(Law) Suit and (Tongue) Tied

A few reasons that I might not give an assignment to a potential freelance writer:

  1. Pre-emptively announcing that you will be submitting articles not electronically but via typewritten pages.
  2. When I reply that we wouldn’t accept them in that format, calling me “persnickety” and saying something like, “If it’s only 200 words, how long would it take someone there to punch it in to the computer?”
  3. Asking what sort of fields my company specializes in.
  4. When I suggest that you can find such information on our website, asking me for my company’s web address.
  5. Oh, and this is a big one: SUING ME TO GET AN ASSIGNMENT.

Yup—Wednesday was my day to appear in California small claims court. I’m going to let the paperwork do the talking here.

Q: Why does the Defendant owe the Plaintiff money?
A: Allowing another person to influence Mr. Mittelsteadt away from hiring me.

The writer had called me repeatedly since late last year about getting an assignment. The calls were never brief; we’d rehash the same conversation over and over again: No, I’m not going to give you an assignment, even at a lower rate so you can send in typewritten pages, in the hopes I like your finished work. This went on for months, until one of my higher-ups intercepted the call and told the writer to stop contacting us or we’d investigate legal action.

Sigh of relief … until May, when a process server showed up with papers for California small claims court. To me, the claim sounds like the writer thought things had still been on track to possibly receive an assignment—like maybe I’d break after a few more calls—but then another person intervened and told me not to parcel anything out.

Q: You must ask the Defendant (in person, in writing, or by phone) to pay you before you can sue. Have you done this?  If no, explain why not.
A: I had called the receptionist on Feb. 3, 2014, to give the defendant an email. A vice president came on and threatened me. I felt that if I wrote to defend (an editor), the VP might intercept my note, using it against me.

“Any judge would see that this claim is baseless,” I told myself.

And yet the case got filed—in California, a state I don’t live in, don’t work in and don’t have a presence in. This lent another vexation to the situation: Would I need to take time off to travel to Los Angeles to defend myself? This isn’t the sort of thing you can just ignore and hope it goes away, though; I had visions of driving to a Palm Springs weekend, being pulled over for a routine traffic stop and getting hauled away in handcuffs for failure to appear.

Luckily, my company was happy to help with the legal defense; our first motion requested that the suit be thrown out because of lack of personal jurisdiction.

This morning I logged on to the court’s website, and the case has been dismissed. I’ll be truthful: The former reporter part of me really, really wishes I had attended the hearing, so I could get a glimpse of the writer. Someone who has such an alternate take on my reality might be fascinating to observe and listen to. But this is real life, not a features interview, where people are happy to share insight or information. I’m pretty sure the writer wouldn’t be too keen to answer questions like, “So, tell me … what the heck were you thinking, and how did you think that was a good idea?”

Especially because there’s still zero chance that agreeing to do so would lead to a writing assignment. That ship has sailed. And sunk.

WHAT SAM WORE: 7-10-14
photo 2 photo 1
The shirt: Cotton button-down, from the J. Crew outlet in Anthem.
The pants: Jeans by BdG, from Urban Outfitters.
The shoes: Oxfords by Cole Haan, from Nordstrom Rack.

 

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6 responses to “(Law) Suit and (Tongue) Tied

  1. Bonkers!
    It could also be desperation and need for money. People can be convinced of injustice pretty easily.

  2. Dear Mr. Middlesteadt, I am a freelancer looking to take on some more work. If I sent you a piece or two, (handwritten–I HATE typewriters), would you put them in your publication?

  3. This is kind of FABULOUSLY BIZARRE to read! Wow! Does she have a LinkedIn profile? If so, message me so I can get a glimpse out of morbid curiosity. I feel SO much more hopeful as a freelance writer if this woman is out in the world also competing for assignments! Holy cow, if she would have been successful, it could have set a weird precedent for freelancers suing for NOT getting assignments. I could maybe understand if she was going to try the age discrimination thing (the typewriter as a clue), but just suing in general?? DANG.

    P.S. I always yell “SAMMIT” when I get frustrated these days, BTW.

  4. Dammit, Ireally miss the workplace, been retired 27 days!

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