissemination Is Prohibited”
The letter itself consists of a five-page summary of Libel Law 101–just in case the Smoking Gun doesn’t have its own libel lawyers, plus many, many declarations that Frey told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in his book. I guess that since Oprah thinks “A Million Little Pieces” is fake but accurate, so does Singer & Lavely.
But what I love is the letter’s threatening conclusion. Singer declares that the Smoking Gun has a practice of “snidely” disregarding the law firm’s request that it not post letters from the law firm and goes ahead and posts them anyway–horrors! Singer writes:
“This letter is a confidential legal communication and it is not for publication, and you are not authorized to publish this letter, or any information contained therein….Any publication disseminated or broadcast of any portion of this letter will constitute a breach of confidence and a violation of the Copyright Act.”
Uh-huh. Martin D. Singer, Esq., may or may not know his libel law, but he was obviously snoozing during the session of his evidence class when the prof explained about “confidential legal communications.” The lawyer-client privilege of confidentiality applies only to communications between lawyers and their clients, Mr. Singer, not between lawyers and their opponents, who are entitled to do whatever they like with your letters to them. As for the copyright law, showing around a letter you got sounds like fair use to me.
Makes you want to run out and hire Singer & Lavely for your next lawsuit, doesn’t it?