Business & Practice

Parler, Amazon Court Fight Lures Top Conservative Litigators

Feb. 18, 2021, 10:31 AM

Parler LLC, the conservative social media platform whose service was suspended after the U.S. Capitol riot last month, is assembling a high-powered legal team for its antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc.

Parler has retained trial and appellate litigation boutique Schaerr Jaffe and Seattle-based law firm Calfo Eakes, according to federal court filings this week.

Gene Schaerr, a former co-chair of the religious institutions group at Sidley Austin and former chair of the appellate and critical motions practice at Winston & Strawn, started his Washington-based firm in 2014 after spending almost a year in the Utah Attorney General’s Office, where he defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

“As a long-time advocate for First Amendment rights, I’m delighted at the opportunity to help Parler promote free speech on the internet—for those on the right, the left, and everywhere in between,” Schaerr said in a statement to Bloomberg Law.

Calfo Eakes name partner Angelo Calfo has joined Schaerr Jaffe in advising Parler. Calfo formed his firm in 2012 after serving as head of the white-collar defense and False Claims Act practice at Seattle’s Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Amazon rescinded the upstart social media platform’s web-hosting services following the Jan. 6 riot. Parler sued Amazon Web Services Inc., alleging that the Seattle-based company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos illegally interfered with its business by compromising its ability to serve customers.

Amazon, represented in the case by Davis Wright Tremaine, said the claims lack merit and that it took action against Parler in part to protect its own staff.

A senior federal district judge in Seattle denied a bid by Parler last month to force Amazon to restore its service. Parler came back online this week after Los Angeles-based cloud hosting company SkySilk Inc. said it was supporting the platform.

Parler Team

H. Christopher Bartolomucci, a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis and predecessor firm Bancroft, once known for its work on behalf of politically conservative interests, is also among those representing Parler in its dispute with Amazon.

Bartolomucci, also previously a partner at Hogan Lovells in Washington, left Kirkland last summer to join Schaerr Jaffe. In December, Schaerr Jaffe litigation associate Stephen Schwartz was confirmed to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Schaerr Jaffe adopted its current name in 2018 after taking on partner Erik Jaffe, an appellate litigator and lobbyist who once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.

Schaerr himself is a former clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. He left Winston in 2014 for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, where Schaerr agreed to a $200,000 legal fee cap for his services.

Calfo’s firm was known as Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes until 2016, when the litigation boutique changed its name to Calfo, Eakes & Ostrovsky. The firm adopted its current name, Calfo Eakes, late last year after name partner Andrea Ostrovsky left to become general counsel and chief operating officer for Color Creative LLC, a Bellevue, Wash.-based creative content, marketing, and advertising agency.

David Groesbeck, a Spokane, Wash.-based solo practitioner, initially was hired by Parler for the lawsuit it filed against Amazon in January. He didn’t return a request for comment about his status in the case.

Parler Policy

Parler, backed by hedge fund heiress and prolific Republican donor Rebekah Mercer, announced this week that Amy Peikoff will remain its chief policy officer.

The Henderson, Nev.-based company also said it appointed an interim CEO, Mark Meckler, an attorney, activist, and former co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.

Meckler left the Tea Party in 2012 and went on to become president of the Convention of States Foundation, a Houston-based nonprofit and conservative political group also known as Citizens for Self-Governance. Bloomberg News reported in 2016 that Mercer donated $500,000 to the group, which, like the Tea Party, is in favor of limited federal government and fiscal responsibility.

The nonprofit’s most recent federal tax filing for fiscal 2018 shows it paid $244,235 to Meckler and over $1 million that same year to Kansas City, Mo.-based Graves Garrett for legal services.

Graves Garrett currently employs as an of counsel Matthew Whitaker, a former acting U.S. Attorney General during the Trump administration.

At Parler, Meckler succeeds John Matze Jr., a software engineer who co-founded the company in 2018. Matze claimed earlier this month he was fired after a disagreement with Mercer. Parler disagreed and said Matze mischaracterized the circumstances leading to his departure.

Peikoff, a law school professor, philosopher, and talk show host who joined Parler as its policy chief last year, didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether the company plans to add additional lawyers to its legal team battling Amazon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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