Larry Elliot Klayman
July 20, 1951
|Education||Duke University (BA)|
Emory University (JD)
Larry Elliot Klayman (born July 20, 1951) is an American right-wing activist lawyer and former U.S. Justice Department prosecutor. He is the founder of self-styled watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.
In addition to his numerous lawsuits against the Clinton Administration, which led him to be called a "Clinton nemesis", Klayman has filed a number of lawsuits against political figures and governmental agencies. Klayman's goal in initiating the lawsuits is often to obtain information through the discovery process, rather than winning the lawsuit. Most cases brought by Judicial Watch or Klayman himself fail.
Critics have described him as "gadfly," and "a racist, a frivolous litigator and a conspiracy theorist." Klayman is a "birther," and submitted a petition to deport President Barack Obama. His aggressive behavior has led to criticism and sanctions from legal authorities including a ban from appearing in two courtrooms.
Education and career
Larry Klayman was born in Philadelphia. He graduated from Harriton High School in 1969 and with honors from Duke University with a B.A. in Political Science and French Literature in 1974. He received his J.D. from Emory University Law School in 1977.
Klayman founded Judicial Watch in 1994. During his tenure, Judicial Watch filed several lawsuits against Bill Clinton and his presidential administration.
Klayman left Judicial Watch to pursue political office. In 2004, Klayman ran for the United States Senate from Florida but lost in the United States Republican Party primary, finishing seventh out of eight candidates. After his run for the U.S. Senate, Klayman formed Freedom Watch. He says the name originated from an episode of The West Wing in which he was caricatured as Harry Claypool.
Klayman is the author of two books and writes periodic columns for conservative websites such as WorldNetDaily.
He was born to Jewish parents, and identifies himself as "both a Jew and a Christian".
Klayman has a reputation for his aggressive legal tactics; for example, the Southern Poverty Law Center has described him as "pathologically litigious". Although he has a poor record of winning cases, his lawsuits have often resulted in the release of previously undisclosed documents which themselves generate new scandals. He has been blamed for changing the tone of partisan investigations in Washington D.C.. In the 90s, Klayman deposed several White House officials, probing James Carville about his television habits, Paul Begala about his priest, and George Stephanopoulos about his traffic tickets. Carville publicly described Klayman as a "little twerp" and Klayman responded by questioning him about the statement during a deposition.
Sanctions and discipline imposed
Following Klayman's behavior in a 1992 trial in California federal court, Judge William Keller barred him from his courtroom for life. Five years later, in a separate case in New York, Klayman's behavior led then district judge Denny Chin to issue a lifetime ban on the attorney practicing law before him.
In 2007, Klayman received a $25,000 retainer from a Daytona Beach woman facing criminal charges and she accused him of not providing legal services in return. The Florida Bar Association mediated the matter and Klayman agreed to pay off a small portion within 90 days, but after the deadline lapsed he was reprimanded by the association.
In 2014, Klayman agreed to be publicly censured by the D.C. Bar. Klayman represented three individuals who had sued Judicial Watch, his former employer and client, but he failed to obtain Judicial Watch's consent to waive his conflict of interest. Klayman maintained that the bar "recognized there was no evidence of dishonesty or personal gain". In June 2017, however, the discipline committee recommended that Klayman be suspended from practicing law for 90 days. The disciplinary matter remains pending before D.C. Court of Appeals.
An October 2016 opinion by a federal appellate court, concerning Klayman's attempt to represent Cliven Bundy, noted 12 cases "in which Klayman’s ability to practice law in an ethical and orderly manner was called into question."
In 2018, Klayman unsuccessfully sued the D.C. Bar and some of its employees, alleging they were conspiring to disbar him. Klayman's lawsuit acknowledged three disciplinary actions then pending against him: the above Judicial Watch matter, Klayman's attempts to represent Bundy, and a complaint concerning his representation of a sexual-harassment plaintiff.
Through Judicial Watch, Klayman filed around 18 lawsuits against the Clinton presidential administration, alleging ethical misconduct and criminal activity. In one case, a federal judge ruled that Clinton violated the Privacy Act when he released personal letters between him and a female White House volunteer. The woman had appeared on national television accusing him of making improper sexual advances, and Clinton claimed he released the letters to discredit her. The judge determined this was an act of criminal intent, but that ruling was called "inappropriate" by the appellate court.
Klayman represented Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to be one of Bill Clinton's mistresses, in a defamation suit against Hillary Clinton. Klayman also represented Dolly Kyle, another woman who claimed to be a mistress of Bill Clinton, in her unsuccessful lawsuit against him.
In 2012, Klayman represented Freedom Watch in its FOIA request to obtain various federal agencies' documents. During the course of litigation, Klayman sought access to Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server, but the courts denied his request.
In 2015, Klayman filed an unsuccessful racketeering lawsuit against Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation, alleging Hillary Clinton sold access to U.S. government officials in return for donations to the Clinton Foundation.
In the wake of the 2016 shooting of Dallas police officers, Klayman filed unsuccessful lawsuits against Hillary Clinton, Obama, George Soros, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, and some of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, alleging they had incited a "race war" that led to the shooting.
In 2012, Klayman filed on behalf of a Florida resident an unsuccessful challenge to Barack Obama's placement on the primary ballot and claimed the president is not a natural-born citizen as required by the Constitution. He also represented the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party and a member of the Alabama Republican party, who alleged the Alabama Secretary of State had a duty to investigate Obama's eligibility. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal. Chief Justice Roy Moore and another justice dissented, arguing the Secretary of State did have the authority to conduct such an investigation. Two other justices wrote concurring opinions that supported the dismissal and addressed the dissenting opinions.
In 2013, a citizen grand jury formed by Klayman "indicted" Obama and others of various crimes (including involuntary manslaughter), "convicted" Obama of fraud, and alleged the president forged his birth certificate in order to pass eligibility requirements.
On October 13, 2013, during the US government shutdown, Klayman declared at a conservative rally in Washington, D.C. that "This president is not a president of We the People; he’s a president of his people", urged the crowd to begin a "second American non-violent Revolution", and demanded that President Obama "put the Quran down ... [and] figuratively come out with his hands up." Weeks later, Klayman sponsored a "Reclaim America" rally in Lafayette Square across from the White House, calling for the president's removal. Klayman stated that if Obama did not resign, conservative activists would meet to establish a "shadow government". Klayman had encouraged "millions to occupy Washington D.C.," but reported attendance was between 130 and 200.
Klayman also sued the National Security Agency in Klayman v. Obama. In 2013, Klayman sued the Obama administration over the collection of phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA). A federal judge agreed with Klayman that the surveillance program was likely unconstitutional, but stayed an injunction pending an appeal by the United States government. The ACLU and Senator Rand Paul had filed similar cases, but Klayman's was the only one to gain a favorable court ruling. In 2015, however, the D.C. Circuit vacated the injunction, ruling that Klayman had failed to show that his own records had been collected. Later in 2015, the district court enjoined the NSA from collecting data about Klayman's client, a California lawyer who had recently been added to the lawsuit, but the D.C. Circuit court stayed enforcement of the injunction. In 2017, the district court dismissed the lawsuit. The court noted, "Klayman accused this Court of being ‘coopted by the so called ‘Deep State’’ into ruling against him. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, such baseless accusations are no substitute for a well-pleaded complaint."
Klayman has had several other dismissed suits against Obama, including a lawsuit alleging that the Obama administration had secretly allowed the Ebola virus to enter the United States to harm people of the "Caucasian race and Jewish-Christian religion;" a suit to block actions taken by the Obama administration regarding gun control; a lawsuit to block the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015; and a suit against Obama and others for inciting airport protests at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Other legal actions filed by Klayman
Klayman has brought a number of lawsuits on behalf of conservative causes or against individuals associated with the Democratic party. Many of these cases have been dismissed, including lawsuits against Facebook seeking $1 billion for not responding quickly enough to calls to take down an anti-Israel "Third Intifada" page; and against the Republican National Committee alleging that it conspired to deprive Donald Trump from being awarded the delegates he had won in the 2016 Republican Party primary for Florida. In November 2018, Klayman sued Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections for Broward County, Florida, over the 2018 election results.
Klayman filed an unsuccessful suit to remove special counsel Robert Mueller from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, and convened a citizen grand jury that "indicted" Mueller.
Klayman has also brought a number of legal actions regarding his personal life. In 1998, Klayman sued his mother for $50,000, seeking reimbursement for medical care provided to his maternal grandmother. In 2013, Klayman defended his actions in an interview with ABC News, and said it was "essentially a case against my stepfather" and that he named his mother "because legally she was next of kin." Klayman also unsuccessfully sued the City Pages and Phoenix New Times newspapers for defamation after they reported on a custody dispute between Klayman and his ex-wife.
Klayman has also sued the group that he founded, Judicial Watch, in 2012. Klayman argued that a Judicial Watch employee falsely told Orly Taitz that Klayman had been convicted of not paying child support. In reality, Klayman had been indicted of failing to pay child support, but the charges were later dismissed. Taitz published the Judicial Watch employee's comment on her website. Klayman sued Judicial Watch for defamation, and in 2014, a federal jury awarded Klayman $156,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages. In 2019, however, Judicial Watch obtained a $2.8 million verdict against Klayman in a trademark dispute.
Lawsuits representing others
Klayman represented José Basulto of the Cuban exile organization Brothers to the Rescue and won a $1.7 million judgment against Fidel Castro in 2005. The Cuban government shot down and killed four of Basulto's colleagues (and nearly himself) as they flew over international waters.
In 2010, Klayman represented Vincent Forras in a lawsuit against Feisal Abdul Rauf to prevent the building of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque." In the motion to dismiss, Rauf's attorney called Klayman an "infamous publicity hound" and wrote that Forras "trades in his well deserved laurels for fifteen minutes of fame as a nationally recognized bigot." Klayman and Forras sought sanctions, but the court denied that request and dismissed the suit. Klayman and Forras then sued Rauf and his attorney for defamation, and that suit was also dismissed.
In 2011, Klayman represented Joseph Farah in an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against Esquire magazine. He also represented Bradlee Dean in an unsuccessful defamation suit against Rachel Maddow, in which the judge heavily criticized Klayman, and Dean was ordered to pay defendants' legal fees, which totaled nearly $25,000.
In 2014, Klayman filed an unsuccessful lawsuit on behalf of Joe Arpaio, which alleged that the Obama administration's actions regarding federal immigration policy were not authorized by Congress. The case was dismissed, and escalating appeals were all also dismissed. In 2018, Klayman filed lawsuits on Arpaio's behalf, alleging that the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and CNN, in their analyses of Arpaio's career, had defamed him.
In 2015, Klayman represented five former government employees in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the NSA, the Department of Justice, and employees of those agencies regarding alleged retaliation for their complaints about the Trailblazer Project.
In 2015, Klayman filed an unsuccessful defamation lawsuit on behalf of Dennis L. Montgomery against James Risen. Klayman also represented Montgomery in his unsuccessful request to intervene in the contempt proceedings against Joe Arpaio in a lawsuit that initially alleged Maricopa County had engaged in impermissible racial profiling, but later revealed that Arpaio had allegedly hired Montgomery to investigate the DOJ. In 2017, Montgomery and Klayman unsuccessfully jointly sued James Comey and other federal government officials, alleging a coverup of evidence that, according to Montgomery, shows the existence of widespread illegal surveillance by the federal government.
In 2016, Klayman unsuccessfully applied in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada for permission to represent Cliven Bundy in the criminal case stemming from the 2014 Bundy standoff. Klayman did not formally represent Bundy at his criminal trial, but rather conferred with Bundy and his family members. The judge dismissed the case, the government appealed the dismissal, and Klayman said he would represent Bundy on appeal. Following the dismissal of the federal criminal charges against Bundy, Klayman, on his behalf, unsuccessfully sued in state court for a declaration that the federal government cannot own land in Nevada. Klayman also filed a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of two of Bundy's codefendants who were found not guilty; Klayman filed a similar but unsuccessful lawsuit on behalf of Bundy's son, Ryan. Another Bundy codefendant, Peter Santilli, however, in January 2019 filed a complaint with the D.C. Bar, alleging that Klayman's efforts during the Bundy case were lacking; in turn, Klayman sued Santilli for defamation.
In 2018, Klayman filed an unsuccessful suit on behalf of Kiara Robles, who alleged her First Amendment rights were violated when she was attacked during the 2017 Berkeley protests. The court revoked Klayman's pro hac vice status, due to professional misconduct, which ended Klayman's ability to represent her in that court, and the court ultimately dismissed her suit.
In 2018, Klayman (on behalf of Freedom Watch, and, later, Laura Loomer as well) filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, alleging these companies conspired to censor conservative content. In 2019, Klayman filed, on behalf of Loomer, a defamation lawsuit against Facebook and a lawsuit against Representative Rashida Tlaib that alleges Tlaib "violently grabbed" Loomer's cellphone.
In 2018, Klayman filed, on behalf of Jerome Corsi, a request for an investigation into the Special Counsel's tactics and a lawsuit alleging Mueller and other government actors violated his constitutional rights and leaked grand jury secrets. Klayman also represented Corsi's stepson, who testified before a federal grand jury about whether Corsi had directed him to "scrub" a computer. In 2019, Klayman filed, on behalf of Corsi, a defamation lawsuit against Roger Stone, concerning Stone's comments about Corsi's actions during the investigation; Corsi and Klayman also jointly sued Stone and one of his associates, Michael Caputo, for defamation; they also jointly sued Alex Jones for defamation over Jones' comments about their abilities.
Klayman also has filed lawsuits of the behalf of Roy Moore, Laurie Luhn, and Jackie Beard Robinson (dismissed in part and sent to arbitration) regarding how they were portrayed in various television programs.
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