The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
N.Y. businessman prosecuted for forging court orders to send to Google for deindexing
"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold."
– Proverbs 22:1
Michael Arnstein runs the Natural Sapphire Company. Upset at some allegedly libelous criticisms of his company, he filed a lawsuit and got a court order requiring a defendant to take down those criticisms. He then sent the order to Google, asking Google to deindex those URLs—to hide them from Google search results (as Google often does when it sees such a court order).
And then Arnstein submitted 11 other orders to Google, each mentioning a new allegedly libelous URL (or list of URLs), each in the same case, and each with a different order date. Unfortunately, they weren't really orders—they were apparently forgeries, copying the caption to the case and the judge's signature. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.) Google did indeed apparently deindex some material, relying on some of these orders.
Monday, Arnstein was arrested for forging a judge's signature (and conspiracy to forge the signature); the criminal complaint was made available on Bloomberg Wednesday. I'll keep our readers updated on the progress of the prosecution, but in the meantime here's an excerpt from an e-mail from Arnstein cited in the complaint:
I think you should take legal advice with a grain of salt. I spent 100K on lawyers to get a court order injunction to have things removed from Google and Youtube, only to photoshop the documents for future use when new things 'popped up' … I could have saved 100K and 2 years of waiting/damage if I just used photoshop and a few hours of creative editing … Lawyers are often worse than the criminals.
UPDATE: Note this follow-up post with reaction from Arnstein's lawyer.