Judge Peter Nault, Issaquah District Court

Judge Nault was one of the judges in my "booby-trapped filings" experiment, where I filed motions before six different judges with two of the pages stuck together with a tiny thread of paper, so that I could look at the court file afterwards and see whether the judge actually read the motion or not. However in Judge Nault's case I had to do the experiment a bit differently, because at the time the courthouse said they were moving towards optically scanning in all of the papers that were received, instead of keeping paper copies. In that case the paper-thread would have been broken whether Judge Nault read the motion or not. So instead I filed a 4-page motion which said on page 3:

Next time I'm in court I'll ask about a word to make sure you read this motion all the way through, and the word is computer.
After that motion was denied, my next court appearance was on January 3, 2003, in which I asked Judge Nault:
BENNETT HASELTON: So what was the word on that other motion?
JUDGE NAULT: The other one, I just said I would review it...
(mp3 here) The trick here, of course, is that I didn't want to give away what I'd done by asking him point-blank, "So what was the word on the end of the sentence in the other motion that I put in there to make sure you read it?" Since I just asked him "What was the word on that other motion?", if he had read the other motion he would have known what I was talking about, but if he hadn't read it, he would have thought I meant, "What did you decide?" And that is of course what he thought I meant.

You know what he thinks about these cases?

Judge Nault had already achieved some notoriety among spammer-suers for what he said on November 17, 2003, when he heard one of my spam cases for the first time (case Y3-2002 against Americas Best Industries Inc.):

Judge Nault: You know what I think about these cases?
Bennett Haselton: Uh... what?
Judge Nault: They stink.
Bennett Haselton: Really? Why?
Judge Nault: I don't have to answer your questions, you have to answer mine.
Bennett Haselton: OK.
Judge Nault: I just think this is the stupidest law in the world. But I didn't write the law and I'm bound to follow it. So I'm gonna go ahead and give you your money. But I'm just saying, it just takes up court time and it's absolutely stupid.
Bennett Haselton: Well, the anti-spam law...
Judge Nault: You know what, I don't really care. I can go out there and click on my email and bingo it's gone, faster than it took you to print this off and come to court.
Bennett Haselton: I get a couple hundred every day.
Judge Nault: But you know what? You want to get a couple hundred because you put your name out there!
Bennett Haselton: No, I want to get email from people who I want to contact me...
Judge Nault: Oh, go lobby. Don't give me that junk.
[mp3 here]

Some people asked why I didn't just file a complaint against him for that, especially after Judge Nault later heard a case in which I sued a man for sending me spam with the subject "urgent cancer call", advertising a supposedly cancer-curing drug. That subject line had actually freaked me out because I thought it was a relative e-mailing to say that someone in the family had cancer, but Judge Nault ruled the subject line was not misleading. I appealed to the Superior Court and argued that Judge Nault was clearly biased in that regard, but the Superior Court judge found no evidence of bias, and ordered me to pay the spammer $1,450 in fees.

But, would it have done any good to file a complaint against Judge Nault and hope to get a different judge? I don't think so. Considering all the judges that I've appeared before and that provided fodder for the other pages on this site, most of the others are worse, and just as biased against anti-spam plaintiffs. The fact is that between the small group of us that have filed anti-spam cases in Small Claims, no Small Claims judge has ever ruled against a spammer who appeared in court (the only victories have been out-of-court settlements and default judgments). If the Commission on Judicial Conduct went after Judge Nault for his "stupidest law in the world" rant, that would be the height of hypocrisy, because they'd be going after a judge for merely admitting he was biased -- rather than going after any number of other judges for being biased.

Are you allowed to change your own court date?

Some of Judge Nault's other decisions seem more random than anything. In one other case, I filed a motion, which meant that the court would schedule a date for a new hearing and then notify me. The court sent me a note saying that the hearing had been scheduled for April 23, 2004. I sent a fax to the Issaquah courthouse saying that I was going to be out of the city that day, and asking if it could be rescheduled, since I was the only party that was going to appear at the hearing. The courthouse sent me a copy of the docket saying that Judge Nault had denied the request. Why would he refuse to reschedule the hearing if I was going to be out of town? They picked that date, not me.

But then, one time I needed a court date changed for a reason that actually was my fault, when I scheduled case SC4-1006 (against Voice and Sound Inc.) on August 5th 2004, without realizing I was going to be out of the country. So I sent a letter to the court, saying that it was my fault that I had scheduled it on a date when I would be out of town, and asking for the hearing to be rescheduled, and Judge Nault granted it. Maybe it just depends on what day it is.

CrushLink (JumpStart Technologies LLC) case

Judge Nault heard a case in which I got spammed by CrushLink.com, a.k.a. JumpStart Technologies LLC, which also owns SomeoneLikesYou.com. Both sites send out spams with the subject "Someone has a crush on you!" that encourage you to visit the site and enter the e-mail addresses of all your friends to see if any of them is your crush. Once they have those e-mail addresses, guess what they do with them. If you said "Send them even more spam", go to the head of the class. In fact, I created a unique address in the peacefire.org domain with its own mailbox, and entered it on one of those sites, just to see what would happen. Within a few days, the mailbox was flooded with spam, including a few Nigerian wire transfer scams. (I doubt if JumpStart Technologies sent that particular spam themselves, but evidently they're not very discriminating about who they sell their harvested addresses to.) Salon author Katharine Mieszkowski wrote an article with more details about such sites.

I argued that the subject "Someone has a crush on you" was misleading since the e-mails were sent out indiscriminately to any address that the sites could get their hands on, including a spam sent to a Pascal programmers' mailing list. Judge Nault disagreed and ruled that the subject line was not misleading.

But there's a happy ending, depending on which side you're on. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced in March 2006 that a consent degree had been entered in their court case against JumpStart Technologies LLC, ordering them to pay $900,000 in fines for sending out exactly the kind of mails that I'd sued them for.

Bennett Haselton