John Bruce "Jack" Thompson (born July 25, 1951) is an American activist and former attorney, based in Coral Gables, Florida. Thompson, a self-proclaimed Christian conservative, is known for his public advocacy of conservative Christian moral standards. He is also known for his role as an anti-video-game activist.
After a foray into politics, Thompson concentrated his legal efforts against perceived obscenity, particularly in rap music and broadcasts by radio personality Howard Stern. More recently, he has focused on violence as well, particularly in the content of computer and video games and their alleged effects on children. He is a vocal advocate of banning stylized violence in video games, a role for which he became known in 1997, while representing the parents of the three students killed in the Heath High School shooting.
His involvement with music, gaming, and the media (and especially use of legal threats) have raised questions about First Amendment rights. On September 25, 2008, Thompson was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for inappropriate conduct, effective October 25, 2008.
Thompson gave Reno a letter at a campaign event requesting that she check a box to indicate whether she was homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Thompson said that Reno then put her hand on his shoulder and responded, "I'm only interested in virile men. That’s why I'm not attracted to you." He filed a police report accusing her of battery for touching him. In response, Reno asked Florida governor Bob Martinez to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. The special prosecutor rejected the charge, concluding that it was "a political ploy." Reno was ultimately re-elected with 69% of the vote. Thompson repeated allegations that Reno was a lesbian when she was nominated as U.S. Attorney General, leading one of her supporters, lieutenant governor Buddy MacKay, to dismiss him as a "kook."
In 1990, after his election loss, Thompson began a campaign against the efforts of Switchboard of Miami, a social services group of which Reno was a board member. Thompson charged that the group placed "homosexual-education tapes" in public schools. Switchboard responded by getting the Florida Supreme Court to order that he submit to a psychiatric examination. Thompson did so and passed, and since then has stated on more than one occasion that he is "the only officially certified sane lawyer in the entire state of Florida."
Thompson also took issue with another 2 Live Crew song, Banned in the USA. Thompson sent a letter to Jon Landau, manager of Bruce Springsteen, whose song Born in the USA was to be sampled by the group. Thompson suggested that Landau "protect Born in the U.S.A. from its apparent theft by a bunch of clowns who traffic toxic waste to kids," or else Thompson would "be telling the nation about Mr. Springsteen's tacit approval" of the song, which, according to Campbell, "expresses anger about the failure of the First Amendment to protect 2 Live Crew from prosecution." Thompson also said, "the 'social commentary' on this album is akin to a sociopath's discharging his AK-47 into a crowded schoolyard, with the machine gun bursts interrupted by Pee Wee Herman's views on politics."
The members of 2 Live Crew responded to these efforts by suing the Broward County sheriff in federal district court. The sheriff had previously told local retailers that selling the album could result in a prosecution for obscenity violations. While they were granted an injunction because law enforcement actions were an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, the court ruled that the album was in fact obscene. However, an appellate court reversed the obscenity ruling, because simply playing the tape was insufficient evidence of the constitutional requirement that it had no artistic value.
As the debate continued, Thompson wrote, "An industry that says a line cannot be drawn will be drawn and quartered." He said of his campaign, "I won't stop till I get the head of a record company or record chain in jail. Only then will they stop trafficking in obscenity." Bob Guccione Jr., founder of Spin magazine, responded by calling Thompson "a sort of latter-day Don Quixote, as equally at odds with his times as that mythical character was," and argued that his campaign was achieving "two things...: pissing everybody off and compounding his own celebrity." Thompson responded by noting, "Law enforcement and I put 2 Live Crew's career back into the toilet where it began."
Thompson wrote another letter in 1991, this time to the Minnesota attorney general Hubert H. Humphrey III, complaining about the N.W.A album Efil4zaggin. Humphrey warned locally-based Musicland that sales of the album might violate state law against distribution of sexually explicit material harmful to minors. Humphrey also referred the matter to the Minneapolis city attorney, who concluded that some of the songs might fit the legal definition if issued as singles, but that sales of the album as a whole were not prosecutable. Thompson also initiated a similar campaign in Boston. Later, Thompson would criticize the Republican Party for inviting N.W.A member and party donor Eric "Eazy-E" Wright to an exclusive function.
In 1992, Thompson was hired by the Freedom Alliance, a self-described patriot group founded by Oliver North, described as "far-right" by the Washington Post. By this time, Thompson was looking to have Time Warner, then being criticized for promoting the Ice-T song Cop Killer, prosecuted for federal and state crimes such as sedition, incitement to riot, and "advocating overthrow of government" by distributing material that, in Thompson's view, advocated the killing of police officers. Time Warner eventually released Ice-T and his band from their contract, and voluntarily suspended distribution of the album on which Cop Killer was featured.
Thompson’s push to label various musical performances obscene was not entirely limited to rap. In addition to taking on 2 Live Crew, Thompson campaigned against sales of the racy music video for Madonna's Justify My Love. Then in 1996, he took on MTV broadcasts for "objectification of women" by writing to the station's corporate parent, Viacom, demanding a stop to what he called "corporate pollution." He also went after MTV's advertisers and urged the U.S. Army to pull recruiting commercials, citing the Army’s recruitment of women and problems with sexual harassment scandals.
Thompson has rejected arguments that such video games are protected by freedom of expression, saying, "Murder simulators are not constitutionally protected speech. They’re not even speech. They’re dangerous physical appliances that teach a kid how to kill efficiently and to love it," as well as simply calling video games "mental masturbation". In addition, he has attributed part of the impetus for violent games to the military, saying that it was looking "for a way to disconnect in the soldier's mind the physical act of pulling the trigger from the awful reality that a life may end." Thompson further claims that some of these games are based on military training and simulation technologies, such as those being developed at the Institute for Creative Technologies, which, he suggests, were created by the Department of Defense to help overcome soldiers' inhibition to kill. He also claims that the PlayStation 2's DualShock controller "gives you a pleasurable buzz back into your hands with each kill. This is operant conditioning, behavior modification right out of B. F. Skinner's laboratory."
The suit was filed in federal district court and was dismissed for failing to present a legally recognizable claim. The court concluded that Carneal's actions were not reasonably foreseeable by the defendants and that in any case, his actions superseded those of the defendants, so that the latter could not be the proximate cause of the harm. In addition, the judge determined that "thoughts, ideas and images" in the defendants' materials did not constitute "products" that could be considered defective. The ruling was upheld on appeal.
Thompson returned to file a lawsuit in Tennessee state court in October 2003 on behalf of the victims of two teenage stepbrothers who had pled guilty to reckless homicide, endangerment, and assault. Since the boys told investigators they were inspired by Grand Theft Auto III, Thompson sought $246 million in damages from the publisher, Take-Two Interactive, along with PlayStation 2 maker Sony Computer Entertainment America and retailer Wal-Mart. The suit charged that the defendants knew or should have known that the game would cause copycat violence. On October 22, 2003, the case was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Two days later, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, and the case was closed.
Thompson was involved in another similar suit in Alabama in 2005 on behalf of the families of police personnel killed by Devin Moore, a teenager who was reportedly a compulsive Grand Theft Auto player. However, his participation in the case ran into a dispute over his pro hac vice admission to practice law in that state. The opposing attorneys sought removal of this privilege by arguing that his conduct was unethical and claiming he had threatened and harassed them in letters and emails. The judge added that Thompson had violated his gag order during Moore’s criminal trial. Thompson tried to withdraw from the case, but his request was denied by the judge, who went ahead and revoked Thompson's temporary admission to the state bar. For his part, Thompson said he thought the judge was trying to protect Moore's criminal conviction at any cost. He also complained about the judge's ethics, saying a local attorney who claimed to have influence on the judge had assured him the case would be dismissed unless the attorney was on Thompson's team, and also claimed that Rockstar Entertainment and Take Two Interactive posted slanderous comments about him on their website.
In the aftermath of this lawsuit, Thompson lobbied Alabama attorney general Troy King to file a civil suit and call on retailers not to sell "cop-killing games." After the slaying of another police officer in Gassville, Arkansas by Jacob D. Robida, an 18-year-old fugitive, Thompson again raised the possibility of a connection to Grand Theft Auto, but investigators found no evidence that video games were involved.
Thompson once reported that he had videotaped a Miami Best Buy selling a copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to his son who was 10 at the time. In a letter to Best Buy, he wrote, "Prosecutions and public relations consequences should fall on your Minneapolis headquarters like snowflakes." He eventually sued the company in Florida, arguing that it had violated a law against sale of sexual materials deemed harmful to minors. In January 2005, Best Buy agreed that it would enforce an existing policy to check the identification of anyone who appeared to be 17 or under and tried to purchase games rated "M" (for mature audiences). No law in effect at the time prohibited selling "M" rated video games to juveniles.
In September 2006, Thompson filed a suit in Albuquerque, New Mexico against Sony, Take-Two, Rockstar Games, and Cody Posey, for the wrongful death of three members of Posey's family. The 69-page complaint filed by Thompson and Albuquerque attorney Steven Sanders argued that "obsessively" playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City made violence "pleasurable and attractive," disconnected violence from consequences, and caused Posey to "act out, copycat, replicate and emulate the violence" when he shot and killed his father, stepmother, and stepsister, and then buried them under a manure pile at a ranch owned by former ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson in July, 2004. Thompson and Sanders filed the lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members of Posey's father. According to Thompson, "Posey essentially practiced how to kill on this game. If it wasn't for Grand Theft Auto, three people might not now be dead." The lawsuit claims that Thompson was told by a sheriff's deputy that the game and a Sony PlayStation 2 were found at the ranch. The suit also claims that the game taught Posey "how to point and shoot a gun in a fashion making him an extraordinarily effective killer without teaching him any of the constraints or responsibilities needed to inhibit such a killing capacity." Gary Mitchell, Posey's criminal defense attorney, said Thompson contacted him "numerous times" before the trial, urging Mitchell to highlight the game in Posey's defense, but Mitchell said he "just didn't find it had any merit whatsoever."
On March 14, 2007 Take-Two filed a lawsuit to prevent Thompson from preventing the sale of Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt 2 to minors, claiming that Thompson's effort to block sales of its games through lawsuits violates the company's First Amendment rights. Responding, Thompson said, "I have been praying, literally, that Take-Two and its lawyers would do something so stupid, so arrogant, so dumb, even dumber than what they have to date done, that such a misstep would enable me to destroy Take-Two." On April 19, 2007, Thompson and Take-Two settled their suit, with Thompson agreeing not to restrict sales through any court worldwide of Take-Two's games, threaten to sue the company, or accuse Take-Two of any wrongdoing based on the sale of any of its games. One analyst said that the settlement was likely to mute his public pronouncements and lawsuits against the company. However, upon the game's 2008 release, Thompson called the game "the gravest assault upon children in this country since polio," and asked Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to "pursue and file criminal charges against [Minnesota-based retailers] Target and Best Buy." He also sent a letter to Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick's attorney, addressed to Zelnick's mother, in which Thompson accused her son of "doing everything he possibly can to sell as many copies of GTA: IV to teen boys in the United States, a country in which your son claims you raised him to be a 'a Boy Scout'. ... More like the Hitler Youth, I would say." On May 1, 2008 Thompson appeared on the CNN Headline News program Glenn Beck, asserting that the game's sexual content made its sale to minors illegal, and that he was working with law enforcement to have criminal prosecutions brought. Thompson also filed a complaint with the Chicago Transit Authority about poster ads for the game at Chicago, Illinois bus stops.
Thompson also criticized Bill Gates and Microsoft for contracting with Rockstar Games to release the game on the Xbox. The Xbox version has since been canceled for undisclosed reasons, but a version was released on the Xbox 360. In August 2006, Thompson requested a congressional subpoena for an early copy, threatening to file suit in Miami if he did not gain help from U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns. Once the game is out, according to Thompson, "the horse will be out of the barn and it will be too late to do anything about it." Thompson argued that it violated Florida's public nuisance laws, which prohibit activities that can injure the health of the community.
Rockstar Games co-founder Terry Donavan responded, saying "I would prefer it if we could simply make great games and not have to deal with misunderstanding and misperception of what we do." After receiving no response from Rockstar regarding an advance copy, Thompson filed the public nuisance complaint against Wal-Mart, Take-Two Interactive, and GameStop, demanding that he be allowed to preview the game before its October 17 release date. Take-Two offered to bring in a copy and let both the judge and Thompson view the game in the judge's chambers on October 12, 2006. The judge ultimately saw no reason to restrict sales and dismissed the complaint the next day.
Thompson was critical of the judge's decision, telling the judge "You did not see the game... You don't even know what it was you saw," as well as accusing the Take-Two employee who demonstrated the game of avoiding the most violent parts. Blank Rome subsequently filed a motion to have Thompson's behavior declared "contempt for the court". Judge Friedman then recused himself from ruling, and instead filed a complaint against Thompson with the Florida Bar, calling Thompson's behavior "inappropriate by a member of the bar, unprofessional and contemptible".
Thompson later drew attention to the game's main character, a 15-year old male, being able to kiss other boys. Thompson wrote to ESRB president Patricia Vance, "We just found gay sexual content in Bully as Jimmy Hopkins makes out with another male student. Good luck with your Teen rating now." The ESRB indicated that they knew the content was in the game when they rated the game.
In December 2007, Thompson filed suit against Omaha, Nebraska Police Chief Thomas Warren, asking him to produce information on all "violent entertainment material" belonging to Robert Hawkins, who killed nine people, including himself, in a shooting at the Westroads Mall earlier that month. According to Omaha police, such information is not a matter of public record, as it is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Thompson has supported legislation in a number of states that would ban sales of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. In response to First Amendment concerns, he argued that the games were a "public safety hazard." However, he rejected as "completely unconstitutional" Hillary Clinton's proposed legislation to ban sales to minors of games rated "M" for Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Thompson contended that the government could not enforce a private-sector standard but had to depend on a Miller obscenity test. He charged that Clinton was simply positioning herself politically, with the support of the gaming industry, by proposing a bill which he felt she knew would be unconstitutional.
In July 2005, Thompson sent a letter to several politicians urging them to investigate The Sims 2, alleging that the game contained nudity accessible by entering special codes. Thompson called the nudity inappropriate for a game rated "T" for Teen, a rating which indicates suitability for anyone 13 and older. Manufacturer Electronic Arts dismissed the allegations, with vice president Jeff Brown explaining that game characters have "no anatomical detail" under their clothes, effectively resembling Barbie dolls. Although the game does display blurred-out patches over body regions when characters are naked, such as when taking a shower, Brown said that was for "humorous effect" and denied there was anything improper about the game. Nevertheless, a command that could be entered into the in-game console in order to disable the blur effect was removed from the game in an expansion. No official reason was given for the change.
In Louisiana, Thompson helped draft a 2006 bill sponsored by state representative Roy Burrell to ban the sale of violent video games to buyers under 18 (HB1381). In an effort to avoid constitutional problems, it avoided trying to define "violent" and instead adopted a variation of the Miller obscenity test: sales to minors would be illegal based on community standards if the game appealed to "the minor's morbid interest in violence", was patently offensive based on adult standards of suitability for minors, and lacked serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. The bill was passed unanimously by the state House and approved by the Senate Judiciary A Committee, despite industry opposition and predictions that it too would be unconstitutional. The Shreveport Times editorialized that Thompson's support of the bill "should immediately set off alarms" and described Thompson as someone who "thrives on chasing cultural ambulances". In defense of the bill, Thompson said that it was needed for public safety, and that it was a "miracle" that a Columbine-type event hadn't happened yet in Louisiana. However, the ESA filed suit under Entertainment Software Association v. Foti, and U.S. District Judge James Brady issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily blocking the law from taking effect until full judicial review can be done. The law was permanently enjoined in late November 2006, and the state was ordered to pay the defense's attorney fees. Judge Brady was "dumbfounded" that state legislators and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco wasted taxpayer money by trying to enact the law.
At one point, Thompson was asked by the National Institute on Media and the Family to stop invoking the organization's name in his campaigns. NIMF president David Walsh felt Thompson cast the organization in a bad light whenever he brought up their name. "Your commentary has included extreme hyperbole and your tactics have included personally attacking individuals for whom I have a great deal of respect," Walsh said in an open letter to Thompson.
Thompson has additionally worked to influence police investigations concerning violent acts which he views as being connected to violence in video games media. On June 2, 2006, Thompson suggested that West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana police detectives, investigating the murder of 55-year-old Michael Gore by 17-year-old Kurt Edward Neher, should look into the video games played by Neher. According to Sheriff J. Austin Daniel, an autopsy showed Gore was beaten to death as well as shot in the face. Concerning this, Thompson stated that "nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer."
Thompson has also criticized a Christian video game based on the Left Behind series. In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, players participate in "battles raging in the streets of New York," according to the game's fact sheet. They engage in "physical and spiritual warfare: using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world." Thompson claims that the makers of the game are sacrificing their values. He said, "Because of the Christian context, somehow it's OK? It's not OK. The context is irrelevant. It's a mass-killing game." Left Behind author Tim LaHaye disagrees, saying "Rather than forbid young people from viewing their favorite pastime, I prefer to give them something that's positive." The dispute over the game has caused Thompson to sever ties with Tyndale House, which publishes both the Left Behind books and Thompson's book, Out of Harm's Way. Thompson has not seen the game, which he says has "personally broken my heart," but claims, "I don't have to meet Abraham Lincoln to know that he was the 16th president of the United States."
In April 2007, only hours after the Virginia Tech shooting (and before Seung-Hui Cho was actually identified), Thompson predicted that the shooter had trained on the game Counter-Strike. According to Thompson, the game "drills you and gives you scenarios on how to kill them [and] gets you to kill them with your heart rate lower." He says that Seung-Hui "was in a hyper-reality situation in virtual reality." Though Seung-Hui had last been known to have played Counter-Strike in high school, four years prior to the shooting, Thompson asserts that "you don't drop it when you go to college, typically." Thompson disputed Seung-Hui's roommate's claim that Seung-Hui only used his computer to write fiction, on the grounds that "Cho was able to go room to room calmly, efficiently, coolly killing people." Prior to being identified, Thompson attributed the "flat effect on [Seung-Hui's] face" and the efficiency of his attack to video game rehearsals of the shooting. However, a search warrant released, listing the items found in Cho's dorm room, did not contain any video games, and a Washington Post story cited by Thompson later removed a paragraph stating that Seung-Hui enjoyed violent video games in high school. Thompson continued to maintain that "this is not rocket science. When a kid who has never killed anyone in his life goes on a rampage and looks like the Terminator, he's a video gamer." Thompson also sent a letter to Bill Gates, saying, "Mr. Gates, your company is potentially legally liable (for) the harm done at Virginia Tech. Your game, a killing simulator, according to the news that used to be in the Post, trained him to enjoy killing and how to kill." However, Microsoft did not create Counter-Strike - they only published the Xbox version of the game. The official Virginia state panel commissioned to investigate the shooting determined that Seung-Hui "played video games like Sonic the Hedgehog," and that "none of the video games [he had played] were war games or had violent themes."
On February 15, 2008, Jack Thompson claimed that the actions of Steven Kazmierczak, who killed five people at Northern Illinois University before committing suicide, were influenced by the game Counter-Strike. In a subsequent news release, Thompson claimed that "We have a nation of Manchurian Candidate video gamers out there who are ready, willing, and able to massacre, and some of them will." Thompson also threatened the university with a lawsuit if the school did not provide copies of "all documents that reveal [Kazmierczak's] play of violent videogames."
In response, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the creators of gaming webcomic Penny Arcade and of the children's charity Child's Play, stepped in to make the donation instead, writing in the memo field of their check, "For Jack Thompson, Because Jack Thompson Won't." Afterwards, Thompson tried to get Seattle police and the FBI to investigate Holkins and Krahulik for orchestrating "criminal harassment" of him through articles on their site. Other webcomics have regularly incorporated references to Thompson, alluding to this incident as well as others.
In 2006, two Michigan gamers began a project dubbed "Flowers for Jack", soliciting donations to deliver a massive floral arrangement to Thompson’s office. The flowers were delivered in February along with a letter aimed at opening a dialogue between Thompson and the video gaming community. Thompson rejected this overture and forwarded the flowers to some of his industry foes, with such comments as "Discard them along with the decency you discarded long ago. I really don't care. Grind them up and smoke them if you like."
Gamers have responded to Thompson's attempt to link the Virginia Tech massacre to the game Counter-Strike. Video game Web sites and young gamers on Internet message boards "teemed with anger" at what San Francisco Chronicle reporter Peter Hartlaub called "his serial misstatements," in some cases linking to YouTube videos of Thompson and dissecting his claims point by point. Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, said, "It's so sad. These massacre chasers—they're worse than ambulance chasers—they're waiting for these things to happen so they can jump on their soapbox." In response, Thompson referred to Della Rocca as an "idiot" and a "jackass [...] paid not to connect the dots [connecting shootings to video games]," and compared himself to people who warned that the government should be more concerned about terrorism before the September 11, 2001 attacks. According to Della Rocca, Thompson then challenged him to a series of gaming debates, claiming that they could each make more than $3,000 per event. When Della Rocca suggested that neither he nor Thompson accept any money for the events, Thompson refused.
During his opposition to Howard Stern, Thompson was asked in an interview with a reporter if, by his standards, he would blame Christianity for the murders committed by Michael Hernandez, a fourteen year old who murdered one of his classmates in 2004, because Hernandez wrote a diary in which he constantly spoke about praying to God. Thompson replied, "The Bible doesn't promote killing innocent people, Grand Theft Auto does. Islam does." Thompson then expanded his comments in the same interview by saying, "Islam promotes the killing of innocent people. The Quran requires the infidel, whether Jew or Christian, to be killed. ... That's a core essence of the religion. ... Muhammad was a pirate who killed infidels and who advocated the killing of infidels - not a nice guy. Osama bin Laden is in keeping with his fine tradition."
He later spoke in defense of Stern during the latter’s legal dispute with CBS over promoting Sirius on-air before his switch to satellite radio. Thompson contended that the technology added by CBS to edit out profanity also could have worked to edit out Stern's references to Sirius. According to Thompson, "The reason why CBS chose not to edit Stern is that Stern's Arbitron ratings remained high and were arguably even enhanced by people tuning in to hear daily about Stern's running feud with CBS and his move to Sirius. In other words, CBS actually used Stern's discussion of his move to Sirius to make more money for CBS."
CBS President Leslie Moonves responded, saying "You know what? You can’t let people like that tell you what to put on the air or what not to put on the air. That would only open the door when suddenly next week, he says, 'Take David Letterman off the air or take C.S.I. off the air.' Or you know what? Everybody Loves Raymond was about, you know, sex last week or about a 70-year-old man—you know, we dealt with Peter Boyle having sex with Doris Roberts. 'Take that off the air.' That's something we can’t let happen."
In 1992, Thompson asked a Florida judge to declare the Florida Bar Association unconstitutional. He said that the bar was engaged in a vendetta against him because of his religious beliefs, which he said conflicted with what he called the bar's pro-gay, humanist, liberal agenda. He also said that the "wedding of all three functions of government into the Florida Bar, the 'official arm' of the Florida Supreme Court, is violative of the bedrock constitutional requirement of the separation powers and the 'checks and balances' which the separation guarantees." Thompson accepted a $20,000 out-of-court settlement.
On January 7, 2002, Thompson sent the Supreme Court of Florida a letter regarding the Florida Bar's actions. The letter was filed with the court on January 10, 2002 and was treated as a petition for a writ of mandamus against the Florida Bar. Before any action was taken on the petition, Thompson sent the court another letter on January 28, 2002 voluntarily dismissing the case. The letter was filed with the court on January 30, 2002, and the Florida Supreme Court issued an order of dismissal on February 28, 2002.
In January 2006, Thompson asked the Justice Department to investigate the Florida Bar's actions. "The Florida Bar and its agents have engaged in a documented pattern of this illegal activity, which may sink to the level of criminal racketeering activity, in a knowing and illegal effort to chill my federal First Amendment rights," Thompson wrote in a letter to Alex Acosta, interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
In April 2006, Thompson filed another suit against the Florida Bar, this time in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the Bar harassed him by investigating what he called baseless complaints made by disgruntled opponents in previous disputes. His five-count complaint asked for more than $1 million in damages. The lawsuit alleged that the Bar was pursuing baseless ethics complaints brought against Thompson by Tew Cardenas attorneys Lawrence Kellogg and Alberto Cardenas of Miami, and by two lawyers from the Philadelphia office of Blank Rome, in violation of Thompson's constitutional rights. According to the lawsuit, the Bar looked at Thompson for violations of a bar rule that prohibits attorneys from making disparaging remarks about judges, other attorneys, or court personnel. Thompson also filed a motion with the court to order the mediation of his dispute with the Bar. Thompson commented, "I enjoy doing what I do and I think I've got a First Amendment right to annoy people and participate in the public square in the cultural war." Thompson also said he is optimistic his federal lawsuit will be successful. "I'm 100 percent certain that it will effect change, otherwise I would not have filed it."
On April 25, 2006, the Florida Bar filed a motion to dismiss Thompson's complaint. The Bar argued that Thompson's complaint should be dismissed for a number of reasons, including the fact that the complaint failed to state a claim on which he could be granted relief. The Bar also argued that it was absolutely immune from liability for actions arising out of its disciplinary functions, that the Eleventh Amendment barred Thompson's recovery of damages, and that the court should dismiss the case pursuant to the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris. On May 4, 2006, Thompson filed a motion asking Judge Frederico Moreno to recuse himself from the case, as Judge Moreno was a member of the Florida Bar. Citing an "abundance of caution," Judge Moreno recused himself on May 9, 2006 and referred the case to Chief Judge William Zloch for further action. Thompson did not, however, respond to the Bar's motion to dismiss the case. Finally, on May 17, 2006, Thompson filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal with the court, and the case was dismissed without prejudice.
In October 2007, Chief U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno sealed court documents submitted by Thompson in the Florida Bar case that depicted "gay sex acts." Thompson's submission prompted U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan on to order Thompson to show cause why his actions should not be filed as a grievance with the court's Ad Hoc Committee on Attorney Admissions, Peer Review and Attorney Grievance, but the order was dismissed after Thompson promised not to file any more pornography. Thompson then sent letters to acting U.S. Attorney General Peter Keisler and U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter demanding that Jordan be removed from his position for failing to prosecute Florida attorney Norm Kent, who Thompson claimed had "collaborated" with the Bar for 20 years to discipline him.
In February 2008, The Florida Supreme Court ordered Thompson to show cause as to why it should not reject future court filings from him unless they are signed by another Florida Bar member. The Florida Supreme Court described his filings as "repetitive, frivolous and insult[ing to] the integrity of the court," particularly one in which Thompson, claiming concern about "the court's inability to comprehend his arguments," filed a motion including images of "swastikas, kangaroos in court, a reproduced dollar bill, cartoon squirrels, Paul Simon, Paul Newman, Ray Charles, a handprint with the word 'slap' written under it, Bar Governor Benedict P. Kuehne, a baby, Ed Bradley, Jack Nicholson, Justice Clarence Thomas, Julius Caesar, monkeys, [and] a house of cards." Thompson claimed that the order "wildly infringes" on his constitutional rights and was "a brazen attempt" to repeal the First Amendment right to petition the government to redress grievances. In response, he sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, referring to the show-cause order as a criminal act done in retaliation for his seeking relief with the court.
On March 20, 2008, the Florida Supreme Court imposed sanctions on Thompson, requiring that any of his future filings in the court be signed by a member of The Florida Bar other than himself. The court noted that Thompson had responded to the show cause order with multiple "rambling, argumentative, and contemptuous" responses that characterized the show cause order as "bizarre" and "idiotic.
In February 2007, the Florida Bar filed disbarment proceedings against Thompson over allegations of professional misconduct. The action was the result of separate grievances filed by people claiming that Thompson made defamatory, false statements and attempted to humiliate, embarrass, harass or intimidate them. According to the complaint, Thompson accused Cardenas of "distribution of pornography to children," claimed that the Alabama judge presiding over the Devin Moore case "breaks the rules, even the Alabama State Bar Rules, because he thinks that the rules don't apply to him," and sent a letter to Blank Rome's managing partner, saying, "Your law firm has actively and knowingly facilitated by various means the criminal distribution of sexual material to minors." Thompson claims that the complaints violate state religious protections because his advocacy is motivated by his Christian faith.
In May 2008, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dava Tunis, after reviewing 2,400 pages of transcripts and 1,700 pages of exhibits, recommended that Thompson be found guilty of 27 of the 31 violations of which he had been accused, including making false statements to tribunals, disparaging and humiliating litigants and other lawyers, and improperly practicing law outside of Florida. Thompson filed a motion with the Florida Supreme Court the day after the report was issued to strike Tunis' recommendations as vague for lack of detail. Previously, Thompson had attempted to have Tunis thrown off his case, and filed a complaint against her with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which is responsible for investigating judges.
On June 4, 2008, prosecutor Sheila Tuma recommended 'enhanced disbarment' for Thompson, saying that Thompson demonstrated continued misconduct, a pattern of misconduct and persistently failed to admit any wrongdoing. Enhanced disbarment lengthens the period before an attorney may reapply for admission to the bar from five years to ten. After being prevented from making a speech to begin the disciplinary hearing, Thompson distributed his written objections to lawyers, a court reporter, and a newspaper reporter, departed the courtroom, and called the proceedings against him a "star chamber" and "kangaroo court.
On July 10, 2008 Judge Dava Tunis recommended permanent disbarment and a $43,675.35 fine for Thompson to the Florida Supreme Court. The court approved the recommendation and fine on September 25, 2008. Thompson has 30 days to clear all his affairs before his disbarment becomes effective. He has since filed for an emergency stay of the Florida State Supreme Court's decision with the U.S. District Court. In an e-mail to media outlets, Thompson responded to the court's decision by stating, "The timing of this disbarment transparently reveals its motivation: This past Friday Thompson filed a federal civil rights action against The Bar, the Supreme Court, and all seven of its Justices. This rush to disbarment is in retribution for the filing of that federal suit. With enemies this foolish, Thompson needs only the loyal friends he has." He closed the email - in which he included the court ruling - with, "...this should be fun, starting now.
In 1999, Thompson represented the parents of Bryce Kilduff, an 11-year old boy who committed suicide by hanging himself. Police believed that the death was an accident, and that Kilduff was imitating Kenny, a character from the Comedy Central series South Park, which Bryce, according to his parents, had never watched. Thompson called for Comedy Central to stop marketing the show and toys based on the series to children. "You see, the whole show—thrust of the show is it's—it's cool for kids to act like the characters in South Park.”
Although his efforts dealing with video games have focused on juveniles, Thompson got involved in a case involving an adult on one occasion in 2004. This was an aggravated murder case against 29-year-old Charles McCoy, Jr., the defendant in a series of highway shootings the previous year around Columbus, Ohio. When McCoy was captured, a game console and a copy of The Getaway were in his motel room. Although not representing McCoy and over the objections of McCoy's lawyers, Thompson succeeded in getting the court to unseal a search warrant for McCoy's residence. This showed, among other things, the discovery of additional games State of Emergency, Max Payne, and Dead to Rights. However, he was not allowed to present the evidence to McCoy, whose defense team was relying on an insanity defense based on paranoid schizophrenia. In Thompson's estimation, McCoy was the "functional equivalent of a 15-year-old," and "the only thing insane about this case is the (insanity) defense."
On February 21, 2007, Thompson filed a complaint with the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission against Judge Larry Seidlin, accusing Seidlin of "violating nearly every judicial canon" in conducting a hearing on the disposition of the body of Anna Nicole Smith. On June 28, 2007, Thompson filed a complaint with the State Attorney's Office, asking for an investigation and possible prosecution regarding accusations that Seidlin inappropriately accepted expensive gifts.
In March 2008 Thompson called for the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division to immediately suspend the law license of former state governor Eliot Spitzer, who had resigned from the position amidst reports he was a client of a prostitution ring. Thompson said that the Disciplinary Committee for the Appellate Division's First Department should stop Spitzer from practicing law until the matter was resolved, noting that Spitzer did not claim innocence in his initial public apology.
Interview: Defense attorney Larry Handfield and reporter Jason Grotto of the Miami Herald discuss the abuse of a law meant to give a fresh start to first-time criminals
Jan 23, 2004; TAVIS SMILEY Tavis Smiley (NPR) 01-23-2004 Interview: Defense attorney Larry Handfield and reporter Jason Grotto of the Miami...