Years ago, a friend of mine was called as a witness for the prosecution in a local magistrates court. Although the charges were relatively minor, the defendant was the son of the agent of a rather senior politician of the time. The evidence against the defendant was pretty conclusive, however he chose to plead not guilty – more than that, rather than be defended by a solicitor, he instead turned up with a barrister who seemed to have been hired in an attempt to try and get the young gentleman off the hook. The barrister then proceeded to pick through all of the evidence dragging the whole proceedings out, whilst at the same time giving out such an attitude of disrespect that by the end of it all, the magistrate was visibly annoyed at the whole farrago. As a result, the magistrate then handed down a sentence rather above what would have been given had the defendant just pleaded guilty.
Along similar lines, we have another example of why you shouldn’t upset a lawyer – especially if you’re another lawyer – with the latest instalment of the Mark Brewer SPCK SSG story. One of numerous actions that got people annoyed was the fact that Brewer attempted to have SSG, a UK based charity, declared bankrupt in the USA, naming a non-existent US company as the entity being wound up – the belief being that it was being done to hide from the mainly UK creditors (it is worth mentioning that Brewer maintains that it is being done in the USA for other reasons). Needless to say, the court in the USA chucked out the case as being “in bad faith” – meaning that it was filed for a wrong or improper purpose – but not before a whole load of work had had to have been done. The non-existent company wasn’t the only odd thing about it though, among another of other aspects of the case that smelt fishy were the fact that Brewer’s own firm of lawyers were the ones acting for the non-existent company that he was trying to have declared bankrupt – so Brewer was both one of the people named as being part of the non-existent company, and also the lawyer acting in the case – and there was also another Brewer company called the ENC Shop Management Company that wasn’t even mentioned in the motion.
Accuses Brewer of perpetrating a fraud on the court:
â€œMr. Brewer and his firm engaged in a concerted scheme to mislead this Court and to file a bad faith bankruptcy case. Mr. Brewerâ€™s action in failing to disclose the true name of the Debtor and the cancellation of its contract and assignment of those rights to another closely held company of Mr. Brewer is a fraud on this Court. â€œFraud on the courtâ€? is an intentional act by an officer of the Court to deflect the Court from knowing all of the facts necessary to make an appropriate judicial decision on the matter before it.â€?
Suggests that Brewer needs “20 hours of continuing legal education in the area of legal ethics”.
States that “the filing of this case in the United States where almost every creditor is located in the United Kingdom brings disrepute to the Bankruptcy Courts of the United States as they are being used as a haven for a party attempting to escape justice”.
That Brewer “seeks to use the designation of St. Stephen as a charity to somehow suggest that his conduct does not bear scrutiny”, before pointing out that the opposite should be true.
Concludes that “creditors, especially those in a situation like this who are looking at the system from outside U.S. borders, can see that parties who would attempt to subvert the law to escape their responsibilities will be punished”.
The whole impression of the document is that Randy Williams is really rather cheesed off. But putting that aside, the motion provides a lot that can be used back in the UK, and does seem to represent another spectacular backfire on Brewer’s part. Rather than quietly winding up the charity, the US court is now looking to punish him and his firm for bringing the motion in the first place.
Update: Brewer has issued a response to the request for sanctions, which Matt Wardman has reproduced largely admitting to the accusations and accepting the majority of the charges made against him. Another thing to note from Matt’s posting is that there is enough about Brewer on the internet now that even searching for his company name brings up a posting about him misleading the court as one of the first links. As I said, another spectacular backfire – the original postings by Dave Walker never had this sort of page rank on Google…
New kids on the block CuilÂ might poor scorn on their algorithms, but the way Google floats popular pages up the rankings can still tell you a lot. For example, say you were looking for Texas Attorney Mark Brewer, the fact that, at this point in time, there are six references to his dealings with Dave Walker and the SPCK above his own page gives a pretty strong message…
Things have progressed a little with the Dave Walker/SPCK story overnight with the publication of a great document by Matt Wardman. The document brings together copies of the original seventy-five posts from CartoonChurch, along with subsequent relevant posts and comment from other blogs, such that the document runs to a pretty epic 130 pages. However as an overview of the whole story it is invaluable. The document is downloadable from The Wardman Wire, and as it covers the same material as I have had published on my Evernote account, I’ll be removing those in favour of Matt’s document.
Over the past few days I’ve tweaked the settings on the Dave Walker/SPCK Friend Feed room, such that it is now running with eleven feeds from various search terms that are pretty consistently picking up all relevant posts within a short time of them appearing online (the last time I manually added anything was Wednesday). In theory it should be de-duping between the feeds (although there have been a couple of hiccups) so it should be a fairly good way of keeping track. You can also hook up to a feed from the room which gives you a good way to have an overview of what everybody is saying.
Outside of that there are a few interesting posts that have appeared. Firstly some of the others who were on the receiving end of cease and desist’s have broken cover, have a read of this post from Unicorn Tree Books and this one from the SPCK/SSG blog. There is also this one from SPCKWatch challenging Brewer to send a cease and desist to him, and including a couple of points from Brewers page that don’t appear to be exactly gospel truth.
Why why why is this not being took on by the media more!!
Sadly widespread media coverage has been sadly lacking up to now, and certainly over the past couple of weeks the media has been far more interested in a game of spot the schism… Fingers crossed that this will change now – certainly there are a couple of well known names who have either signed up to the Facebook group, or blogged in support of Dave. Whilst the removal of the posts was the catalyst, the more one digs into the story the more interesting it becomes, especially when you consider that some of our church buildings are ending up in the hands of these guys along with the SPCK shops.
I really don’t think this is the way he wanted it when he started collating stories of the demise of the SPCK book shops, but by capitulating to the heavy handed â€œremove everythingâ€? approach from Mark Brewer, Dave Walker has indirectly given the underlying cause massively more publicity than they ever had before. By succeeding in silencing the story in such a dramatic way on CartoonChurch, Mark Brewer has blown the story massively bigger than it ever was before, as a growing number of people highlight it on their own blogs. (I don’t know why, but the whole thing reminded me of a rather famous moment in Star Wars…)
For example, the Facebook group in support of Dave Walker is now significantly bigger than the original SPCK Supporters group, and people who maybe had a passing interest in the demise of the SPCK shops are much more focused on what is going on – and I’m including myself in that, if you look back through my site, prior to this I don’t think I’ve even mentioned it.
â€œThank goodness that we have this one, last bastion of free speech â€“ the Internet. The internet, in particular, is the only truly free â€?pressâ€œ we still have.â€?
This certainly is a salutary lesson to anybody to be very aware of everything you have said online, as even if you delete the site and the posts completely there are numerous places that the quote can live on indefinitely – for example I can use the same sites to track back to postings I made in the early 1990’s, over fifteen years ago. Here, a quote Brewer made in a campaign eight years ago takes on a whole new light…
Perhaps what is driving the campaign, and why Sam Norton and others aren’t backing down is trying to resolve the content of the original posts, with the accusations in the cease and desist. The whole collapse of the SPCK book shop chain over the past couple of years has not surprisingly raised a good deal of emotion, not least amongst the staff caught up in the middle of it all – indeed one staff member took his own life following his redundancy from the Worcester shop. When you read the posts, Dave spent a good deal of time trying to moderate those reactions in order to thoughtfully report events that he believed should be of concern to a wider audience. As a relatively high profile site he primarily acted as a central resource for collecting together information from the geographically diverse chain. Care in what was written was uppermost, even when emotions grew – you can easily find points where he calls for cool heads, and where he removed comments that he himself deemed were close to the line. Certainly an approach from Mark Brewer asking for specific points to be removed would I’m sure have been met with much less of an explosion of anger in the blogsphere than the cease and desist attempt to close down the whole story has produced, (further enhanced when the pages include attempts to financially support redundant former SPCK employees) – to be honest edits to existing posts would be unlikely to be noticed, but seventy-five posts vanishing overnight set the whole snowballing story into motion. And of course, like his quote eight years ago, all of this will live on in the archives…
So any lessons? Watch what you write – once published on the Internet it’s very difficult to remove. Also think before you e-mail – MadPriest has something that he hasn’t posted yet for example. Also, watch what other people write. If you work in PR for any sort of organisation, set up some searches on sites like technorati and Google to monitor for stories – it’s a lot easier to address a story when it first appears, rather than trying to shut the whole thing down months after it has got going. Whatever your opinions on the current situation, and however much you might want a set of posts removed, after this much time it’s too late to close the stable door.
The current list of supportive posts stands at sixty four items: