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Lawyer brilliantly bites township trying to shut his client's site

Sometimes, cease-and-desist letters are mere morsels of intimidation, their legal grounds swamps. One lawyer decided that the accuser, West Orange, N.J., itself needed to shut up and go away. His letter smacks of literary genius.

The allegedly offending site. No, really.
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The temptation to bully can be too great to resist.

If you don't like something or the someone who's done that something, you want to squish them -- if you're bigger than they are, that is.

One method often used is to get a fancy lawyer to write a cease-and-desist letter, designed to stop the recipient from breathing.

The township of West Orange, N.J., decided that Jake Freivald was a nail for its hammer. He had exercised sufficient temerity to operate a Web site called WestOrange.info.

It's not a fancy site. And it certainly doesn't purport to have any affiliation with the township. Ah, but that's not how the township saw it.

So it got a fancy lawyer called Richard D. Trenk to send Freivald a chilling cease-and-desist letter.

For his part, Freivald got himself a lawyer whose fanciness extends to his sense of humanity. He appears still to be in touch with his humorous particles and clearly isn't fond of bullies.

So Stephen B. Kaplitt wrote to the township's lawyer, eschewing ink in favor of hilarious acid.

Freivald posted it to a forum, where it still holds pride of place. (My regular and serious reading of Above The Law directed me there.)

The letter began: "I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your 'cease and desist' letter," dated May 13 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more satire."

The official West Orange site. So similar, no? Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Warming to his tune, Kaplitt wrote:

Not that we didn't get the joke...but since Mr. Freivald had not previously encountered a humorous lawyer, he actually thought your letter may have been a serious effort by the Township to protect its legitimate interests. Rest assured, I've at least convinced him that it was certainly not some impulsive, ham-fisted attempt to bully a local resident solely because of his well-known political views. After all, as lawyers you and I both know that would be flagrantly unconstitutional and would also, in the words of my 4-year-old, make you a big meanie.

I have embedded the whole letter for your delectation. It reads as if Louis CK had suddenly entered the legal profession.

Kaplitt does bother to explain that there are many, many sites that have "westorange" as the main part of their domain name.

He then devolves into legalese, offers a little case law but still hopes this is all one big joke.

He explains that a site that his client says cost $3.17 to set up (yes, free hosting) cannot be compared with the $35,000 (plus $5,000 per year hosting and maintenance) that the township allegedly pays.

Kaplitt even takes the opportunity to ask for a refund on his own property taxes.

I have contacted Kaplitt to see whether he has received any response to his passionate defense of his client's rights. I will update, should I hear.

There's something heart-stirring about the little guy being defended with such elegant ease, attention to detail and appeal to humanity.

Stephen Kaplitt: Cease and Desist Response Letter