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Robert Witte and Gary Lawson, the Strasburger Boys

A commenter operating under the handle CSP (I assume it’s not Mike Snyder) made an excellent point in response to this morning’s Leading Off. It deserves to be elevated to the main stage. CSP says that Gary Lawson, the Strasburger & Price lawyer who compared the Morning News‘ reporting to the actions of the Chinese government at Tiananmen Square, is just funny. His coworker Robert Witte, however, is the guy we should be worried about. Read:

Lawson’s quote about the chilling effect on public commentary is particularly humorous in light of this additional revelation from Sunday’s DMN article regarding the actions of fellow Strasburger partner Robert Witte:

“Last year, after local writer and art curator Christina Rees assailed a Museum Tower official on Facebook, pension lawyers fired off a letter calling her comments ‘harassing and disparaging.’

“‘Please note that your recent Facebook posts have crossed the line, going beyond the realm of protected free speech into unlawful and legally actionable harassment, defamation, tortuous interference, and business disparagement,’ Strasburger lawyer Robert Witte wrote.

“He said that if Rees’ comments resulted in someone backing out of a condo purchase, ‘the resulting judgment against you could take decades to pay.’

“The lawyers did not stop there. Rees was working for Texas Christian University at the time, and the pension lawyers threatened to sue the school as well. They sent copies of the letter to the chancellor and other school officials.”

As humorous as Mike Snyder’s escapades were, I believe this threat sent by well-compensated lawyers representing a government institution to a private citizen exercising her First Amendment rights was much more the buried lede of the DMN investigation. I would hope that whatever official investigations into the Pension System have been initiated also take into account whether buffoons like Gary Lawson and Robert Witte should be allowed to continue their well-compensated taxpayer-subsidized representation.

(And since it’s clear Lawson and Witte read FrontBurner comments, I’m just fine with bellying up to the bar with you to explain the many ways you are buffoons.)

20 comments on “Robert Witte and Gary Lawson, the Strasburger Boys

  1. one other note re: the threat from Robert Witte… I think he means to allege “tortious” interference (based on a tort; legal cause of action) , not “tortuous” interference (implying torture)…. ??

  2. Shame on lawyer Robert Witte. This is the most vile and despicable level of lawyering as it is tantamount to street bullying. He’s taking a false position and not only threatening this poor blogger, but also interfering with her livelihood.

    In doing so, Witte has, in my opinion, compromised his own integrity and credibility. All of this for a client that seems incapable of making prudent decisions with regard to PR or otherwise. I guess that’s why lawyers like him get to sleep in the big house with the master. (See what I did there).

    I’m glad Witte’s chickenshittery has come to light. He’s made his bed, it’s time to sleep.

  3. As First Amendment lawyer Ken White over at Popehat.com often says, vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery. While Witte’s letter isn’t reproduced, there doesn’t appear to be any actual allegation of a specific false statement of fact.

  4. I agree that the taxpayer-funded harassment of Christina Rees is the biggest part of the story. As I’ve asked in the DMN comments— where are Mary Suhm and Mike Rawlings on this issue?

    Taxpayer-funded harassment of ordinary citizens who happen to disagree with the Dallas Police & Fire Pension System is completely insane, yet (with the exception of Scott Griggs), the City of Dallas leadership is responding with deafening silence. Very spooky.

  5. Matt, I was actually thinking about bringing up Ken White and Popehat for the sake of Christina or anyone else who might have been similarly thuggishly threatened by Robert Witte. In extreme cases, he’ll make a call on his blog for pro bono representation for those at the receiving end of such threats, and such calls, best I can tell, are usually met with ample responses from very well-qualified attorneys. Based on what I’ve seen on Popehat, the threats issued by Robert Witte seem close to the territory which he’d write about.

  6. Can someone please post Mr. Whitte’s actual letter? No way would a partner at a significant law firm such as Strasburger would goof up “tortious.” He would be laughed out of the Dallas Bar. Must have been a transcription mistake by CSP.

  7. If it was a transcription error, then the error was the DMN’s, not CSP’s. That’s how they quoted Witte.

  8. “Tortuous” is not the same as “torturous.” Something is tortuous when it is lengthy, ever-changing and excessively confusing. Something is tortuRous when it is painful or related to torture. That second “r” is big.

  9. Yes, they are coming across as bullies,no question. Perhaps if some of Strasburger’s larger clients pulled their business from the firm due to this “ick” factor.

  10. After the discussion about Popehat mentioned above in the comments, I took it upon myself to reach out to Ken White of Popehat to see if he would be interested in issuing one of his “Popehat Signals” for Christina or anyone else Robert Witte or anyone else at Strasburger might have contacted in a threatening attempt to stifle his or her free speech.

    Ken White is in fact interested.

    So, Christina Rees or any other individual who has received a threatening letter from Robert Witte or anyone else at Strasburger regarding this matter and who might need pro bono representation, please feel free to contact Ken via the link below. Trust me — Ken is good.

    http://www.popehat.com/tag/popehat-signal/

    (And just to make clear, I have absolutely no connections to ANYONE involved in this matter: not the Nasher, not the DMN or D, not Ken White or Popehat. Nobody. Just a private citizen who’s been mesmerized by this matter.)

  11. Christina Rees should consider sending the letter to the disciplinary committee of the State Bar of Texas, so they can decide whether Witte – with his misstatements and misrepresentations of the law – violated the rules of professional conduct that govern lawyers in this state. The complaint might not go anywhere, but it would certainly put Witte and his ilk on notice that such bullying will not be tolerated.

    Actually, *anyone* could file a grievance with the state bar in connection with this letter, if only someone would post a scanned copy. Anyone so inclined should keep their complaint civil, thoughtful, accurate and non-hyperbolic.

  12. The letter threatening Ms. Rees and TCU, which was also transmitted widely to her employer and colleagues, is pure thuggery. Stars burger, one of the oldest law firms in this city, should be ashamed this letter emanated from its offices. It displays an attitude where winning at all costs is the mission, ethics, decency, and fairness be damned. That it was the work product of a quasi municipal instrumentality, it is using taxpayer funds to promote this sickening harrasment. Even worse, they are bringing their threats–backed by the pension fund and its coffers–against the most attenuated participant: an art critic and curator of modest means. They are the worst of bullies, these attorneys who presumably sworn to uphold our laws and represents the pension fund and the city which contributes to this fund.

    Lawson, Witte, Strasburger, the pension fund and the city need to answer for their actions and responsibilities with respect to this matter. They owe an apology to Ms. Rees as well as a retraction of their threats against her and TCU

  13. Wylie H! The man of the hour. How did it feel to see your nom de plume become part of the conversation?

  14. As of right now, the most disconcerting things to me are:

    1) The publicly-funded campaign of harassment directed towards Christina Rees; and

    2) The spooky collective silence from Rawlings, Suhm and Gonzalez– it’s as if our city has no moral or ethical compass.

  15. “Tortuous” is a misspelling of “tortious” commonly present in legal papers due to Microsoft Word’s spellcheck program. I have seen it over and again in papers filed and/or sent by very good lawyers and firms.