A Denton attorney is seeking $100 million in damages from a critic who filed a grievance against him with the State Bar of Texas and, he claims, got him fired from a Plano law firm after accusing him in internet posts of being a “Nazi” and a “white supremacist.”
Jason Van Dyke filed the suit in a Denton County state district court seeking damages against Thomas Christopher Retzlaff, who last year filed a filed a complaint against the attorney with State Bar. Retzlaff, however, denies making the internet posts Van Dyke raises in his suit.
Van Dyke first made news last April for filing an unusual lawsuit against then-Victoria County District Attorney Stephen B. Tyler after Tyler rescinded a prosecutor job offer to Van Dyke. Van Dyke filed that lawsuit to force an explanation from the then-DA.
And in November, Van Dyke made news again after he was suspended from Twitter for allegedly posting racist threats, prompting a Twitter war with New York rapper Talib Kweli, who in response published Van Dyke’s personal information.
In his recent lawsuit, Van Dyke alleges Retzlaff filed a frivolous grievance against him with the State Bar, alleging that Retzlaff contacted the Victoria D.A. last year and said, “Do not hire this dude—he is a flipping lunatic”.
The grievance also said Van Dyke regularly gets into flame wars with random people on the internet.
“Van Dyke has since been posting online that he is going to murder me because I am the one who cost him his job with Victoria County,” Retzlaff’s grievance stated, according to Van Dyke’s lawsuit. “He further threatens to murder my family, and many others. Unfortunately for Van Dyke, he has come up against a person who simply cannot be intimidated. You all need to disbar this retard ASAP.”
Van Dyke’s lawsuit notes that the State Bar initially dismissed Retzlaff’s complaint, but the Board of Disciplinary Appeals reversed the dismissal last month. A State Bar spokeswoman declined to comment on the status of the complaint against Van Dyke.
Van Dyke alleges in his lawsuit that the statements Retzlaff made against him in the grievance were false. “Plaintiff is not suing defendant for the act of filing the grievance. However he is suing defendant in part for the allegations made by him in the grievance and for tortious conduct that he has committed against the plaintiff since filing the grievance,” Van Dyke wrote in his lawsuit.
Van Dyke also alleges that Retzlaff, whom he described in the lawsuit as a convicted felon and vexatious litigant, had posted on a website, “BV Files,” that Van Dyke was a “Nazi” and “white supremacist,” among other things. Van Dyke further alleges that Retzlaff posted pictures of the principals of the law firm where he worked—Plano’s Karlseng, LeBlanc & Rich—specifically referring to principal Robert Karlseng as a “Nazi Paymaster” in another website posting.
“Getting caught in the crossfire of a cyber war is no fun,” Karlseng, asked for comment, said. “Our firm does not tolerate discrimination in any way.”
Van Dyke alleges he was ultimately fired from the law firm on March 27 because of the postings made by Retzlaff and contends that “but for the harassment of KLR and its principals by defendant, plaintiff would not have lost his job.”
Van Dyke filed the lawsuit against Retzlaff the day following his termination, according to the complaint.
Van Dyke’s lawsuit also levels claims against Retzlaff for libel, intrusion on seclusion, and two tortious interference with a contract claims based on the jobs he lost. He is seeking $30 million in damages for mental anguish and loss of his professional reputation, another $70 million for exemplary damages, and a temporary retraining order to prevent further defamation.
Van Dyke declined to comment on his lawsuit.
Retzlaff—who is pro se, and said he is retired and splits his time between Scottsdale, Arizona, and San Antonio—denied he posted anything negative about Van Dyke on the internet. Retzlaff confirmed that he does have a felony conviction for a gun charge, is no stranger to the court system, and that he intends to file a motion to dismiss Van Dyke’s complaint under Texas’ Anti-SLAPP statute, which allows courts to quickly throw out claims against defendant who speak out on matters of public concern.
“He is claiming $100 million in damages. That is the very definition of a SLAPP lawsuit. That was based on my complaint to the State Bar,” Retzlaff said of Van Dyke’s lawsuit. “I have a right to petition the government. I have a right to write to the State Bar.”
Retzlaff said lawyers like Van Dyke should expect pushback from the public when they make threatening controversial comments and post them on the internet.
“The only person he could be mad at is himself,” Retzlaff said of Van Dyke. “It’s been said that we’re often the author of our own misery.’’