(June 24, 2018)—The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently reported that attorneys for plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler filed a motion to compel Defendant Mike "Enoch" Pienovich, a white nationalist shock jock, to reveal the attorney ghostwriting his pleadings:
Attorneys for a group of Charlottesville residents suing organizers and key participants of the Unite the Right rally last summer are demanding that Michael Peinovich reveal the identity of the legal counsel who has been ghostwriting his court documents.
Since the lawsuit was filed in October, Peinovich — identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist who hosts an online radio show — has represented himself in court. At a recent hearing in the case, Peinovich joined with other defendants in the case to argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed for lack of legal standing.
Now, according to a motion that ... was filed by the plaintiffs Thursday, Peinovich, of New York City, has admitted that he has “shadow counsel” that ghostwrites his pleadings, but has refused to identify such counsel. Between October and March, Peinovich has filed 16 briefs with the court, according to the plaintiffs’ motion.
“The law sensibly does not permit Peinovich to hide the identity of counsel from Plaintiffs and the Court, or shield shadow counsel’s pleadings from scrutiny,” the motion states. “Peinovich’s artificial pro se status and shadow counsel’s refusal to appear in the case are creating unnecessary procedural hurdles and other inefficiencies.”
The plaintiffs have sent multiple interrogatories — formal questions that must be answered — to Peinovich, asking him to identify the name and contact information for his legal counsel. On three such occasions, Peinovich refused to answer the question. At a June teleconference with the court, the plaintiffs again asked the question, but Peinovich again declined to answer.
“Peinovich acknowledged that he had ‘hired an attorney’ and explained that he believes he is ‘allowed to hire an attorney to ghostwrite pleadings’ and that his attorney ‘does not want to identify himself’ for fear of being harassed,” according to the motion.
Of plaintiffs' argument, reporter Lauren Berg continues:
Arguing that the practice of ghostwriting legal documents is unethical and goes against the rules of the court, the plaintiffs write that it also enables the attorney to attack the plaintiffs and their attorneys without showing his or her face.
By allowing Peinovich to continue to represent himself, but also retain the benefit of legal counsel, the plaintiffs argue that he would receive an unfair advantage because his legal documents would be subjected to less stringent standards.
“Peinovich has no right to hide the identity of shadow counsel that is ghostwriting his pleadings,” the motion states.