Shiva Ayyadurai, who has taken to claiming Secretary of State William Galvin and his top election official are orchestrating a global plot involving Twitter to destroy him, last week told a judge who had been willing to dip into a court fund to help pay for one lawyer that he now has two lawyers, including one who had previously represented Hulk Hogan and Donald and Melania Trump.
In response, US District Court Judge Mark Wolf ruled today that Ayyadurai can hire both attorneys if he wants, but only at his own expense. And he cast some doubt on Ayyadurai's plan to have the lawyers help him write his legal motions and carry out depositions but to let Ayyadurai argue his own case in court.
Last month, Ayyadurai, who is suing to overturn the Sept. 1 Republican primary and to get the Twitter account he lost in February returned, told Wolf that he was representing himself because he couldn't afford a lawyer because of alleged machinations involving Twitter by Galvin and Galvin's minions that culminated in him losing his Twitter account - his main fundraising channel - in early February
Wolf said Ayyadurai had made a "plausible" enough case on the alleged interference with his campaign and raised enough interesting constitutional issues that he would dip into a court fund and help pay for a prominent downtown attorney, Howard Cooper of Todd & Weld, to represent him.
But on Thursday, Ayyadurai told the court he had retained not just Cooper but Charles Harder of Los Angeles, who represented Hulk Hogan in his successful defamation suit against Gawker, Melania Trump in a successful defamation suit against a British newspaper and Donald Trump in his successful defense of a defamation suit by Stormy Daniels.
In an order today, Wolf said the man who claims to have invented email can have all the lawyers he wants, but that the court won't be paying for any of them. Wolf also wrote that if Ayyadurai does hire the lawyers - who have yet to the judge for formal permission to join the case - he may not get to make all of his own arguments in court, that Wolf would decide that on a case by case basis. And, the judge continued, Ayyadurai needs to knock it off with his proposed schedule for discovery - interviewing potential witnesses and digging up possible evidence - at least until after a hearing among all the sides scheduled for June 15.
The Secretary of State's office and the National Association of State Election Directors, who are named in Ayyadurai's current suit, objected to having him represent himself as his own attorney with actual attorneys on his case, because of the issues that raises in such potential matters as cross examinations during a potential trial.
Twitter, which Ayyadurai is now seeking to add to his suit, expressed no opinion on his hiring decisions, but said it objected to Ayyadurai's proposed discovery order, saying that it's not yet a party to the suit, its terms of service, which he agreed to, require any case against it to be made in San Francisco and that, in any case, its First Amendment rights would bar any proposed interrogation of its executives and workers.
In the absence of extraordinary circumstances that are not present here, the First Amendment bars compelled disclosure regarding such protected editorial decisions and processes, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, prohibits subjecting Twitter to the burdens of litigation that such discovery would entail.
Separately, the Secretary of State's office, today filed a separate motion asking Wolf to toss the suit on the grounds that it violates the 11th Amendment, which bars legal actions against government officials doing their jobs absent any proof of a pattern of criminal behavior.
Ayyadurai claims the Secretary of State's office has been going after him for months, which the state counters is nonsense, that Twitter decided all on its own to ban him in February after it tightened up on election misinformation due to Jan. 6, several months after Twitter ignored the one formal complaint the state filed with the company - about a tweet alleging the state had destroyed one million ballots. In its own filing, Twitter said Ayyadurai violated a "five strikes" policy because he kept tweeting misinformation about the Massachusetts election - and said its own algorithms and personnel snared him, not the state.
Last month, Ayyadurai, who also lost a campaign against Elizabeth Warren in 2018, charged that a manual for elections officials on how to deal with election misinformation on social media was proof of the Secretary of State's global campaign against him - which he alleges involve software imported from the British Commonwealth - because it listed an official there as a contributor. The national association said that was nonsense, that, in fact, the examples of how to submit complaints to Twitter focus on what to do should Twitter ignore the complaints.