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Hypothetical Legal Question – based on a real event!

By November 27, 2006Uncategorized

By now many people know about ex-Seinfeld star Michael Richards (aka ‘Kramer’) racial tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club.  If you don’t check out this video for a first hand look at what happened.  Okay, so the hypothetical question is: can Richards be held liable to the two men that he initially berated? 

Now, before you pick up your pencils here are some important factors.  First, forget about the law for a second (if you are in law school or have recently graduated from law school this will be difficult to do).  So you saw the video; now consider if you really have all of the important facts.  This article assumes that it has all of the facts, but then this one seems to have additional facts (derived from the attorney hired to represent the two men).

The difference in the facts may not matter to the legal analysis, but it’s important to have the facts straight in most legal disputes.  Doesn’t it seem strange that, even with a video of the event, that there would be additional facts that might be important? 

Welcome to the world of practicing law (as opposed to theorizing about it).  And, for what it’s worth, even without knowing all of the facts other than what I saw on the video, I’m prepared to conclude that Michael Richards is (1) not a stand-up comic, and (2) should be roundly condemned for his grotesquely racist comments.  Most of his punishment has already been delivered, but maybe the legal system has something for him too.  We’ll see.

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  • F P says:

    They are just lucky they didn’t heckle a basketball player. Or a wrestler. Or a roller derby girl.

    Ashely, I did not know you were a comedian.

  • If one goes to hear a stand-up comedian, then one should expect to hear anything…including personal attacks in retribution for heckling.

    This is not spoken as an attorney, but as a former stand up comedian.

  • Dave! says:

    It’s funny that you mention it… being a law student, I couldn’t turn off the legal analysis. 🙂 But much like Bloom, IIED was right there in my mind–even before I saw the video. There’s a dispute of facts because, apparently, the cameras started rolling *after* he began his tirade–thus failing to capture what happened leading up to it.

    However, Richards admission that it was his intent to humiliate them probably won’t do him much good in court.

    That said, I disagree with Bloom that “The alternative, no consequences for Richards other than the increased name recognition the scandal has bestowed upon him, fails to right the wrong Richards inflicted.”

    I won’t pretend to know how much hurt the two men may have felt from his insults; but to say that Richards suffered no consequences isn’t accurate either. I think his career is over (not that it wasn’t before).

    I’m saddened that their impulse was to run out and get an attorney, I’ve heard more than a few racist reactions about that… it plays into a stereotype that allows people to dismiss his rant and once again, turn it on the victims.

    Besides, if his barbs hurt them that much, can *money* ever really compensate? And had they not come forward with an attorney and publicly announced who they are, their names would not be publicly associated with the incident. And as far as hurting Richards where it hurts, unless he’s squandered his money, it’s not really possible.

    I think he owes them a personal, face-to-face apology, and a dialog about what happened and why. And I think if they did that, in a public forum, a lot more good would come of the whole affair than a lawsuit ever could manage.

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