How stupid is Charles Carreon's lawsuit against The Oatmeal, IndieGoGo, the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation? Really, really stupid

Regular readers of Boing Boing will know that Charles Carreon is a lawyer hired by the humor-aggregating website FunnyJunk to send a letter to the webcomic The Oatmeal, demanding $20,000 and threatening a defamation suit (over The Oatmeal's year-old post about FunnyJunk's unauthorized use of his comics, and their bad behavior when this was pointed out to them) unless payment was made.

You will also know that Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, responded with a funny, insulting letter to FunnyJunk and Carreon, and a vow to raise $20,000 for charity, and to remit a photo of Inman standing with the money, along with a comic depicting FunnyJunk's owner's mother trying to seduce a bear in lieu of payment.

You will also know that Carreon proceeded to provoke Internet-wide outrage by threatening to have the fundraiser (which was hugely successful, to the tune of over $200K) shut down, along with IndieGoGo, the site on which it was hosted. And that he made good on that threat by filing suit against Inman, the Oatmeal, IndieGogo, the American Cancer Society, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Now, Ken at Popehat, a former US federal prosecutor, has obtained a copy of the complaint, and has made a detailed analysis of it. From his reading, it appears that Carreon has made a number of really dumb errors (besides the obvious dumb error of picking a fight with the whole Internet). In his usual entertaining fashion, Ken gives us the details, at some length (amazingly, this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Ken is apparently withholding the really juicy stuff for use in the courtroom).

Sweet Charity: Mr. Carreon's theory of how California charity law governs the defendants is wholly harebrained. As but one example: Mr. Carreon asserts that California Government Code section 12599 controls The Oatmeal, even though that statute by its own terms applies to "any individual, corporation, unincorporated association, or other legal entity who for compensation" engages in fundraising in California — professional telemarketers and fundraisers, in other words. In a similarly wrong-headed or deliberately deceptive vein, Mr. Carreon claims that Government Code section 12599.6(b) requires charities like the ones he has sued here to "exercise and establish control" over "all fundraising activities conducted by others for their benefit." Except that's not what Government Code section 12599.6 says at all. It says "A charitable organization must establish and exercise control over its fundraising activities conducted for its benefit, including approval of all written contracts and agreements . . . ." Mr. Carreon made up the part requiring charities to police fundraising they don't control themselves or contract out. That's why if your kids sell lemonade in order to donate the proceeds to save the pandas, the World Wildlife Fund doesn't have to come and proofread their signs and make sure that they aren't misstating the ingredients of the snickerdoodles or coercing the Jenkins kid up the block to buy seconds.

True Versus Truthy: Mr. Carreon makes a number of factual assertions that appear to play rather fast and loose with the requirements of Rule 11, cited above. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that "Mr. Inman's stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign" to the charities. Mr. Carreon's own exhibits show that he is lying. Mr. Inman said that he was trying to raise $20,000 (at the time of this writing he has exceeded ten times that) and that he would donate half to one charity and half to the other. Later, when results far exceeded expectations, Mr. Inman posted an update, saying "a lot of people have been asking what I plan to do with the extra money we raised over the initial $20,000. 100% of it is going to charity. I’m going to add 2 more charities to the list, in addition to the ACS and the NWF." Mr. Carreon also implies falsely in paragraph 30 — as he has stated falsely to the media — that the bear-loving mother Mr. Inman drew was meant to be Mr. Carreon's mom, when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).

The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk, Part V: A Brief Review of Charles Carreon's Complaint



  1. To give Mr Carreon credit, he does seem to be trying very hard (and quite successfully) to disprove the old theory about there being no such thing as bad publicity.

    1. I’m sure it’ll give him a slew of new, frivolous, dumb and nasty clients.

      He doesn’t have to win, he doesn’t have to make the judges happy, he just has to get his billable hours in. He’s eating this shit up, I’m sure he’s got years more of assholery to go through before he ends up disbarred like Jack Thompson.

      1. He’s “Pro Se”, aka “I will continue to wreak havoc until forcibly medicated.”  Which means he gets NO billable hours for this unless the other side settles or loses AND he gets attorneys fees.

        1. Whoops. I can only imagine that the grandstanding is marketing for himself, that he’s crassly hoping to attract people to his practice.

        2.  Ain’t no attorneys’ fees for a pro se party, even if that party happens to be an attorney. 

      2. He does, however, have to avoid being disbarred at the end of all this, which I’m coming to see as the only possible end for him.

      3.  Billable hours?

        Who’s he sending the bill to?  He’s representing HIMSELF in this suit.

        He only represented Funnyjunk in the original extortive letter.

          1. I can see that conversation with his client and his crack billing team now:

            Mr Carreon:  “Here’s my bill for our legal services.”
            Mr Carreon:  “One hundred thousand dollars, what a deal!  Here’s a check!”
            Mr Carreon:  “I only accept cash, I’m not sure your credit is good with us.”
            Mr Carreon:  “I’m offended, expect to hear from my lawyer!”

  2. Take, for example, his claim in paragraph 37 that “Mr. Inman’s stated intention is to turn over only $20,000 of the amount raised by the Bear Love campaign” to the charities.

    Ah, so we’re back to the bullshit claim that STARTED all of this: that an outdated blog post that was true when it was written should be assumed accurate for the rest of eternity.

    1. My assumption is that he will next sue reality for changing since the original blog posts.

    2. IANAL, but it gets worse:  Carreon knew or should have known that this statement of his in Paragraph 37 was false, since update #2 for the BearLove campaign stated that ALL the money would go to charity, and he provides no quotations from Inman stating otherwise.

      And we know Carreon had a chance to read the update before filing suit, because the screenshot he used of the BearLove campaign site had “Updates (3)” on it!

      Thus the big question on Paragraph 37 was whether Carreon was Rule 11-sloppy (“Reasonable Inquiry” requirement) and just never saw the update, or read the update and stated what appears to be a bald-face lie in his submission to the court.

  3. when in fact the post makes it perfectly clear that the statement is directed a FunnyJunk, a web site that does not actually have a mother (unless, perhaps, its mother is AOL).

    It’s not really clear at all, actually.  The post seems to be in response to Mr. Carreon and his letter, but simultaneously addresses FunnyJunk.  I guess the problem is that Mr. Carreon is taking it personally?

    It raises the question as to whether Mr. Funnyjunk (whoever that is) now regrets getting Mr. Carreon involved and will try to distance himself from Mr. Carreon .

  4. You know, of course, about the classic grade-school english class trope that there are only a handful of story archetypes… man v. man, man v. himself, man v. nature, etc.

    And now we have it. Yet a new one.

    Man v. Internet.

    Some day when the machines are debating whether humans should continue to be their equals, Carreon will be cited as proof we’re just not worth the hassle.

      1. With the internet dutifully playing Choragos in this tragicomedy of epic hubris…

  5. The only way this gets to be more cartoonish is if he grows a large mustache that he can twist while tying an orphan to railroad tracks.

  6. If you’ve got the extra-large popcorn bowl out, be sure to peruse the comments in today’s TechDirt article (best read in threaded mode). Someone with the nick “TaraCarreon” acts as a blocker for Charles Carreon…it’s like Ed Wood, Jr. laid hands on a defective Philosopher’s Stone; hilarity ensues.

    1. Rumor has it that she really is his wife. And this isn’t her first time to the rodeo.

      1. Since some of her postings have been mirrored by the TaraCarreon account in one of the web forums they actually operate (where presumably a fake account would not be allowed to be maintained for a week+), the consensus opinion is that it is very VERY likely his wife.

      2.  If it is his wife, she is doing him no favors. She’s over there calling every critic a Nazi for reals, she means actual National Socialists.  She is more disgusting than he is. She’s claiming that TD is the Mafia and commenting on ‘what really happened’ when he was before the Oregon Bar. 

      3. Just spent my lunchtime giggling and reading her comments… I think those two are a perfect match.

        Also she uses “Un-American” (always with the “u” capitalized) as an insult quite often…

    2. Comments nothing, the real weirdness is here:  “Plaintiff is a contributor to the Bear Love campaign, and made his contribution with the intent to benefit the purposes of the NWF and the ACS.”
      I’ve donated to the campaign mocking my client to get myself out of a pickle.

      Wow, the train to Crazytown seems to be running express today.

    1. That was a right-pretty speech, sir. But I ask you, what is a contract? Webster’s defines it as “an agreement under the law which is unbreakable.” Which is unbreakable! Excuse me, I must use the restroom.

    1. In case you cant be bothered finding out what he means:
      Effective Oct. 24, 2005, the disciplinary board approved a stipulation for discipline suspending Ashland lawyer, Charles H. Carreon, from the practice of law for 60 days. Carreon admitted violations of DR 3-101(B) (unlawful practice of law) and DR 9-101(A) (failing to deposit or maintain client funds in trust)
      In the stipulation, Carreon admitted that acting as house counsel in Canada was in violation of regulations of the profession in that jurisdiction, and that by utilizing the client settlement funds, he failed to properly maintain client funds in his lawyer trust account.Carreon’s sanction was aggravated by a selfish motive, multiple offenses and his substantial experience in the practice of law.

  7. The Carreon Effect: The act of doubling and then quadrupling down on an untenable position. 
      And then going all in.
    Credit to an Anonymous Coward from Techdirt.

  8. There are substantial signs in Tara Carreon’s posts that make me think she’s a member, or at least a fellow traveler, of the LaRouche Movement. The thing that got me going on that hypo is a comment she posted where she quotes a publication from the Schiller Institute (a LaRouche front) for no discernible reason. Further, her various conspiracy theories and hobby horses bear a strong resemblance to typical LaRouche preoccupations. 

  9. All this appears to be succeeding in distracting people from the theft from The Oatmeal by FunnyJunk.

    1.  Oh, no.  I, for one, am keeping that firmly in mind.  I’ll be budgeting some cash toward Mr. Inman in the very near future.  To paraphrase Spider Robinson, every dollar Matthew Inman gets for his work is a drop of urine on the shoes of Charles Carreon and FunnyJunk.

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