Darn it, just as things were warming up, Barbara O’Clay calls it a day. But does she commit a tort by doing so?

Miss Clay has retreated to the sidelines, which is too bad, because I suppose it means I have to go back to work. But her parting shot seems to be calling for someone else to take up her cause, and that might just constitute the tort of champerty. Here’s what she posts:

Submitted on 2013/02/05 at 4:09 pm

Who would like to take this case? Seriously, I have no time working 24/7. Call me if you want it. I wasn’t “canned” by David Boies, so I think we’re set. I alerted Crius that this was going on as it’s a circus show now thanks to cf. This will be the last post I make. You all have been great fun. Thanks for all the kind comments. Best to you all.

And here’s how Wikipedia defines Champerty – I wouldn’t know whether they got it right, having failed law school and all that, but it seems to jibe with the definition I once read on the back of an “Inspiring Tales for Young Lawyers” card set, back in the day.


Champerty and maintenance are doctrines in common law jurisdictions, that aim to preclude frivolous litigation. “Maintenance” is the intermeddling of a disinterested party to encourage a lawsuit.[1] It is “A taking in hand, a bearing up or upholding of quarrels or sides, to the disturbance of the common right.”[2] “Champerty” is the “maintenance” of a person in a lawsuit on condition that the subject matter of the action is to be shared with the maintainer.[3] Among laypersons, this is known as “buying into someone else’s lawsuit.”

In modern idiom maintenance is the support of litigation by a stranger without just cause. Champerty is an aggravated form of maintenance. The distinguishing feature of champerty is the support of litigation by a stranger in return for a share of the proceeds.

— Lord Justice Steyn , Giles v Thompson[4]

At common law, maintenance and champerty were both crimes and torts, as was barratry, the bringing of vexatious litigation. This is generally no longer so as during the nineteenth century, the development of legal ethics tended to obviate the risks to the public, particularly after the scandal of the Swynfen will case (1856–1864).[5] However, the principles are relevant to modern contingent fee agreements between a lawyerand a client and to the assignment by a plaintiff of his rights in a lawsuit to someone with no connection to the case. Champertous contracts can still, depending on jurisdiction, be void for public policy or attract liability for costs.


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19 responses to “Darn it, just as things were warming up, Barbara O’Clay calls it a day. But does she commit a tort by doing so?

  1. Anonymous

    Walt will take her case.

  2. Huh?

    Let’s see if I get this straight. Lawyer Babs begins an email conversation with 11 million hits and counting bloggerChris. Then she’s surprised that it’s a circus thanks to said blogger? Either they don’t teach vocabulary at law school (blog: A Web site on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis) or she’s incredibly naive.

  3. Mark B.

    Told ya.
    Thousand yard glare.

  4. D

    She’ll regret whatever knee-jerk reaction she’s followed through on…

  5. dogwalker

    Who knows, maybe the attention will help generate interest. Meanwhile, I feel sorry for Nancy Sears.

    • Huh?

      My thoughts exactly. Nancy was incredible in writing about the listing. If I were she, working for Barbara, I’d bail, fast.

  6. Anonymous

    And…..Walt comes through, in spades!

    Damn that was a good laugh after reading his comment. Thanks Walt.

  7. Anonymous

    I bet Crius are proud of this….

  8. Anonymous

    Champerty sounds like a horse’s name.

    “Annnnnnd they’re neck and neck down the straightaway! Wait, it’s unbelievable! Champerty takes Tortious Interference by a hair! And look, there’s a naked man running across the infield with a ‘Hi I’m Walt’ banner covering his privates!”

  9. AJ

    Well, that’s bizzare, and the first time that I’ve ever posted a youtube url and had a “content cannot be displayed” thing come up? Anyhow, it’s just a link to a youtube video of the Twilight Zone theme — most appropriate in this case, I believe..

    • It came up here – I suspect the “content” warning might be some sort of copyright protection code embedded by the studio?

    • AJ

      But now it’s displaying as the video. I give up: I have a very limited understanding of how the internet works.

      • Walt

        You don’t know how the internet works? Think of it as a worldwide spider web of computer networks, all linked together somehow. With tons of content. 99% of which is pornography posted by bored College Professors and internet geeks who live in their parent’s basement. They invented the thing.

        You need a search engine. Think of it like your car. You tell the GPS where you want to go, and it takes you there. That is pretty much all you need to know in order to enjoy the internet.

        But who cares? You don’t need to understand how it works in order to enjoy it. Think of it this way. You really don’t know how a vagina works either. Nor do you want to. But you know enough to know how to stick your joy stick in it, and have a good time. Right? Any more knowledge than that is overload.

  10. Just_looking

    Can anyone explain this entry…suspension and reinstatement?


    • Actually, I can, because I’ve run afoul of it myself. She was suspended for forgetting to pay a $75 annual payment to the “Client Security Fund”, a tax on lawyers to provide a kitty to reimburse civilians who’ve been ripped off by lawyers (which is probably the entire population, but no matter). Fail to pay it – easy to do if you’re a corporate attorney or in my case, a non-practicing one, and bam! You’re suspended until you pay up. I’m sure poor Miss Clay and I may go to Hell for our various sins, but not on this one. Venal not mortal? I’ll ask a Catholic.

  11. Expat

    Ms. Well-Respected Lawyer apparently failed to pay her client security fund fee for four years. Tsk, tsk.

  12. I mean, really?

    That might be the best Walt comment ever. I could not quit laughing. Well done, old chap.