The Lockdown/PCHelp lawsuit is OVER.
In terms of my legal jeopardy, it is a complete and unqualified victory.
Thanks in large part to my many friends, I was able to go the distance; and Michael Paris was not.
The story of the suit and what led up to it is long and involved. But the end of the legal attack is a tale simply told:
It's over. Paris has gained nothing for his trouble, save the cost to us both.
In the end, Paris has only demonstrated what we already knew is a terrible fault in the American system of justice: that the power of the civil courts can be wielded by a litigant to bludgeon a critic of limited means into financial, if not total submission, with or without just cause. It requires only the wherewithal to press a case of superficial merit. It's my belief that had Michael Paris truly believed in his claims against me, he'd have pressed them to the end. He had the means. Lockdown 2000 sales had exceeded three quarters of a million dollars.
I have demonstrated another thing we knew: that with the help of friends, perseverance even against something so overpowering is possible.
My website survives essentially intact. His complaints largely invalidated, his own admissions under oath serving to only support many of my statements he had claimed were defamatory, Paris needed a face-saving way out; but he and his attorney were in no position to propose anything but superficial changes to a few web pages. The overall message of those pages remains utterly, unmistakably clear. In fact, that message now bears more weight and wields more power than ever before. It has survived a legal challenge, and Paris' own attorney as editor!
What do they say? In sum, those pages paint a factual picture of intentional deception of the buying public, for no evident purpose but the financial benefit of Michael Paris and of his cohorts, Eddie Davidson and Roger Leclerc. Read 'em and weep, but not for Paris. He made out just fine.
In the course of the suit, I had backed my assertions about these people and the products they so falsely sold, in excruciating detail. Except, perhaps, for a few ill-advised words I had written in anger at Paris' abuse of a trusting public's confidence, I was clearly and demonstrably fully in the right and supported by unimpeachable facts.
Even those angry words comprised expression that is, or at very least should be, Constitutionally protected. Sadly, the fact of settlement lost me the chance to prove that it was indeed protected speech under the law.
The end of the suit is a great relief. I appreciate as never before the freedom to speak my mind. Though I was frustratingly muzzled during the suit, as you can see by my words here, I'm completely free again to tell you what I REALLY think of these people and their enterprises. And free too, to get on with my life and put them behind me.
I fought hard to retain that freedom, and many, many people gave support of all kinds in the effort. I thank each and every one of you.
My attorneys at Orr & Reno, most of all Pamela Phelan, but also Bill Chapman, Jim Bassett and others, have earned my most emphatic thanks. Truth be told, Orr & Reno's support went far beyond mere lawyerly obligation. Their conduct of the defense was unrelenting, thorough, and highly professional. Faced with vague support for an overlong list of overbroad charges, and a mountain of ill-presented, often irrelevant material in supposed support; they sweated every detail, questioned every inconsistency, objected in proper form to every departure from fair process and procedure. In short, they championed my case and my rights in every way. They did all this, while the cost mounted well beyond my ability to pay. They really cared, and they showed it. Every effort was made, every challenge met. Every word of advice was sound. My debt to these good and competent people is much more than financial.
The many who contributed to my defense fund were the ones who made any defense possible to begin with. I know but few of their names. There aren't words enough to express my gratitude. Many gave what they could barely afford. All gave because they shared principle in common. It was meaningful beyond mere dollars.
Many more expressed encouragement, spread the word, provided support in countless ways. Every such expression was a source of strength.
Abuse of the legal system to punish rightful criticism is an abomination. I am gratified to have learned firsthand that this principle is so widely recognized by so many good people. I am determined never to forget that. This whole experience has focused my determination to support efforts to oppose such abuses.
I'll have more time now to pursue less contentious aims. I hope to make this site a richer resource, for one thing.
First, there is a chore I must do. I'll be publishing fuller details about the suit, and about surrounding people and events, in what I hope will be the final chapter of this unhappy story. There's a good deal I believe my supporters and the public at large have a right to know; and I want to lay it out once and for all, not only because the story needs telling, but also so that I can move on to other things.
I have an enormous financial debt as a harsh legacy of the legal attack. My defense was worth every penny to me, and those who represented me earned it all. But I'll be in debt for many years to come. I have no choice but to pay it out over time, and for that I must increase my own income. Toward that end, I may soon create a subscription service as a part of this website, something I have had in mind for some time but had too little time to implement. That project will succeed to the degree that it has merit and does service, and no more; but I hope some of those who have supported my defense will put in a good word for the enterprise.
I have none, except the fact that I was not financially able to press the suit to the end. I had hoped to help set precedents in the law which would aid others in my position well into the future. That hope was important to me, and I'm sorry it couldn't be realized. Still, the outcome remains good cause for celebration.