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 founded both 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 to win the lawsuit. Most cases brought by either Judicial Watch or Klayman himself have failed.
Critics have described him as "gadfly" and "a racist, a frivolous litigator and a conspiracy theorist." Klayman, a birther, submitted a petition to deport President Barack Obama. His litigation tactics have led to criticism and to sanctions from legal authorities including a ban from appearing in two courtrooms and a temporary suspension of his law license.
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 the Clinton administration.
Klayman left Judicial Watch to pursue political office. In 2004, Klayman ran for the US Senate from Florida but lost the Republican Party primary, finishing seventh out of eight candidates. After his run for the Senate, Klayman formed Freedom Watch. He says the name originated from an episode of The West Wing in which he was caricatured as Larry Claypool.
Klayman is the author of two books and writes periodic columns for conservative websites such as World Net Daily.
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 that generate new scandals. He has been blamed for changing the tone of partisan investigations in Washington, DC. In the 1990s, Klayman deposed several White House officials and probed 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 Duffy Keller barred him from his courtroom for life. Five years later, in a separate case in New York, Klayman's behavior led 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 who 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 District of Columbia Bar. Klayman represented three individuals who had sued Judicial Watch, his former employer and client, but failed to obtain Judicial Watch's consent to waive his conflict of interest. Klayman maintained that the bar had "recognized there was no evidence of dishonesty or personal gain." In 2020, however, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended Klayman's license for 90 days and ordered him to complete a class on legal ethics.
An October 2016 opinion by a Ninth Circuit Court on 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 District of Columbia Bar and some of its employees by alleging they were conspiring to disbar him. Klayman's lawsuit acknowledged three disciplinary actions then pending against him: the Judicial Watch matter already mentioned, Klayman's attempts to represent Bundy, and a complaint on his representation of a sexual-harassment plaintiff. In 2019, with respect to the last complaint, the discipline committee recommended for Klayman to be suspended from practicing law for 33 months.
Through Judicial Watch, Klayman filed around 18 lawsuits against the Clinton 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 that he released the letters to discredit her. The judge determined that was an act of criminal intent, but the 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 RICO lawsuit against Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation by alleging Hillary Clinton sold access to US 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 US Attorney General Eric Holder, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, and some of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement by 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 US 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 by arguing the Secretary of State had 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 that he had forged his birth certificate to pass presidential eligibility requirements.
On October 13, 2013, during the US government shutdown, Klayman declared at a conservative rally in Washington, DC, "This president is not a president of We the People; he's a president of his people." He urged the crowd to begin a "second American non-violent Revolution" and demanded for Obama to "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, and called for Obama's impeachment. 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 the 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 US government. The ACLU and US 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 and ruled 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 that injunction. In 2017, the district court dismissed the lawsuit and 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 had several other dismissed suits against Obama, including a lawsuit alleging that the Obama administration had secretly allowed the Ebola virus to enter the US 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.
Klayman vowed to convene a citizen grand jury to "indict" Obama's vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden for their involvement with Burisma Holdings. In 2019, Klayman sued the Bidens and alleged that they pressured YouTube to ban his channel, which was suspended for two days.
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 the 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 that 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 filed a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission complaint that stating that CNN had incited the "assassination of the elected President and Vice President, and the Speaker of the House."
Klayman has also brought a number of legal actions on his personal life. In 1998, Klayman sued his mother for $50,000 for the reimbursement for medical care provided to his maternal grandmother. In 2013, Klayman defended his actions in an interview with ABC News and said that 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 had 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.
In 2014, Klayman filed an unsuccessful lawsuit on behalf of Joe Arpaio that alleged that the Obama administration's actions on federal immigration policy had not been authorized by Congress.
In 2015, Klayman represented five former government employees in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the NSA, the Department of Justice, and employees of those agencies for alleged retaliation for their complaints about the Trailblazer Project.
In 2015, Klayman represented Dennis L. Montgomery in his unsuccessful request to intervene in the contempt proceedings against Arpaio in a lawsuit that initially alleged Maricopa County to have 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 by alleging a coverup of evidence that Montgomery claimed to show 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 conferred with Bundy and his family members. The judge dismissed the case, the government appealed the dismissal, and Klayman represented Bundy on his successful appeal. Following the dismissal of the federal criminal charges against Bundy, Klayman on the behalf of Bundy unsuccessfully sued in state court for a declaration that the federal government cannot own land in Nevada. Klayman also filed an unsuccessful 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 co-defendant, Peter Santilli, however, in January 2019 filed a complaint with the D.C. Bar that alleged that Klayman's efforts during the Bundy case had been lacking. In turn, Klayman unsuccessfully 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 for professional misconduct, which ended Klayman's ability to represent her in that court, and the courts ultimately dismissed most of her suit.
In 2018, Klayman, on the behalf of Freedom Watch and later also Laura Loomer, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple and alleged the companies to have conspired to censor conservative content. In 2019, Klayman assisted Loomer with an unsuccessful lawsuit against U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib that alleged that Tlaib had "violently grabbed" Loomer's cellphone.
In 2018, Klayman filed on the behalf of Jerome Corsi a request for an investigation into the Special Counsel's tactics and an unsuccessful 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 on whether Corsi had directed him to "scrub" a computer.
In 2020, Klayman filed on the behalf of Joel Gilbert's production company a lawsuit that alleged breach of contract after a movie theater canceled Gilbert's private screening of his film, The Trayvon Hoax.
In 2020, Klayman filed on the behalf of himself, Freedom Watch, and a Dallas-area photography studio a lawsuit that alleged that the Chinese government created the coronavirus disease as a biological weapon. Klayman also represented Ben Stein in a lawsuit that alleged that California's shelter-in-place order in response to the pandemic to be illegal. Klayman also filed a defamation lawsuit against CNN over its coverage of his lawsuits.
In 2020, Klayman filed, on behalf of seven former Philadelphia police officers, a lawsuit that alleged they were wrongfully fired following the discovery of their racist comments.
In addition to defamation lawsuits filed on his own behalf or against the Clintons, Klayman also has filed defamation lawsuits of the behalf of Forras, Joseph Farah, Bradlee Dean, Arpaio, Montgomery, Loomer, Corsi, Roy Moore, Laurie Luhn, Jackie Beard Robinson, George Zimmerman, and Demetrick Pennie. None of them has yet been successful.
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