Robert Zarco is a prominent franchisee attorney. Cecil Rolle is a former Cold Stone Creamery franchisee who is on a mission to expose attorney Robert Zarco as a liar and cheat who exploits the franchise owners he is supposed to serve and protect. As their litigation intensifies, will Cecil Rolle’s allegations withstand a court’s scrutiny? Can Zarco defeat this former franchisee without severely damaging his reputation as a franchisee advocate?
(UnhappyFranchisee.Com) by Sean Kelly Attorney Robert Zarco has described Cecil Rolle as a disgruntled and vindictive former Cold Stone Creamery franchisee out for revenge.
Cecil Rolle has described attorney Robert Zarco as a “repeated liar” who “betrayed the trust” of his franchisee clients “in the interest of serving his own selfish financial interests.”
Cecil Rolle was unsuccessful in suing Robert Zarco, Zarco’s law firm, the Cold Stone Creamery franchisor and its franchisee association for defamation.
Now it’s the franchisee attorney’s turn.
Robert Zarco, his partner Alejandro Brito, and their law firm Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski and Brito, P.A. are suing Cecil Rolle and his company, Sedna Consultancy, Inc. for making allegedly defamatory statements on Rolle’s websites RobertZarcoFacts.org and ZarcoLawFacts.org and elsewhere.
Truth is an Absolute Defense for a Defamation Claim. Are Rolle’s Allegations Truthful?
Robert Zarco recently won a victory when circuit court Judge Monica Gordo granted a Motion for an Order to Show Cause Why Defendants Should Not Be Held in Contempt for Their Failure to Comply with the Court’s Order Dated September 16, 2013 [The Ruling is published in its entirety here: Robert Zarco Critic Ordered to Remove Defamatory Statements ].
In that Order, Judge Gordo ruled that Cecil Rolle was in violation of a Preliminary Injunction that required him to remove all defamatory statements from his website. The original Preliminary Injunction did not specify which statements were defamatory, and on October 3, 2013, Rolle filed an affadavit stating that he had reviewed the www.robertzarcofacts.org, website and determined that “there are no false statements of facts.”
In this recent ruling, the Judge listed specific statements she found to be false and misleading, and directed Rolle to remove the defamatory statements from his websites within 5 days.
Judge Gordo ruled that Rolle had made false statements and misrepresentations against Zarco regarding a Moe’s Southwest Grill franchise lawsuit (“Massey”):
“The Court finds that the assessment offered by Defendants… pertaining to the order entered in the Massey case is false and misrepresents the contents and nature of the order. In particular, Judge Story never criticized or chastised any lawyers in the Massey case for anything, let alone Mr. Zarco who did not actively participate in the case, or Mr. Brito who never appeared as counsel in the case and had no involvement in the case whatsoever.”
She also ruled that Cecil Rolle had made false statements regarding alleged judicial criticism of Zarco in other cases. Gordo wrote that Rolle’s allegations that “other Federal judges” had made “unflattering assessments of Attorney Robert Zarco’s and Attorney Alejandro Brito’s mistake-riddled court filings” were not supported by the legal orders he cited.
Judge Gordo also enumerated other false statements of fact and “mixed opinions that omit important facts or misconstrue the actual underlying facts.”
She ordered Cecil Rolle and Sedna Consultancy to remove the defamatory statements or face civil contempt sanctions.
However, the judge did not mention many of the most incendiary accusations Cecil Rolle’s website Robertzarcofacts.org accuse Robert Zarco of, which include:
- Allegedly telling numerous lies;
- Allegedly taking $800,000 in legal fees from Curves franchisees while stringing them along and doing little or nothing in return;
- Allegedly taking money from adversely interested parties of numerous firm clients presumably without disclosing those payments to his clients;
- Allegedly stealing $130,000 from a client;
- Allegedly taking a $1 million bribe from an adversary to impending litigation in exchange for telling his own clients they had no case and
- Other lapses in professionalism and ethics.
Robert Zarco: Have Franchisees Lost Their #1 Badass?
Up until 2010, Robert Zarco was widely known to franchise industry insiders as a fierce legal champion of franchisees in litigation against their franchisors.
(He was also known for his $20 million mansion and appearance on the Joan Rivers-hosted How’d You Get So Rich?).
It was comforting for franchisees – often the picked-on little brothers in franchise disputes – to believe they had a tough, cocky, larger-than-life older brother who might emerge at any moment and send the bullies running in fear.
Robert Zarco’s golden image suffered in 2010 when he helped kill a CNBC expose in which Cecil Rolle made scathing accusations against the Cold Stone Creamery franchisor, and parent company Kahala.
Many in the industry were surprised when Zarco, who represented Cold Stone Creamery franchisees at the time, took payment from Kahala and seemed to switch allegiances. (See the comment firestorm on the BlueMauMau.org story: CNBC Shelves Cold Stone Story after Zarco Attacks.)
Some felt Robert Zarco betrayed his franchisee clients by attacking and successfully suppressing the CNBC expose, which highlighted problems facing Cold Stone franchisees and alleged improprieties by the franchisor (an allegation Zarco vehemently disputes).
In his successful attempt to crush the CNBC criticism of Kahala Corporation, Zarco attacked Rolle in a strongly worded letter to CNBC execs:
Rolle is neither indicative nor representative of the typical Cold Stone franchisee. He has, for years, demonstrated a vindictive and willful intent to harm, maliciously defame, and consistently interfere with Cold Stone, its franchisees, and the Cold Stone brand…
According to Zarco’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunctive Relief in the current lawsuit:
As a result of Zarco’s involvement in connection with the revised CNBC documentary… Rolle became agitated and developed a vindictive obsession with Plaintiffs, who were counsel to the [Cold Stone Creamery franchisee association] and several Cold Stone Creamery franchisees. He thereafter commenced a retaliatory campaign to intentionally hurt and damage the business and professional reputation of Plaintiffs. Among other actions, Rolle maliciously filed a frivolous lawsuit for defamation against Plaintiffs. That lawsuit has since been dismissed with prejudice by the trial court. Rolle has also engaged in a vindictive and spiteful internet and e-mail campaign to publish defamatory statements about Plaintiffs to other attorneys, the franchise bar, as well as the overall national franchisee community.
Cecil Rolle is the Defendant, but Robert Zarco’s Reputation is on Trial
For Cecil Rolle, this is personal.
He refuses to back down or compromise, despite overwhelming pressure to do so.
Rolle obviously believes that Robert Zarco is a wolf in (very expensive) shepherd’s clothing and is determined to warn the flock not to trust him, lest they get the kind of shearing the Cold Stone Creamery franchisees, Curves franchisees and others have allegedly received while under his care.
But while Rolle is the defendant in this lawsuit, Robert Zarco and the law firm of Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski and Brito, P.A. arguably have the most to lose.
Franchisees and franchisee associations are Robert Zarco’s and ZESB’s professional bread and butter.
Destroying an already beleaguered and disaffected franchise owner with their obviously superior legal firepower will likely not come across as conduct becoming a law firm that is supposed to champion beleaguered and disaffected franchisees.
Even if Cecil Rolle does not have the unanimous support of the franchisee community, and even if it appears that he is leaving Robert Zarco no other choice but to vigorously defend his reputation, it’s a sticky situation for Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski and Brito, P.A.
In my opinion, to truly come out of this lawsuit a winner, Robert Zarco will not only need to disprove the legitimacy of the allegations against him, but will need to re-establish his reputation as the foremost champion of underdog franchisees. To do this, Zarco must not simply prove that Rolle’s allegations are untrue, he must publicly demonstrate how he acted in his clients’ best interests in each of the controversies Rolle raises, including the Curves and Lady of America litigation.
Zarco’s inclination to fully discredit and obliterate his opponent – an approach that may have served him well in the past – could result in a legal win but a huge public relations loss in his case against former franchisee Cecil Rolle. The inclination to bludgeon his opponent may too powerful for Mr. Zarco to resist.
Brilliant attorneys are sometimes their own worst publicists. This may end up being the lesson to be gleaned from the feud between Robert Zarco & Cecil Rolle – a feud which Mr. Zarco could have prevented with a little less bludgeoning early on.
That’s my take… what do you think?
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH ROBERT ZARCO, ZARCO EINHORN SALKOWSKI AND BRITO PA, OR CECIL ROLLE? WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.
TAGS: Robert Zarco, Attorney Robert Zarco, Franchise attorney Robert Zarco, Alejandro Brito, Zarco Einhorn Salkowski Brito P.A., Cecil Rolle, Cold Stone Creamery, Kahala, Online defamation, Internet defamation, online defamation lawsuit, online defamation litigation, internet defamation law