On August 14, 2015, I filed with the Muscogee County Superior Court my “Declaration Regarding Petitioner’s Misrepresentations & Opposing Counsel’s Misconduct“. This was first reported publicly by Copyright-Trolls.com entitled: “Columbus Attorney Elizabeth (Betsy) McBride about to have a bad day“ and April Brown’s “Poetic Justice” Facebook page.
I, however, did not quickly publicize this court filing as I typically do with my other court filings. First, I was busy with other responsibilities and it wasn’t a high priority for me. Second, the filing was already reported publicly by two friends. And finally, I was curious to see if there were going to be any court responses by Linda Ellis and/or her bimbo lawyer, Elizabeth (Betsy) McBride. Quite surprisingly (and stupidly) to me, they finally did. But that is okay, I will share this response in my next post.
At this time, I am posting the text of “Respondent’s Declaration Regarding Petitioner’s Misrepresentations & Opposing Counsel’s Misconduct” that I filed August 14, 2015 for everyone to read. I believe the text more than speaks for itself.
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF MUSCOGEE COUNTY
STATE OF GEORGIA
CIVIL ACTION FILE: SU-13-DM-409
LINDA ELLIS, Petitioner,
MATTHEW CHAN, Respondent
RESPONDENT’S DECLARATION REGARDING PETITIONER’S MISREPRESENTATIONS & OPPOSING COUNSEL’S PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT
COMES NOW, Matthew Chan, as Respondent, declares to the Court the as follows:
1. I am the Respondent in this case. In the original hearing, I chose to represent myself “pro se” in this Court and I continue to represent myself now.
2. This Declaration may come as a “surprise” because it comes at a relatively late date. However, I wanted to take the time to think and reflect carefully before I submitted this Declaration. I have no desire to burden this court with any more pleadings, communications, or submissions unless absolutely necessary.
3. The purpose of this Declaration is to serve the “greater good” by including it as part of the court record. I take no joy in filing this Declaration but feel it is necessary. Over the last few months, I have gone back and forth in my mind whether I should file this Declaration. Ultimately, I have done so because I have learned that no one will ever advocate or represent me as passionately or determinedly as I would for myself. If I do not speak for myself on the matters herein then no one else will. Given the two-plus years that my supporters and I have devoted in time, energy, money, publicity, and other resources on my behalf, I want to address residual issues and matters of concern that have arisen during the “aftermath” period.
4. Because I continue to live and work in the jurisdiction of this Court, I have a strong vested interest in ensuring that every court views me fairly and credibly in any possible hearings in the future (related or unrelated to this case) and not let any possible bias, animosity, or ill will from this case negatively affect me or unfairly taint my reputation in any possible court matters in the future. I don’t expect favoritism but I strongly desire and request that any court be fair and respectful to me in the future whether I choose to represent myself “pro se” or through counsel I may retain.
5. I was vigorous and passionate in my own defense at the evidentiary hearing (as well as through two appellate courts and the court of public opinion) and I continue to hold high respect and regard for all courts. Despite my strong disagreement with the Court’s original ruling and the subsequent protective order that was issued against me, I believe that the Court was well-intentioned. I believe that because I was not a trained lawyer and chose to represent myself “pro se,” that it contributed to the ruling against me. To what degree, I may never know. Certainly, in reviewing the court record many times, I feel strongly that I made errors and did an inadequate job in presenting my case in certain parts. Indisputably, I was less educated with legal procedure than opposing counsel but I believe the Court knows I did my best while being respectful to the Court. I have had considerable time to relive, reflect, study, and analyze the circumstances up to the hearing of my case.
6. One of my larger concerns I want to express in this Declaration is the fact that opposing counsel, Elizabeth W. McBride is married to Judge Gil McBride, a Superior Court Judge. I want to be clear that I have never met Judge McBride and have no feelings or impressions of him one way or another. I did not know at the time of the original 2013 evidentiary hearing that Ms. McBride was related to, much less married to Judge McBride. I never made the connection although I had heard of Judge McBride’s name prior. This was a point of surprise and speculative discussion amongst my supporters when we later discovered this relationship. Some of us were concerned that Ms. McBride’s spousal connection to Judge McBride might have had a subtle influence on the Court in this case. Let me be clear, there is no evidence that the Court was ever influenced by this. I make no accusations of anyone that Judge McBride or his spousal relationship to Ms. McBride had any influence whatsoever on the Court in my case. However, I think it is reasonable that outside observers might speculate and wonder if cases Ms. McBride represents and wins in this Court will be entirely based on the merits and not her spousal relationship to Judge McBride especially given the relatively small number of Superior Court judges that serve the Columbus/Muscogee County area.
7. Prior to this case, I was already an avid supporter, advocate, and well-informed in matters of free speech and the First Amendment especially as it relates to the Internet. In particular, it is one reason that I chose to represent myself without a lawyer. I did not have the belief or confidence that I could easily find a sufficiently qualified lawyer locally that would passionately assert or argue my First Amendment rights or my rights as a website owner and discussion forum provider under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Further, I did not have the confidence that any local lawyer would take the time to truly understand or sufficiently explain the intricacies, operations, context, style, and culture of my website, ExtortionLetterInfo.com (ELI) and its online community.
I want to recap the pertinent facts, events, and circumstances leading to this Declaration:
1. On February 13, 2013, Petitioner Linda Ellis, sought and was granted by the Court a “Stalking Ex Parte Temporary Protective Order” against me, Respondent Matthew Chan. A hearing was then scheduled for February 28, 2013.
2. The hearing did occur on February 28, 2013 as scheduled. Ms. Ellis was represented by opposing counsel, Elizabeth W. McBride, and I represented myself “pro se.”
3. Ms. Ellis, through her counsel, sought a Stalking Protective Order against me. I, as “pro se” Respondent, vigorously and passionately defended my position by asserting that I never contacted or stalked Ms. Ellis under O.C.G.A. §16-5-90. But even if the Court concluded that I had “contacted” Ms. Ellis under said statute, I argued that my speech fell well within the scope of the First Amendment and did not constitute “stalking”. Ms. Ellis, through her counsel, attempted to place responsibility of forum posts I had not written upon me based on the flawed and incorrect argument that because I was able to delete the forum posts and chose not to do so, as equivalent to me endorsing or authoring the content of said forum posts. I asserted 47 U.S.C. § 230 (Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996):
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This federal law preempts any state laws to the contrary: “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.”
In simpler terms, the author of any forum post is only responsible for what he writes and no one else. This has been and continues to be well supported in state and federal cases throughout the U.S.
4. Although I acknowledge that the Court has no responsibility of what other lawyers have said to me or about me in the past or might say to me in the future, I want to inform the Court of a particularly shocking and appalling incident that occurred during an afternoon break of the 2013 hearing. The Court might recall that I openly complained that I, as an untrained non-lawyer, knew sufficiently enough to produce three sets of exhibits (one for myself, one for the Court, and one for opposing counsel) yet Ms. McBride, a trained, professional lawyer in good standing, did not have the respect or professional courtesy to provide me (a “pro se” defendant), not one extra copy of ANY exhibit during the hearing. Not one. During one of the afternoon breaks, a female lawyer whom I did not know or ever met before openly said to me “That is what you get for not hiring a lawyer.” This unsolicited and open statement directed at me was shocking, appalling, and entitled. Every citizen has the right to represent themselves “pro se” and expect to be treated fairly, respectfully, and professionally by opposing counsel and any court. What this says to me is that there is at least one practicing lawyer (perhaps many others) in Columbus/Muscogee County that has a general disdain and disrespect towards “pro se” litigants such as myself. On behalf of myself and all future “pro se” litigants, I respectfully request this court to consider that in any future hearings that the simple professional courtesy of additional copies of exhibits for opposing “pro se” litigants be enforced. This is not a controversial or unreasonable request especially since most opposing counsel themselves would insist that they receive the same.
5. Coming into any hearing before the Court, practicing lawyers in good standing already have a substantial “natural advantage” over any untrained non-lawyer “pro se” litigants such as myself. Given this substantial “natural advantage”, I assert that opposing counsel, Ms. McBride, was unprofessional and took unfair advantage of me and my “pro se” status during the February 28, 2013 hearing by not providing me ANY copies of ANY exhibits even when requested. In fact, because of her “natural advantage” as a lawyer in good standing, she had a duty to exercise extra caution and act fairly towards me as a “pro se” defendant. Taking unfair advantage of a “pro se” litigant can result in unintended consequences. In my view, she wasn’t “doing her job”. She cheated and deprived my rightful ability to easily reference those exhibits used against me. And yet, she sat with copies of all my exhibits conveniently in her possession that she could refer to anytime during and after the hearing. I was forced to rely on my memory and brief notes I made during one of the breaks.
6. While Ms. McBride can make the argument that she could not immediately leave the courtroom to provide me copies of any court exhibits, the Court amply provided her at least two substantial breaks for her to correct this alleged “oversight”. Despite my open complaints in court (which are in the transcript), she chose not to do so. For this, I do not blame her client, Ms. Ellis, for this. I place full responsibility and blame upon Ms. McBride. She is a lawyer in good standing and has practiced law for many years. She is not a newcomer to courtroom procedure. She knows better and she deliberately cheated to gain unfair advantage against me.
7. Further, there is no good argument that she can make for not providing copies of the exhibits to me AFTER the hearing. I reached out to her several times by phone and email (Exhibits A & B). She was nonresponsive and completely ignored me. Her actions (or lack thereof) were willful, irresponsible, unprofessional, and unfair. It greatly delayed and hurt my (and my lawyers’) efforts to properly evaluate my appellate position for many months. My grievance and complaints against Ms. McBride might be beyond this Court’s jurisdiction but nonetheless I state this here and document it for the record.
8. During the days and weeks following the hearing, I sought and received legal advice of whether I should appeal my case or not. I felt that most appellate cases are generally costly, uphill battles where lower court decisions are often upheld. I was fully aware of this and it was told to me by my appellate lawyers. For any appellate lawyer to fairly evaluate my case, he would need to see the evidence (exhibits) that was used against me. However, I did not have them due to Ms. McBride’s disregard, disrespect, and professional misconduct towards me as “pro se” defendant.
9. Shortly after the original hearing, I (still acting in “pro se” capacity) attempted to contact Ms. McBride four times. Twice by telephone (when I left voice messages with her assistant) and twice by email (Exhibits A & B) I tried to retrieve a draft copy of the final protective order and copies of Ms. Ellis’ court exhibits. I also inquired as to whether or not she wanted to jointly order the court transcript. She was nonresponsive and ignored me every time.
10. Although the Court announced a general ruling at the conclusion of the 2013 hearing, I had no specific instructions and the order had not been immediately written. As such, I, as “pro se” defendant, appropriately sought to inform and advise Ms. McBride to write an appropriate and reasonable order that was not overbroad and one that would not likely result in an appeal filed against her client. I clearly did not want a protective order issued against me but, if necessary, I was prepared to accept a minimal protective order as a compromise. I wanted to make sure that any court order against me was fair, reasonable, lawful, and constitutional. Unfortunately, the final order as written by Ms. McBride and issued by the Court on March 6, 2013 was not. This was not only my opinion. It was the opinion of many lawyers (including First Amendment legal scholars) which greatly influenced me to initiate the appellate process against Ms. Ellis.
11. As I stated, Ms. McBride had the responsibility to ensure that a reasonable and fair court order was written as to not compel me to appeal the case against Ms. Ellis. That would result in unnecessary legal cost and expense for both me and her client. It would not surprise me if Ms. Ellis has since become unhappy with Ms. McBride. Ms. McBride’s poor and unprofessional choice to ignore my requests to see her draft of the protective order and deny me copies of the exhibits unnecessarily harmed not only me but also Ms. Ellis, her client. Ms. Ellis did not have the legal education, background, or experience to understand the negative ramifications of Ms. McBride’s poor choices and actions. Unlike Ms. Ellis, I am far more informed on such matters. I understand the consequences of Ms. McBride’s poor choices. I assert and make the complaint that Ms. McBride forced both her client and me into an unnecessary and costly appellate case which cost both sides several thousands of dollars in legal fees, costs, and expenses in addition to lost time and energy. Although I ultimately prevailed in appellate court, it was all so unnecessary and could have entirely been avoided had Ms. McBride simply handled her client’s case more responsibly. I cannot place blame upon Ms. Ellis in this instance. I blame Ms. McBride.
12. An interesting anecdote I want to share is that on October 7, 2014, in the Supreme Court building where I was represented by three lawyers, Ms. McBride twice approached and attempted to communicate with me directly. It seemed to be an unusual action to take. Once, she called out to me when I was walking from the sidewalk to the entrance of the Supreme Court building. I briefly glanced at her and then ignored her. The second time, I was standing and conversing with my five out-of-state friends/supporters (who traveled to Atlanta to meet me and watch oral argument) in a waiting area. She approached me (us) and asked, “Are you with the Chan v. Ellis case?” I was clearly standing there and she recognized me earlier. She also asked if one of us was Oscar Michelen. This was a disingenuous question as Mr. Michelen’s photo has been and continues to be prominently displayed on the ELI website for seven years. It is ironic that when I wasn’t represented by any counsel that she would not respond to or communicate with me in any fashion. But somehow at the Supreme Court, she felt the strange inclination to try to communicate with me twice despite the fact that I made efforts to physically avoid both her and Ms. Ellis. The time for Ms. McBride to speak with me was during March 2013, not when we finally arrived in the highest court in the state for oral argument a year and a half later.
13. Ms. McBride also had the responsibility to vet her client’s exhibits to ensure they were true, authentic, and representative of the actual forum posts and not let her client submit altered, modified, or obscured exhibits mislead or deceive the Court. I have since discovered that several exhibits shown to the Court were not true, authentic, or representative of the actual forum posts.
14. The point of my presenting “new” exhibits now is not meant as a “retrial”. It is meant to inform the Court and place into the record that the original exhibits presented in the original hearing were not true, accurate, or representative. I had always been bothered by the poor quality of Ms. Ellis’ original exhibits. I never understood why Ms. Ellis presented such extremely poor, distorted, cropped, and marked up exhibits. Conversely, I presented to the Court very “clean”, organized, and easily readable exhibits. It was only after the Supreme Court reversed the order on March 27, 2015 and Ms. Ellis’ continued to make defamatory public statements about me in the media and press as a “stalker” and “cyberstalker” did I finally feel compelled to go into the forum archives (hidden from public view) and personally review every single exhibit she submitted against me at its original online source. I was informed very early on by my appellate lawyers that no new evidence could be submitted during the appellate process. Thus, no matter how poor quality or cropped the original exhibits were, they were the only ones allowed to be discussed and referenced in appellate briefs. I did not like that but I respected the rules. It would be two years later in April 2015 (after Ms. Ellis’ public defamatory statements against me would not cease) that I finally decided to compare and analyze Ms. Ellis’ poor-quality exhibits with the original source material online.
15. Although I prevailed in the Supreme Court, there were still matters of public perception and my online reputation I wanted to rectify. Ms. Ellis seemed determined to defame me and my reputation even after the Supreme Court decision. There is no denying that my own writings in prior forum posts and one video don’t paint me in a flattering light. I (along with my supporters) became very unhappy with Ms. Ellis’ continued online antics of taking my words entirely out-of-context and distorting the actual meanings. Because Ms. Ellis used such tactics publicly as her primary weapon against me to damage my online reputation, I had to discover for myself how far she took it with the original court exhibits. What I discovered in the forum archives when compared to her court exhibits was upsetting to me.
16. In Exhibit C, my comment about Ms. Ellis being “dead right” seems to stand alone. However, my comment is actually an open response to April Brown’s comment from June 23, 2012 which was cropped out of the court exhibit and not at all directed to Ms. Ellis. The cropping and omission was not an accident.
17. In Exhibit D, the court exhibit implies that April Brown embedded the “death” lyrics of the “Hearse Song” in the forum post. And yet the actual forum post (below the court exhibit version), never had any “death lyrics” whatsoever. It was simply a lone posting of a “Hearse Song” YouTube video. I included the follow-up post to the YouTube video which clearly shows April Brown’s comments that have NOTHING to do with death or violence. The addition of the “death lyrics” was intentional.
18. In Exhibit E, I provide the first three never-before-shown posts of “Ellis – Get Ready – We Are Coming After You!” as the originating context for that thread of discussion. Ms. Ellis emphasized (through an oval mark) that boisterous topic title. And yet, if the Court reads the first three posts, it has to do with April Brown’s moral outrage over Kalka & Baer’s (Ms. Ellis’ attorneys) $100,000 demand letter issued on behalf of Ms. Ellis to a book author over an unknowing sharing of her poem. Part of the argument for my position in my appeal was that the Court was unable to fully view the true and full context of the exhibits because what Ms. Ellis presented was cropped, modified, obscured, or out-of-context.
19. In Exhibit F, Ms. Ellis presented her exhibit as if it were “current” as of the February 28, 2013 hearing that ELI user, Robert Krausankas, posted a photo of her home and Ms. McBride implied that it was still online. And yet in the forum archives, the full post shows that as of January 17, 2013, Mr. Krausankas modified the post to display only the hyperlink, not the photo. In other words, on February 13, 2013 when Ms. Ellis applied for the Ex-Parte Temporary Protective Order, she made the false statement in her petition that the photo of her home was still being posted online, when in fact, as of January 17, 2013, Mr. Krausankas had already removed the Google Street View photo of her home of his own accord! At the February 28, 2013 hearing, Ms. Ellis and Ms. McBride again made the false assertion that the photo of her home was still being shown online for the purpose of threatening Ms. Ellis. It was not. The Court was mislead. The full, uncropped forum post clearly shows that Mr. Krausankas was illustrating what Ms. Ellis publicly reported to the State of Georgia as the address of her daycare center business (Kindercare Learning Centers)! Mr. Krausankas did not post the photo to “threaten” Ms. Ellis in any way. Ms. McBride irresponsibly echoed Ms. Ellis false assertions and helped perpetrate a lie without checking online for herself her client’s “exhibits” prior to the hearing.
20. The four exhibits (Exhibits C through F), are more than sufficient to illustrate my points. I was both foolish and naïve to assume that any forum posts Ms. Ellis would show to the Court would be complete and in its full context. I never suspected that she would submit such extremely altered, modified, and obscured forum posts. Nor did I suspect that Ms. McBride would not vet her client to ensure that the exhibits provided were in fact true, authentic, and representative of the actual posts. As an inexperienced non-lawyer, I did not request from the Court that Ms. Ellis show and display the full forum discussions in its proper context and that it be printed out for all parties to review and scrutinize. Nor did I ask the Court to instruct Ms. Ellis to go online while in court to confirm the accuracy of their exhibits. Ironically enough, the “affidavit” submitted by Seattle lawyer, Timothy B. McCormack (which I fought to have put aside), provided the “cleanest”, most readable, and unaltered versions of forum posts (although they were still isolated from the fuller context of online discussion.)
21. Another significant factor that influenced my decision to submit this Declaration is that my appellate lawyer, Oscar Michelen, felt compelled (with my authorization) to send Ms. Ellis a Cease-and-Desist Letter (Exhibit G) on my behalf on April 13, 2015. This letter speaks for itself. It was written to clearly inform and put Ms. Ellis on notice that we would not stand idly by while she continued to publicly and defamatorily refer to me as a “stalker” and “cyberstalker” when the legal matter of whether I “stalked” her was ruled and settled unanimously in my favor by all seven Justices of the Supreme Court.
22. During the trial, through my own oversight, I never presented the 18 testimonial letters (Exhibit H) written on my behalf. These testimonials letters come from supporters throughout the U.S. and even internationally such as Israel, Canada, and Australia. You will find that these letters are from intelligent, well-informed individuals who were witness to me, ELI, and online discussions about Ms. Ellis. I present them now as part of the overall record.
IN CONCLUSION, barring any unexpected developments or follow-up responses by Ms. Ellis or Ms. McBride, I consider this Declaration my capstone statement on the matter with this Court. After everything I have seen and experienced, Ms. McBride and Ms. Ellis have proven to be dishonorable and untrustworthy. I (along with my supporters) remain vigilant and keep a watchful eye of signs they might falsely attack me or my reputation again. If that happens, I will once again be compelled to vigorously defend myself as I did before.
At this juncture, I do not request anything from this Court except to respectfully consider and take into account everything I have written in this Declaration. No one can change or undo the past but perhaps others can learn and benefit from this case by being informed and cognizant that things are not always what they appear to be. I have learned much from the last 2.5 years. This case has been an educational and life-changing experience I will never forget and hope to never repeat.
This 14th day of August, 2015.
Matthew Chan, PRO SE
P.O. Box 6391
Columbus, GA 31917
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