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Last post Author Topic: Judge skeptical of "torrent chaser" law firm's antics. Jail time threatened.  (Read 6533 times)

40hz

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Well...it would appear that Prenda Law and some of it's associates are about to discover what happens when a firm of attorneys abuses the legal process in a manner that amounts to fraud and coercion - and then runs into a judge who can see it for what it is.

For those who haven't followed this, Prenda Law is the firm that has been going after alleged "John Doe" torrent downloaders of pornographic materials by threatening to sue and make their names public unless they agree to out of court cash settlements in exchange for continued anonymity. The technical term for this sort of thing is blackmail.

TechDirt has been following these guys and their antics pretty much from day one. If you'd like to catch up, their posts on Prenda can be found here.

Ken over at Popehat also did a nice write-up on how Prenda and it's so-called client 'AF Holdings' has been trying to operate in an earlier post here that shows just how insane their "business model" is.

But it gets better...

In a post yesterday, Ken does a follow-up that walks you through the new legal challenges Prenda is facing now that it has come under the close examination of a judge that has concluded their activities amount to an attempt to commit fraud on his court. Something that does not bode well for those in the crosshairs since jail time is no longer out of the question.

If seeing someone who so richly deserves it "get theirs" makes your day, web on over to Popehat here and give Ken's article a read. It's lengthy - but worth it since he breaks down incredibly complex legal issues in a manner that makes me wonder why more legal reporting can't do the same for much simpler cases.

Quote
What Prenda Law Is Facing In Los Angeles, And How They Got There
Mar 6, 2013 By Ken.
   
In my post about Prenda Law's defamation lawsuits, I mentioned that Prenda is facing an inquiry by United States District Judge Otis Wright in Los Angeles.

A remarkable new order yesterday by Judge Wright moves me to describe that situation in greater detail based on my experience as a litigator and federal practitioner. The bullet: holy crap!

To sum up, yesterday Judge Wright ordered the principals of Prenda Law — and a man who accused them of stealing his identity — to appear in his court next Monday as part of Judge Wright's inquiry into whether anyone associated with Prenda Law should be sanctioned or otherwise punished for alleged fraud on the court. This is, to put it very mildly, unusual, and signifies grave danger for Prenda Law and its attorneys.

It wasn't always like this. Here's how Prenda Law got there.

And now, the long awaited comeuppance may be just around the corner thanks to a no-nonsense US federal district judge by the name of Otis Wright who has apparently had it with Prenda's antics and has taken an unusual degree of interest in what is normally a routine part of court proceedings: the discovery phase.

from the Popehat article (emphasis added):

Quote
Judge Wright is questioning an assertion that is at the core of Prenda Law's litigation strategy — that identifying the IP address of an infringing download is a sufficient basis to force disclosure of the corresponding subscriber. This represents a challenge to the legal theory underlying Prenda Law's approach to these cases. It's also significant because it shows that Judge Wright believes what Prenda Law's critics have been saying — that it might be using the threat of identification to "coerce" settlements, and that this danger should be a factor in evaluating whether Prenda Law should be able to uncover the identity of IP subscribers.

This level of judicial initiative in early discovery matters is quite unusual. For one thing, in federal court — at least in vast and busy districts like the Central District of California — most discovery issues are resolved by Magistrate Judges, who are appointed by the Article III district judges. Magistrate Judges do the less glamorous work of the federal justice system — non-substantive hearings, discovery disputes, and the like. But here, a district judge — black-robed, with a lifetime tenure, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate — is getting involved in very specific discovery issues. At this point, Prenda Law was no doubt becoming very concerned.

Good reading if you're into the whole legal quagmire the issue of copyright enforcement has become.

Highly recommended. :Thmbsup:





« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 03:50:08 PM by 40hz »

kyrathaba

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Thanks for the links!  :Thmbsup:

Carol Haynes

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LOL - brilliant. And fun too!

kyrathaba

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To just think of how many lawyers out their either consciously or unconsciously lay aside their professional ethics in order to use legal technicalities for financial gain! It boggles the mind.

40hz

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It just got better...

Some of the persons ordered to appear this Monday in Judge Wright's courtroom have now filed an opposition to the judge's order

Once again from Ken at Popehat:

Quote
In short, Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy say that Judge Wright should lift his order because (1) Judge Wright lacks personal jurisdiction over them because they are in different states, aren't parties to this case, and aren't attorneys of record in this case; (2) they didn't get adequate notice of the order, they are busy, they have limited resources, and traveling on short notice is difficult. They ask, at a minimum, that the judge reschedule the hearing. Considering they have had several days to put a brief together, I find this motion rather half-hearted and meager, particularly given the gravity of the situation and what they are trying to accomplish. If this is all they could pull together, I am surprised they didn't file it sooner, like Wednesday.

They are challenging a federal judge's jurisdiction?

That is just totally insane. And laughable. ;D

Read Ken's whole post here.

Renegade

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They are challenging a federal judge's jurisdiction?

Just call them "terrorists". Boom. There ya go. Instant jurisdiction. And, you can even just kill 'em outright if you like~! :P ;D
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Carol Haynes

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Just get one of the people they are trying to extort to open an office in a neighbouring state - hey its federal racketeering!!

40hz

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They are challenging a federal judge's jurisdiction?

Just call them "terrorists". Boom. There ya go. Instant jurisdiction. And, you can even just kill 'em outright if you like~! :P ;D


HangingJudge-200x199.jpg

A secret warrant. A swift and forceful but very quiet arrest? A quick transfer to a detention facility in an "undisclosed location" outside US territorial space? No big-hoopla trial? A complete information blackout on what happened and who was involved? No further news forthcoming now - or ever?

Where's the fun in that? :P ;D

f0dder

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I really, really, really, really hope these snakes end up in jail. Society would be better if more lawyers knew what ruining people's lives means... first-hand.
- carpe noctem

Renegade

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I really, really, really, really hope these snakes end up in jail.

Hey hey hey! Let's keep this civil! No need to go insulting snakes like that! :P ;D
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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I really, really, really, really hope these snakes end up in jail. Society would be better if more lawyers knew what ruining people's lives means... first-hand.


+1 x 1000  :Thmbsup:


J-Mac

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This is so great! I wish we'd see more of this. Maybe some of the lawyers on the fence will back off this crap!

Thanks!

Jim

kyrathaba

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I really, really, really, really hope these snakes end up in jail. Society would be better if more lawyers knew what ruining people's lives means... first-hand.

Preach it, Brother Fodder! 100% agreement!!

Renegade

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What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

Spoiler
A good start.

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

kyrathaba

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40hz

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Ok...the much anticipated order to show cause hearing mentioned earlier has come to pass. And it's truly amazing what can happen when you succeed in seriously angering a US federal district judge sitting in his official capacity.

It was a complicated day for Prenda Law and one of it's associates, an attorney by the name of Gibbs.

Rather than even attempt to recap it (because it's all so frakin' good) check out the write-ups provided by Popehat and ArsTechnica.

Here's a few quotes from Popehat:

Quote
Brett Gibbs Gets His Day In Court — But Prenda Law Is The Star
Mar 11, 2013 By Ken.


My past coverage of the Prenda Law saga is here.

There are few things more terrifying to a lawyer than a furious federal judge.

Today I saw one of those things.

It was a federal judge who was furious, intimately familiar with the case, and consummately prepared for the hearing.

Today United States District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II made it explicitly, abundantly, frighteningly clear that he believes the principals of Prenda Law have engaged in misconduct — and that he means to get to the bottom of it.

It was one of the most remarkable hearings I have ever witnessed.


Quote
Judge Wright Minces No Words


Judge Wright took the bench, grim and stentorian and bow-tied, and immediately commenced to take absolutely no shit from anybody. "I spent the whole weekend reading a deposition," he said, referring to the astounding deposition of Prenda principal Paul Hansmeier. "It is perhaps the most informative thing I have read in this affair so far." There was a collective intake of breath from the onlookers, who guessed that was not a good thing for Prenda Law. They were right. "There was so much obstruction in this deposition that it's obvious that someone has an awful lot to hide," Judge Wright commented later.

And here's a bit from the ArsTechnica article:

Quote
LOS ANGELES, CA—In a Los Angeles federal courtroom on a blindingly sunny Monday afternoon, US District Judge Otis Wright expressed incredulity at the sheer gall of the Prenda porn copyright trolling firm.

Judge Wright had ordered six other Prenda affiliates (or alleged affiliates) to show up in response to his order regarding possible sanctions for their behavior. None of those named parties showed up to the hearing in person, apart from Alan Cooper of Minnesota. (Cooper has alleged that Prenda attorney John Steele used Cooper's name improperly as the CEO of copyright licensing firm AF Holdings.) Lawyers Steele, Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and Prenda paralegal Angela Van Den Hemel had filed a notice on Friday saying that travel to the Central District Court of California was impossible for the out-of-state parties. Today, they were represented by another attorney who identified herself as Heather Rosing.

Quote
Judge Wright also angrily questioned Rosing about her clients’ failure to show up. When Rosing tried to speak on behalf of her clients, Wright told her that if they weren't present, he wasn't interested in hearing her talk about them.

This just keeps getting better and better. And it ain't over yet, folks. Not by a long shot.  :Thmbsup:

TaoPhoenix

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Have we passed popcorn into "Dinner Theater" yet?

I mean, with all the shout outs to the regulars, these copyright trolls have barrelled along at a breakneck pace, going triple or nothing and winning by sheer bravado.

Maybe *for once* we have a judge that could deny their (probable?) motion to say "haha we were kidding, suit withdrawn" and impale them on a judicial crucifix, and set a precedent so far beyond crystal clear any other judge can apply it within say a couple of days in future cases?

40hz

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Maybe *for once* we have a judge that could deny their (probable?) motion to say "haha we were kidding, suit withdrawn"

It's a little too late for Prenda to do that. Besides, as was explained in an earlier Popehat article:

Quote
On January 28, 2013, Prenda Law — still through Mr. Gibbs — filed a voluntary dismissal of Ingenuity 13 LLC's case against this particular John Doe. Federal plaintiffs can dismiss a case voluntarily without prejudice (that is, maintaining the right to bring it again) fairly freely. Generally a notice of dismissal is a form; Prenda's was a petulant swipe at Judge Wright...
.
.
.
But here's the thing: even when a plaintiff dismisses a case, a federal judge does not lose jurisdiction and power to inquire into the conduct of the attorneys and parties in the case. When a federal judge is angry at you, filing a dismissal is akin to dropping the red flag, backing away, and telling the charging bull "hey man — we cool, we cool." As we'll see, Judge Wright intended to exercise his power.

Nope. Far too late to just say "forget it" and walk away. This will have its due.
 :Thmbsup:

TaoPhoenix

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Nope. Far too late to just say "forget it" and walk away. This will have its due.

Well this weird thing called "sanity" would seem to say that, but this disturbing world of IP seems to involve strange phone calls on the "turquoise line" that suddenly makes impossible things happen. (See the ACTA-CISPA thread where the stomping on rights just won't quit.)


Renegade

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Well this weird thing called "sanity" would seem to say that, but this disturbing world of IP seems to involve strange phone calls on the "turquoise line" that suddenly makes impossible things happen. (See the ACTA-CISPA thread where the stomping on rights just won't quit.)

Interesting. I wonder how much the idea that these ideas have no physical manifestation has to do with it. After all, we're just talking about ideas... and you can't touch or feel an idea.

Just musing a bit there.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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Well this weird thing called "sanity" would seem to say that, but this disturbing world of IP seems to involve strange phone calls on the "turquoise line" that suddenly makes impossible things happen.

Maybe. But in this particular case, the judge isn't getting into IP or copyright issues at all. He's addressing issues of fraud in presenting evidence, making false representations of fact, violation of rules of discovery, contempt of court, and breach of ethics and violations of law on the part of licensed attorneys.

To add insult to injury, those in the crosshairs have not complied with a direct order to appear at their own show cause hearing (!!!); have previously argued for judge Wright's lack of jurisdiction in the matter; and previously moved to have the judge removed from the case because they basically didn't like him, nor trust him to see things their way.

So let's see...they:

 Broke the law
 Defied a federal court
 Insulted a federal district judge
 Disobeyed an order to appear
 Actively hampered an investigation into their practices and conduct
 Continue to obstruct, obfuscate, and delay at every opportunity
 Filed motions that were so frivolous as to border on contempt

It just goes on and on...

No phone call in the world is going to get them off the hook on any of that. And IP issues don't even enter into consideration. This is all about judicial procedure and basic trial law. Which applies no matter what the case is about. And which is something that has a huge amount of precedence and written law behind it - so it's not like any of it is up for discussion. That's what attorneys supposedly go to law school to learn about in order to become attorneys. Thats also pretty much what the Bar Exam tests them on before admitting them to practice law. So they can't even feign ignorance. They know the rules - even if those same rules often get pushed to limit without penalty since most judges don't have the time to really get down on them like Otis Wright has.

Nah. They're toast. I'm guessing they'll be lucky to get off with a hefty fine and either suspension or disbarment.

But I think it's actually going to come down harder than that. I think a few people are gonna be seeing some "free room and board" before this one is finished. The abuses were too egregious. And there's been too much publicity. Everybody is watching this case. And Judge Wright is already on record as stating that an example may need to be made in order to discourage others from going down the same road Prenda Law thought it could go without consequence.

Nope. These guys are toast. Burnt toast.

kyrathaba

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Quote
Nah. They're toast. I'm guessing they'll be lucky to get off with a hefty fine and either suspension or disbarment.

But I think it's actually going to come down harder than that. I think a few people are gonna be seeing some "free room and board" before this one is finished. The abuses were too egregious. And there's been too much publicity. Everybody is watching this case. And Judge Wright is already on record as stating that an example may need to be made in order to discourage others from going down the same road Prenda Law thought it could go without consequence.

Nope. These guys are toast. Burnt toast.

And an example needs to be set, and this case has so caught the public and the judicial communities' eyes that it must be used to set that example: this shit will not be tolerated!

f0dder

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Quote
Judge Wright took the bench, grim and stentorian and bow-tied, and immediately commenced to take absolutely no shit from anybody.

dis.gun.be.gud.jpg
- carpe noctem

40hz

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@f0dder - ROFLMAO! If we're ever in a bar together I'm buying your drinks all night for finding and posting that picture. ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

TaoPhoenix

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Heh yes, my post was rather bitter.  I meant that somehow when IP shows up as a topic, "basic elemements of law" seem to wander off.

So let's see...they:

 Broke the law
 Defied a federal court
 Insulted a federal district judge
 Disobeyed an order to appear
 Actively hampered an investigation into their practices and conduct
 Continue to obstruct, obfuscate, and delay at every opportunity
 Filed motions that were so frivolous as to border on contempt

It just goes on and on...
(Snark)
So that means they haven't broken enough rules. The solution is to break more rules! Then like a Klein Bottle 42 wrongs make a right, and everything will be okay again!

Take a look at their Predecessor, Righthaven.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Righthaven
Per the Wiki, *it only took $200,000 to bankrupt a "law firm"*, in something like 5 counter lawsuits. Really?! Sounds like "Hiding Assets" to me. The principal walked away (or else no one updated the wiki, I don't feel like digging deep on that one, but I'd think a hefty jail term would have made the wiki.)

So, these guys at Prenda. That's why I smell platypus $hit. Of course they know what the rules of law are, that's like the first year of law school. So they have an endgame, and THAT's what we need this judge to really get to the bottom of.