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The self-described dean of the California DUI — “driving under the influence” — defense bar could probably use a drink himself. Edward “Fast Eddie” Kuwatch — the Libertarian candidate for California attorney general — was hit with a $1 million libel verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday for defaming another drunken driving defense lawyer on a Web site. The jury hit Kuwatch, an attorney from the northern California town of Mendocino, with $500,000 for defaming Long Beach attorney Lawrence Taylor and another half million to compensate Taylor for lost damages following a two-week trial. Kuwatch, a solo practitioner, has made a name for himself both through his DUI practice and his often eccentric behavior; he once asked the Commission on Judicial Performance to jail the entire North Butte County, Calif., municipal court. This time though, Kuwatch’s antics could cost him his practice. Taylor, the author of several books on DUI defense, claimed Kuwatch posted derogatory statements on his Web site about the ability and experience of Taylor and the attorneys at his firm and hurt his professional reputation. Specifically, Kuwatch wrote that Taylor’s associates were inexperienced, poorly trained and unwilling to take cases to trial. Three other attorneys also testified at the trial that they had received similar treatment from Kuwatch. At trial, Kuwatch acknowledged he controls the content on the Web site, which asked readers to post complaints about the lawyers who had handled their previous DUIs. Kuwatch said that his site received 1,000 hits per day. “His testimony was very helpful to our case,” said Taylor’s lawyer, Gerald Schneeweis, a partner in the Los Angeles firm of Morris, Polich & Purdy. Schneeweis said his client demanded on several occasions that Kuwatch remove the libelous postings. According to the attorney, Kuwatch had a policy that he would only remove a message on his site if the complaining party could show proof of purchase that he bought Kuwatch’s book, “California Drunk Driving Law.” Schneeweis said he didn’t know how the jury would react to one attorney suing another for libel, but he said it soon became clear that the jury viewed the two lawyers as very different. Through his receptionist, Kuwatch said Thursday that he had no comment on the verdict and it’s not known if he will appeal. Kuwatch hasn’t asked the judge to set aside or reduce the verdict. The parties will return to court Tuesday where Kuwatch could be hit with even more penalties, including injunctive relief and attorneys fees. “We certainty expect to collect,” Schneeweis said.

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