Legal rebuttal: "vade et caca in pilleum et ipse traheatur super aures tuo"

Eric Tukewitz, a New York lawblogger, was one of many, many people who wrote about a badly managed legal defense from an inexperienced lawyer representing an accused murderer. The defense was handled very badly, and resulted in a mistrial, and then observers remarked in depth on the website of Joseph Rakofsky, the inexperienced lawyer in question, and on the erroneous impression of vast experience that the website created.

Rakofsky has responded by suing everyone involved, from the Washington Post, who covered the story (in which they quote the judge in the case, remarking unfavorably on Rakofsky's legal prowess), to the American Bar Association, to the large number of lawbloggers who wrote about him.

Tukewitz is just one of the lawbloggers in question, but he's come up with a legal rebuttal to Rakofsky's suit, which he considers baseless: "vade et caca in pilleum et ipse traheatur super aures tuo," which, loosely translated, means "Go shit in a hat and pull it down over your ears" (lit., "go shit in a [knit] hat & let that same hat itself be pulled over your ears.").

Now that's the law at its finest!

What was Rakofsky thinking? That a bunch of lawyers that make their living in the well of the courtroom, accustomed to walking a high-wire without a net as we cross-examine hostile witnesses, would somehow cower in fear at an utterly frivolous lawsuit? Did he think that those of us that write blogs, for all to see, might not somehow have a basic grasp of the First Amendment? Didn't he know, well before he even went to law school, that people have a right to set forth their opinions? How could he survive law school and pass a bar exam without knowing constitutional fundamentals? Perhaps the better question, why wasn't he thinking of what would happen in response to such a suit? Was he a spoiled child that got everything he wanted simply by throwing a tantrum?

And those of us that are practicing lawyers are the small fries, compared with our co-defendants Washington Post, American Bar Association and Thompson Reuters. Like they are going to roll over and pull down their articles? Good grief.

Joseph Rakofsky -- I Have An Answer For You (via Lowering the Bar)

(Image: Joseph Rakofsky)


  1. Does the phrase “roll over and pull down their articles” bring unfortunate images to anyone else’s mind? Oh, it’s just me, is it?

  2. Great story, the whole blog post is worth reading. I can’t help feeling a little bad for the overstepping newbie lawyer and I wonder if he’s torpedoed his career already.

    1. A quote from the article to which you so kindly directed us:

      “While the allegations focus on the college and not the law school, the taint on Touro is terrible…”

      Hate to pick nits around such things, but without a photo, that must remain a matter of opinion, eh?

      1. Fortunately for us, if his taint is terrible there’s little likelihood of his reproducing.

  3. Filing a frivolous lawsuit against the Bar Association seems like a potentially bad move.

  4. Man, have you seen the badge of honor for the Rakofsky 74? Hope Boing Boing gets one, would place you amongst some interesting and powerful people.

  5. If Rakofsky had been in the UK then Tukewitz could have just referred him to the answer given in Arkell v. Pressdram. :)

  6. Nice, but a pity he did not take the time to get the Latin vaguely right. I’m no expert for sure, and my suggestion could still contain mistakes, but positioning of the verbs and agreement of adjectives and their nouns is pretty much taught in Latin 101:

    Vade in pilleum caca, et ipse super aures tuas traheatur.

    Anyone in a position to make a definitive judgement?

    1. I think your “vade in pilleum caca” is slightly closer, but I think it’s still hewing closely to the idiomatic “go shit in a hat,” whereas translating it more literally as “go AND shit in a hat” might make more sense in the Latin: “vade, et in pilleum caca.” However, I think the idiomatic “go shit” doesn’t necessarily imply actually going somewhere, so it might be best to omit it entirely: “In pilleum caca.”

      The “tuas” is definitely better then “tuo.”

      I always understood word order to not be so important, generally, but I do think your order sounds better.

      So, I’d go for just the one-word change over yours:

      “In pilleum caca, et ipse super aures tuas traheatur.”

      1. Which sounds better when read aloud counts for more than some may recognize, when it comes to Latin.

        But of technical matters of Latin grammar, I am incompetent to judge. No grammarian I!

        As to the fellow in the story, no trial lawyer he!

        Another closely related species, though less frequently observed, is the lawyer who, though competent in the services she renders her clients, yet over-charges them for the services rendered.

    2. It rather depends: this is atrocious classical-Ciceronian Latin, but a reasonable pastiche of Medieval Latin, which adheres much more closely to the standard word-order of a modern language: while it kept the case endings, Medieval Latin ditches the flexibility regarding word order that classical Latin enjoys.

      Here’s a terrible attempt at versifying these into dactylic tetrameter:

      Caca in pilleum, et super
      tuas aures traheatur

      (With the eliding, of course, of the second “a” in “Caca,” as it’s followed by a vowel.) Always put the poopy first, as Horace notes in the Arse poetica.

      1. I favor a relative clause, since “ipse” is ambiguous, and let’s lose the jussive subjunctive, but bring back the “go”:

        I, in pilleum caca, qui super tuas aures trahi debet.

  7. I love the padding of his resume, which had him working on Murder, Embezzlement, Tax Evasion, Civil RICO, Securities Fraud, Bank Fraud, Insurance Fraud… and dozens more types of cases in the… um… one year that he interned while just out of law school.

    But the best part is this:

    Prior to studying law, Mr. Rakofsky studied Economics and interviewed at a well-respected investment bank with branches all over the world

    OMG! This man interviewed at a bank! No, really! Why did he ever turn to law, when his golden future was already paved out for him? Hire the man already!

  8. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a lot easier to get away with if you’re a bit *smarter* than Mr. Rakofsky.

  9. My favorite resume padding:
    “Prior to studying law, Mr. Rakofsky studied Economics and interviewed at a well-respected investment bank with branches all over the world. ”

    Wow! Interviewed with a bank. And then????

    I shall immediately add to my CV:

    Mr Slater emailed his resume to Google.
    Mr Slater sent his name, height, and weight to Navy Seal Team 6.

  10. Freshly graduated Jersey lawyer lies about his experience so that he can defend a murder trial – wasn’t this the premise of My Cousin Vinny?

  11. “In galerum caca, ipsumque super tuas aures detrahite.”

    ‘Caca’ is the 2sg present imperative, from ‘Caco, -ere’;
    ‘galerum’ is a ceremonial hat or wig;
    ‘detrahite’ is the 2sg future imperative from ‘Detraho, -ere’ (“to pull down”), the form is slightly archaic, and apparently used in legal contexts.

    I assumed that the “pull it down over your ears” is a command. Otherwise, could we use an “ut” clause to indicate an indirect command or wish?–this would take ‘traho’ in the subjunctive, which I think would be ‘detrahatur’, not ‘detraheatur’ (since it’s a 3rd Conjugation Verb).

  12. I’ll bet he’s sitting in his office right now, adding Boingboing to his list of people to sue.

  13. I am sure he will find another opportunity… possibly with the other fine attorneys trolling for dollars at the RIAA, the MPAA, or maybe even Righthaven.

  14. Thanks for the Latin lesson guys…

    Choice quote:

    “‘There are drugs in the projects of Southeast D.C. There are guns all the time and drugs,’ Rakofsky told the jury.”

  15. Wow. I’m the translator, and I’m amused that my schoolboy Latin has made it all the way to Boingboing. I’ll respond to a few things at once:

    Yes, I suppose it should be “aures tuas.” My bad.

    I was definitely going for medieval Latin, rather than Classical. “Go shit in a hat and pull it over your ears” isn’t terribly Ciceronian. Also, to the extent that we lawyers still use Latin, it’s not really Classical Latin.

    I used “vade” because I wanted to keep the sense that the speaker intended for the addressee to go away. I suppose I could have said “exi” but that sounded dumb.

    I preferred the subjunctive “traheatur” because it’s what I’m used to as a lawyer. The names of many old writs are taken from their Latin incipit–thus “Habeas corpus” (a writ to challenge the lawfulness of an arrest or imprisonment), “capias” (a writ instructing the sheriff to arrest someone who has failed to appear when summoned to court), “supersedeas” (a writ from an appellate court telling a trial court their judgment is about to be reviewed)…etc. Classicists will note that “puniatur capite” is used when the death sentence is to be imposed.

    1. ouij, I may not read a word of mediaeval Latin, but I know a good phrase when I see one. “Not terribly Ciceronian” is going to get a loooot of mileage in West London in the near future.

      1. Gratias tibi omnibusque ceteris commentantibus ago. Epigrammaton equidem tuum optimum aestimo: tantum illic elegentia quantum vulgaritate mei sententiae habet.

      2. erm, dicebam: tantum illic elegentia quantum vulgaritate mei sententiae est. Iam valdissime scitur me malum scriptorem esse…

  16. I think the fact that this guy is trying to sue the BAR ASSOCIATION is proof enough that he’s an idiot. This is like some lone paramilitary nut saying “I declare war on the US Marines!”

  17. I think that it’s actually misspelled Latin for Phrygian cap, aka Smurf hat.

  18. Half the comments are about the idiot lawyer (yeah sue me too), and the other half are about the Latin.

    I fucking love BoingBoing.

  19. The article states the trial in question took place in 2008 but also states: “Rakofsky, who received his law degree from Touro College in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2009, has been licensed in New Jersey since April 29, 2010”.

    So what was his roll in 2008? maybe that’s what the issue is.

    1. Murder took place in 2008, but it takes a while for these things to come to trial. Trial was held in March, 2011, ending in a mistrial on April 1, 2011 (yes–on April Fools’ Day!).

      So Rakofsky was licensed just long enough.

  20. While all the Latin grammar boffs are playing, I’d just like to say: he interviewed at a bank?

    Who did he interview?

    Oh, he means he WAS interviewed?

    (Mutters something about USanians not getting or respecting transitive/intransitive nature of some verbs – Latin scholars will probably get it.)

  21. I think that ridiculous hairstyle should be, ever more, known as a Rakofsky Cut.

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