Mass Copyright Lawsuit Lawyer Petulantly Drops Lawsuit After Called Out For Apparent Ethics Violations

from the nice-try dept

One of the lawyers who has been at the forefront of filing many of those massive P2P infringement cases for porn producers, with the intent of getting people to pay up "pre-settlement" fees to avoid an actual trial (and being accused publicly of downloading porn), Evan Stone, keeps running into problems. Stone, who apparently only became a lawyer a few months ago, seems to have pushed his luck in yet another case, not expecting lawyers on the other side who might recognize what was going on. However, Public Citizen and the EFF, acting as lawyers for those being sued, discovered that Stone had sent subpoenas to ISPs seeking the identity of file sharers even though the judge in the case had not yet determined if such subpoenas would be allowed.

It appears that, as in other similar cases, Stone filed a bunch of John Doe lawsuits on behalf of a porn producer, in this case Mick Haig Productions. Public Citizen and EFF were appointed to defend those sued while the court determined if the overall lawsuit was appropriate. While the court was still considering the question of the legitimacy of the lawsuit and any subpoenas attached to it, Stone apparently just went ahead and sent subpoenas to various ISPs demanding the identity of those accused of file sharing. After discovering this, Paul Alan Levy wrote Stone a letter (pdf) pointing out that this was a serious ethical breach. The full letter is embedded below and it's a must read, but here's just a snippet:
Inquiring further, I was able to obtain a copy of the subpoena that you sent to Comcast and of your cover letter, which concealed from Comcast the fact that Judge Godbey had never granted you permission to serve subpoenas in this case. Inquiring still further of other major ISP's, we have learned that you have served other subpoenas in the case, that the date required by one of the notices of subpoena for a response to avoid identification is January 31, and that some ISP's have provided you with identifying information.

We are very disturbed by this information. Because the rules of procedure to not allow you to take discover at this phase of the lawsuit without express judicial permission, the subpoenas that you have issued to the ISP's that we have been able to contact to date essentially misrepresented that discovery was open in the case, and gave you access to information to which you are not entitled. It is, as well, arguably a serious abuse of process that may be independently actionable. Given the fact that your standard practice is to send settlement demand letters to Does once they are identified, we must acknowledge the possibility that you have been communicating with our clients. Yet, because those clients are represented by counsel (until the disposition of the discovery motion), your contacting them directly would be a serious violation of legal ethics, because we have never given you permission to contact our clients.
The full letter not only asks him to withdraw the subpoenas, but also to provide Public Citizen and the EFF with the details of the subpoenas issued, apparently for the purpose of asking the court to sanction Stone for his apparent abuses.

Stone, perhaps realizing he was in a bit of trouble, responded by dismissing the lawsuits. Though he did so somewhat petulantly. His filing is also included below, but in it he mocks Public Citizen and the EFF, and complains that the court appointed them in the first place, claiming they are "renowned for defending internet piracy and.. for their general disregard for intellectual property law." He also mocks their response to his original motion as "absurd." Of course, in all the childish lashing out, he never seems to mention the fact that he subpoenaed info from ISPs almost certainly in violation of the rules of procedure. Instead, he just claims that the process is taking too long, so the plaintiff "feels it has lost any meaningful opportunity to pursue justice in this matter." That's a pretty laughable statement.

Of course, now the question is whether or not Public Citizen and the EFF will continue to seek relief from the court for Stone's actions.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:27am

    I think Levy's letter to stone is the funniest legal document I have ever read.

    "...whom you have sued for, allegedly, making your client's pornographic movie, Der Gute Onkle, available for downloading..."

    If memory serves me correctly, I believe the title translates as "The Good Uncle", which sounds like a pretty gross topic for a porn movie.

     

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  2.  
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    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:35am

    Did he really send out subpoenas without leave of the court to do so? That's incredibly stupid on his part, if true.

    I love the part you quoted: "Subsequent to Plaintiff’s filing of said Discovery Motion, the Court appointed attorneys ad litem for the Defense. Rather than choosing competent local counsel experienced in intellectual property law, the Court appointed a trio of attorneys renowned for defending internet piracy and renowned for their general disregard for intellectual property law."

    I almost spit out my coffee when I read that this morning. :)

     

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  3.  
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    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    It is "The Good Uncle." Something tells me that uncle wasn't so good. LOL!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:44am

    I've read 2 postings about this in separate places and this is the only one wherein Stone's breach of procedure was mentioned, so thank you for that!

     

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  5.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re:

    Yeah, I don't even understand his point:

    "Rather than choosing lawyers who will roll-over and encourage the defendants to plead guilty to my blackmail, the court appointed someone who actually has knowledge, experience, and who will stand up for their clients."

    The horror!

     

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  6.  
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    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Wow, does he ever sound bitter. I hope EFF and Citizens for Public Justice continue with this. A guy acting this childish and sleazy shouldn't be allowed to get away scott free. He gives the lawyers who give lawyers a bad name a bad name.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:54am

    What, am I being sued?

    How can he file a 1,000 lawsuits against me, John Doe, without me knowing about it? There can be only one John Doe.

     

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  8.  
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    Coasty (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:07am

    Legal Shenanigans

    I certainly hope, with regard to the likely steps the EFF and Public Citizen take to have the court chastise Mr. Stone, that there is a followup to this. Somehow I don't see the Judge being very forgiving about Mr. Stones casual approach to judicial ethics.

    It certainly sounds like Mick Haig Productions tried to "cheap out" on their legal representation and got what they paid for. It would also seem Mr. Stone took his 'training wheels' off before he was ready to play with the 'Big Boys'.

    Other than that, after reading this article and the contents of the 'problems' link, I do not foresee Mr. Stone as having a very rewarding and/or lucrative legal career. He seems to be more than a little ethically 'challenged'.

     

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  9.  
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    Coasty (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re:

    Heh... Somehow I don't see the judge in the case reacting very well to this situation, and especially not well to the 'tone' of his letter to the court dropping the cases.

    It sort of sounds like a prime example of 'Legal Mistakes 101', how to piss off the judicial system.

    I wonder if he slept through that part of his education!!!

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Joe Immortal, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:19am

    Re: What, am I being sued?

    Who says the Gathering is over!?

    I shall take your head and claim The Prize for myself!

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Re: Legal Shenanigans [a little ethically 'challenged']

    "I do not foresee Mr. Stone as having a very rewarding and/or lucrative legal career. He seems to be more than a little ethically 'challenged'."
    Seems that nowadays being more than a little ethically challenged is a prerequisite for a rewarding and lucrative legal career. Being just downright stupid is another thing.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:26am

    I 'm gonna make sure they nail you right to the wall for this, you're not gonna sleaze your way out of this one. Right to the wall.


    To the wall he deserves to go.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    I assumed Joe was trolling as well, turns out...Stone actually wrote what Joe quoted.

     

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  14.  
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    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Not only did he write it, it's hilarious! ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Will Sizemore (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:48am

    Evan Stone is a porn actor himself

    Evan Stone is an actor who appears in most, if not all, of the porn movies that are parodies of TV classics. Check him out at IMDB.

    I can only imagine that the next 'XXX Parody' will feature a courtroom where the judge convicts and sentences the defendants and I'll leave the actual sentences up to the imagination. (My wife is a fan of his, no, really, she is.)

    The fact that he has become a lawyer is so unbelievably laughable. I can almost see him doing this with the intent to drop the cases in an attempt to mock the courts and intellectual property law, because he is at least, kind of a funny guy.

     

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  16.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 11:58am

    Re: Evan Stone is a porn actor himself

    Wrong Evan Stone. This is the lawyer: http://www.leeandstone.com/attorney_bios.html

     

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  17.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Legal Shenanigans

    He will become head of the litigation team for the big labels..

     

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  18.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Evan Stone is a porn actor himself

    Evan Stone is an actor who appears in most, if not all, of the porn movies that are parodies of TV classics. Check him out at IMDB.

    Different guy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Will Sizemore (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Ha! Too funny!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Brian, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    re: stone

    Haha, He's been dippin in the kool-aid and dosent know the flavor.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I bet the judge didn't find it that funny LoL

     

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  22.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I bet the judge didn't find it that funny LoL

    It will probably help the judge make up his mind about whether or not to impose sanctions. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    why is this guy not disbarred (it is not like we have a shortage of lawyers)

     

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  24.  
    icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Wrong Stone - redux

    Average Joe has linked to the wrong lawyer Stone. Here is the firm web site:
    http://www.wolfe-stone.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Wrong Stone - redux

    Average Joe has linked to the wrong lawyer Stone. Here is the firm web site:
    http://www.wolfe-stone.com/


    My bad. Thanks for the link.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Wrong Stone - redux

    By the way, great job with this case. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Wrong Stone - redux

    Paul Alan Levy, let's get married.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 4:07pm

    Re: Re: Evan Stone is a porn actor himself

    Sounds like somebody should sue in California over likeness rights.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Roland, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    waitaminute

    Lawyers don't dismiss cases. Judges do that. Lawyers REQUEST dismissal. If the request was simply granted, this guy can refile later. If the dismissal was 'with prejudice', then he can't refile. Which was it? And given the procedural violations, why didn't the judge impose sanctions? This story is IMHO incomplete.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    Even lawyers accused of being unethical idiots deserve due process. I believe Mr. Stone has only recently been admitted to the state bar, and disbarment is a long and deliberate process. Also, in some (most? all?) state bar associations, lack of experience in the practice of law can be considered a mitigating factor (although this is often not considered a mitigating factor in serious ethical violations, rather than procedural mistakes or incompetence).

    You shouldn't rush a process that prohibits someone from practicing their chosen profession, even if it appears at first glance that they are utterly unsuited to it. In extreme cases, attorneys should have their licenses suspended until the issues are resolved, but disbarment is permanent in some states, and near impossible to reverse in the other states.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2011 @ 6:48pm

    Re: Legal Shenanigans

    No they did not cheap out.
    Stone was one of the first to do the pay up or else extortion games for porn. He started with filings for Lucas Entertainment, and then somehow landed Larry Flynt as a client. And when the cable company had enough of these give us all of these names by the end of the week I am sure some exec told dear Larry, well I guess we will not be needing your movies for our pay per view system anymore. And Larry ended it.

    Stone has been meeting resistance to his extortion demands, and only recently has gone back to the first cases he filed trying to shake money loose. He left these people on the hook for months with nothing by silence, but when you can keep the case open in the court why not.

    Oh and Stone works for Funimation as in-house counsel. So he is suing over some anime now that porn didn't prove to be lucrative.

    Considering his lawfirm is an answering machine,a website (and that website use to be for his video production business) and a PO Box in a stripmall I doubt anyone is going to be running to him as an expert any time soon. And let us not forget the awesome paper tiger of the Copyright Defense Agency, based in the same strip mall and using the East India Trading Company Coat of Arms to look cool.

    Oh and IIRC this film was the one he filed in TX because they accepted notice of only having filed copyright not it actually being issued to allow the case to proceed. And that raises questions about statutory vs actual damages and a bunch of other silly thing that don't really matter as Stone will probably never take anyone to court. He will just keep shifting gears looking for the demographic that will throw money at him out of fear.

    Stone likes to appear impressive, but honestly his house is kinda trashy, the stripmall where is po box is is dumpy, he is using a second hand fax machine that uses someone elses number as the identifier. He doesn't really have it worked out yet. He took the ACS:Law idea and ran with it... you ever seen a fat man run... yeah 3 steps and then he sorta stopped moving forward.

    Step 1 - Get a Client
    Step 2 - Threat Letters
    Step 3 - ?????
    Step 4 - PROFIT!

    I'm not real fond of him, it used to be fun tearing apart his illusion of power and now he is making it all to simple to show everyone the bald old man behind the curtain is not the all powerful Oz. He expected that people would fear his bluster and just pay him and he would be making big money by now. Instead he is buried in paperwork, loosing clients, and is running around trying to keep sending out letters to people and praying someone is dumb enough to pay him. I'm sure he feels law school was worth it... *giggle*

     

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  32.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 7:10pm

    Re: waitaminute

    It was "with prejudice."

     

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  33.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 7:13pm

    Re: Re: Legal Shenanigans

    Nice behind-the-scenes look... thanks!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Deirdre (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 7:24pm

    There's a lot of sanctions between slap on the wrist and permanent disbarment. I would not be surprised if the judge in this case didn't refer him to the ethics committee without waiting for someone else to file a complaint. I could see him at least being required to have a supervising (competent) attorney if he wants to continue practicing law.

     

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  35.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Feb 1st, 2011 @ 10:11pm

    FYI

    The correct german title would be "Der gute Onkel".

     

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  36.  
    icon
    Paul Alan Levy (profile), Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 11:27am

    Lawyers don't dismiss cases, judges dismiss cases

    @Roland:

    Under Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(i), when there has not yet been either an answer or a motion for a summary judgment, the plaintiff may dismiss the case by notice, without any further action by the judge. That is why Stone recited the absence of either in the first paragraph of his dismissal

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Legal Shenanigans

    And to think you and I have butted heads over my view of Stones tactics before.

    I think what really sold me on the idea he will never sue is how he mailed out his first round of pay me now or else letters. He send them regular mail, on the cheapest paper available. Now if you were going to expect them to have under a week to answer before you got more money, wouldn't you have kicked in the extra few bucks to make sure you could show when they got it?

    And he makes claims that you can't delete things off of your computer and if you do you will have to pay for him to reconstruct it and face issues with the court... in the case... that he hasn't actually filed naming you.

    Stone is really scraping the bottom of the barrel now, I am privy to some details of his current operations that I will not mention to protect others as I do not know how many are being targeted now and do not wish to create more issues for them. Needless to say him lying to get information and then pursuing people as he did in this case is the least of the scummy things he is willing to do to try to grab a buck.

    He has yet to name a single person in a case, that I am currently aware of, despite his promises to do so. Oh and a second round of letters has already gone out with the same less than truthful tone and information contained within.

    And if your bored maybe you can explain how Stone is still pursuing the original motion that he has kept open over 4 months in violation of the federal courts policies.

    I know some people tried to seek help from/and inform the EFF and were less than warmly received. I guess people in gay porn cases aren't as photogenic as people in straight porn cases. I am sure they can say they were waiting for a larger filing to work with, but by ignoring these early gay porn cases Stone became emboldened. Had a retreat in the desert where the scum suckers promised everyone a new pony and a pot of gold if you signed up with them.

    I know some of the lawyers on the EFF help list were more than willing to "help" people who contacted them, their idea of help was to try to negotiate a lower rate or a payment plan, not exactly good help in a case where the "evidence" has not ever been tested as being conclusive and it is very clear Stone lacks the backing to take a single test balloon case to court to scare the crap out of the rest of his targets.

    Even Liberty Media/Corbin Fisher found a sacrificial lamb to sign up for a $250,000 payout (that if he is a good boy will be knocked down some privately) so they had the crown jewel for their new we are going to catch you so before we have to bother just pay us $1000 and get access to our site for a year.

    Question - If you are loosing the huge sums of money you claim, why on gods green earth would you give the people you "know" will steal from you full access to your site? Are you not just inviting them to find new ways to share your media and avoid your steely gaze? Oh thats right you want more of your product out there so you can sue cyberlockers and paypal who have much deeper pockets.

    Sorry I rambled a bit...
    but I am the crazy guy who thinks copyright law was meant to stop people profiting from your works. Most P2P traffic is free and those people are not the ones making compilation DVDs of your movies and selling them on eBay. The eBay guy should be sued he is turning a profit off of your work. Someone who is curious about what you offer and peeked at a file someone found cool enough to want to share should not be on the hook for thousands in a settlement scam. There is a long list of the other types of people who use P2P networks who are not all stick it to the man types, but it is easier to try to shake them down rather than try to find what the barrier is and remove it to turn them into a customer.

    but what do I know... I always post as Anonymous Coward.

     

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  38.  
    icon
    average_joe (profile), Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Legal Shenanigans

    We butted heads? I don't remember it, but I'm sure you're right. He had a retreat in the desert? That's hilarious. Thanks again for the insight.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Angry man, Feb 3rd, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Evan Stone

    This is about the Avatar case with Lary flynt productions. They say he has no contract anymore but I know for a fact that people are getting settlement letters in this case. Is this more of his games or is it real.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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