Larry Klayman

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Larry Klayman
Born Larry Elliot Klayman
(1951-07-20) July 20, 1951 (age 64)
Occupation Attorney, activist
Political party Republican

Larry Elliot Klayman (born July 20, 1951) is a politically conservative American public interest lawyer[1] and former Justice Department attorney who has been called a "Clinton nemesis"[2][3] for his dozens of lawsuits against the Bill Clinton administration in the 90s.[4][5][6] The founder of Judicial Watch[7][8] and the government watchdog group Freedom Watch,[9] he has brought legal action against former Vice President Dick Cheney,[10][11] President Barack Obama,[12][13] OPEC, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,[14] Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan,[15] Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg,[16][17] and the National Security Agency (NSA). In the last case, a federal judge ruled in December 2013 that the NSA's bulk collection of telephony metadata violated the Fourth Amendment.[18][19]

Life and career[edit]

Larry Klayman graduated with honors from Duke University and received his B.A. in Political Science and French Literature. He received his J.D. from Emory University Law School. In addition to English, he speaks French and Italian.[20][21][22]

During the Ronald Reagan administration, Klayman was a prosecutor in the United States Justice Department (DOJ) and was on the trial team that succeeded in breaking up the telephone monopoly of AT&T.[citation needed]

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.[23]

After his run for the U.S. Senate, Klayman formed the organization Freedom Watch.[20] He says the name originated from an NBC episode of The West Wing in which he was caricatured as Harry Claypool.[24]

Klayman wrote the books Fatal Neglect and Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment, and writes a weekly column for the conservative news website WorldNetDaily.

Klayman was born to Jewish parents, and identifies himself as "both a Jew and a Christian".[25][26]

Hardball tactics[edit]

Klayman's opponents denounce his relentless style of litigation, where he seems "undeterred by either criticism or setbacks," and claim he uses the court system as a "weapon" against his political enemies. 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 grilling him about the statement during deposition.[6][27]

Klayman's approach to litigation is not simply to win cases, but to unearth documents normally hidden from the public, as well as to garner media attention. His methodology is credited with affecting Washington D.C. culture in how investigations are conducted today.[28]

NBC's The West Wing parodied Klayman in an episode that aired in 2000. The following dialogue is cited from Washington Post Magazine, where Klayman was featured on the front cover:

"JOSH: This is the seventh lawsuit you've brought against the White House, and the fourth time you've deposed me and demanded to see documents that don’t exist. ... CLAYPOOL: I’d like to remind you that you’re under oath. SAM: And I’d like to remind you that that’s the seventh time that you’ve reminded him."[28]

Sanctions and discipline imposed[edit]

Following Klayman's behavior in a 1992 trial in California federal court, Judge William Keller barred Klayman 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.[29] In his book Whores, Klayman gives a detailed account of his dealings with Keller and Chin, and claims that Keller acted "erratic" and was "obviously drunk" at the bench, and that Chin was "belligerent and disrespectful." He says they exemplify why judges should routinely undergo psychological testing.

In 2007, Klayman received a $25,000 retainer from a Daytona Beach woman facing criminal charges[30] 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.[31][32]

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."[33]


The Clintons[edit]

Klayman is known for his litigious battles with the Bill Clinton White House in the 90s. His government watchdog group Judicial Watch (which he established in 1994) brought a reported 18 civil lawsuits against the administration, alleging ethical misconduct and criminal activity.[16][34] In one case, a federal judge ruled that Clinton violated the Privacy Act when he released personal letters[35] 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.[36] The judge determined this was an act of criminal intent, but that ruling was called "inappropriate" by the appellate court.[37][38][39][40]

In the Clinton-era fundraising scandal known as Chinagate, Judicial Watch was awarded nearly a million dollars in attorney fees against the U.S. Department of Commerce.[28]

Klayman represented Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to be one of Bill Clinton's mistresses, in a defamation suit against Hillary Clinton.[41]

Bill Clinton needled Klayman during a presidential press conference in 1999.[42]

Klayman represented Jared Paul Stern in his unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against the Clintons, Ronald Burkle, and the Daily News.[43]

Klayman filed a FOIA request, seeking access to Hillary Clinton's e-mails during her tenure as Secretary of State.[44]

In March 2015, Klayman filed a 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.[45] In August 2015, a federal court dismissed Klayman's suit.[46]

José Basulto[edit]

Klayman represented José Basulto[47] 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.[48][49]

Ground Zero mosque[edit]

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.[50] Klayman and Forras then sued Rauf and his attorney for defamation. The judge ruled this second lawsuit was a SLAPP suit, and it was dismissed, though both rulings are still under appeal.[51][52]


In April 2011, Klayman filed a lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media website of "negligence" for not responding quickly enough to calls to take down an anti-Israel "Third Intifada" page and demanding $1 billion in damages. Facebook representatives responded that the suit was "without merit."[53] In December 2012, the district court dismissed the complaint on 47 U.S.C. 230 grounds.[54]

Esquire magazine[edit]

Also in 2011, Klayman represented Joseph Farah in his defamation lawsuit against Esquire magazine. A federal district judge dismissed the suit, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the dismissal.[55][56][57]

Rachel Maddow[edit]

In July 2011, Klayman represented Bradlee Dean in a defamation suit against Rachel Maddow; the suit was unsuccessful and Dean was eventually ordered to pay defendants' legal fees that totaled nearly $25,000.[58][59]

SEAL Team 6[edit]

Klayman is representing families of members of Navy SEAL Team 6, the elite special forces who killed Osama bin Laden, who died after their helicopter was shot down by the Taliban three months later. Klayman contends the Obama administration put the Navy SEALs at risk by disclosing their identity.[60]

National Security Agency[edit]

In June 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 is likely unconstitutional and described it as "almost Orwellian," but stayed an injunction that would stop it pending an appeal by the U.S. government.[61] The ACLU and Senator Rand Paul had filed similar cases, but Klayman's was the only one to gain a favorable court ruling.[28] In August 2015, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the injunction, ruling that Klayman had failed to show that his own records had been collected.[62] In November 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.[63]

In August 2015, on behalf of five former government employees who had voiced complaints about the Trailblazer Project, Klayman filed a lawsuit against the NSA, the DOJ, and former employees of those agencies. The lawsuit sought over $100 million damages as compensation for the alleged retaliation that they had suffered.[64]


In October 2014, Klayman sued the Obama administration, claiming that it secretly allowed the Ebola virus to enter the United States so it could be used against Americans of the "Caucasian race and Jewish-Christian religion".[65]


In November 2014, Klayman filed a lawsuit on behalf of Joe Arpaio, alleging that the Obama administration's actions regarding federal immigration policy were not authorized by Congress.[66] In December 2014, a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Arpaio lacked standing to challenge the policy changes.[67] In August 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the dismissal.[68] In January 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Arpaio's case.[69]

Dennis Montgomery[edit]

In February 2015, Klayman filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dennis L. Montgomery, who sued James Risen, the author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, for defamation, alleging the book falsely described Montgomery as "the maestro behind what many current and former U.S. officials and others familiar with the case now believe was one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history."[70]

In May 2015, Klayman also represented Montgomery in his 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.[71] On Montgomery's behalf, Klayman asked the judge presiding over Arpaio's lawsuit to recuse himself; Montgomery also asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to replace the judge, but the court declined to do so.[72]


In July 2015, Klayman sued Obama and members of Congress to block the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 and the proposed agreement regarding Iran's use of nuclear power.[73] In September 2015, the federal court dismissed the lawsuit, stating that Klayman lacked standing.[74]

Gun Control[edit]

In January 2016, Klayman sued Obama, the U.S. Attorney General, and the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to block Obama's recent executive actions on gun control.[75]

Defamation Lawsuits[edit]

Phoenix New Times and City Pages[edit]

In 2009, Klayman was involved in a custody dispute with his ex-wife. In 2012, the City Pages and Phoenix New Times newspapers reported on the case, and Klayman sued them for defamation. In 2015, a federal judge dismissed Klayman's defamation lawsuit, finding Klayman failed to prove that the newspapers published the articles with actual malice.[76] Klayman has asked the judge to reconsider the order dismissing the case.[77]

Judicial Watch[edit]

In 2012, a Judicial Watch employee falsely told Orly Taitz that Klayman had been convicted of not paying child support (Klayman had been indicted, but the charges were later dismissed). Taitz then published the 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.[78]

Klayman's mother[edit]

In 1998, Klayman sued his mother for $50,000, seeking reimbursement for medical care provided to his maternal grandmother. After Klayman's brother told Newsweek magazine of the lawsuit, Klayman alleged that the Clinton White House was responsible for the magazine acquiring the information.[29] 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." [79]

Challenges to presidential eligibility[edit]


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.[80]

In November 2012, Klayman 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.[81]

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.[82][83]

On October 13, 2013, during the US government shutdown, Klayman urged a conservative rally in Washington, D.C., 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."[9] Weeks later, Klayman sponsored a "Reclaim America" rally in Lafayette Square across from the White House, calling for the president's removal.[84][85] Klayman stated that if Obama did not resign, conservative activists would meet to establish a "shadow government".[86] Klayman had encouraged "millions to occupy Washington D.C.," but reported attendance was between 130 and 200.[85]

In October 2014, Klayman requested that the Department of Homeland Security initiate deportation proceedings against Obama.[87]

Ted Cruz[edit]

Following Ted Cruz's announcement that he will seek the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential election, Klayman stated that Cruz is not eligible.[88]


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