Judge Who Said Lumping Together Unrelated Copyright Cases Is Fine... Is A Former RIAA Lobbyist

from the aren't-you-supposed-to-recuse-yourself? dept

Last week, we noted that judge Beryl Howell seemed to go against numerous other rulings by mass copyright lawsuit filers in saying that it was just fine to lump all the defendants together, despite the fact that each one was totally unrelated to the others. She even went so far as to claim that this benefited the defendants. She also pointed out that this made it easier for the plaintiffs, and seemed particularly concerned that things be as easy as possible for those plaintiffs. As we noted, our legal system isn't supposed to work that way. The point was making sure that actual due process was allowed, and joining together totally unrelated cases went against that principle.

Of course, perhaps there's a reason why Howell wanted to make things easier for plaintiffs in mass copyright lawsuits. You see, as TorrentFreak points out, Judge Beryl Howell is a recent appointment to the bench, and prior to that worked as a lawyer for a law firm that did plenty of work for the RIAA, and Howell herself was a lobbyist for the RIAA. It also notes that she helped write the DMCA among other copyright expansion laws from the last decade and a half.

As TorrentFreak notes, this certainly seems like a conflict of interest.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:50am

    Disbar him! Clearly a conflict of interest.

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    Markus (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    The judge in question was a lobbyist, and we all know all lobbyists are women. But if that wasn't enough to tell you the judge is a "she," I think the part where Mike said "Howell herself" should also have been a give away.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    John Doe, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:54am

    How is it...

    How is it that judges like this are allowed to continue to sit on the bench after doing stuff like this?

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Allan R. Wallace (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    Justice

    Usually injustice by a justice is not so blatant.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Chris, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:56am

    The Judgin' biz....

    Gotta earn that backroom payoff. Sometimes you gotta get ridiculous, if you want the big bucks. The more insane the ruling, the fatter the bank account.

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Hiiragi Kagami (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    So why didn't she recuse herself?

    Surely this judge will realize the issues of her presiding over this case in appeals, right?

    I'm not sure how this benefits everyone. Color me skeptical to think routers can make it to court on their own.

    This practice should be barred, but it's unlikely going to happen.

    When our own vice president uses a term like "unadulterated theft" when discussing infringement, I'm not confident these appointments were based on the best candidate for the job, but one who clearly can circumvent the very rights they were allowed until they're in power to take them away.

    This story is all over the internet and it's difficult to believe the EFF won't have a say in this.

    Which reminds me. Time for a renewal on my subscription.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:05pm

    Hmm, how many instances of libel will we see here...

    Article forwarded to Judge Howell's office.

     

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

  8.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

    Honestly, how rare is this?

    You'd have to think, for instance, that Surpreme Court justices have covered a wide enough variety of the law that they occasionally hear cases on topics they've been involved in. Perhaps not so HEAVILY involved as this case, but how many times are you really getting an impartial judge?

    It almost seems like our justice system would be better if there were always 3 judges on a case rather than one....

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    When our own vice president uses a term like "unadulterated theft" when discussing infringement

    The Supreme Court called it no different than "garden variety theft". Want to complain about them too?

    This story is all over the internet

    You mean whiny tech and freetard blogs like this one? What a surprise.

    Newsflash: nobody really cares about crybaby lawbreakers.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    Could you please point them out for us?

     

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

  11.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    Hmm, how many instances of libel will we see here...

    From my very unscientific count, none thus far. Only statements of fact and opinion.

     

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

  12.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re:

    What is wrong with you?!

    You suggest an AC will actually read when no one else has posted?

    ;)

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Rich, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    Re:

    Good, maybe she'll realize what a biased IDIOT she is being.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

    Re:

    Oh no.

     

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

  15.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

    If integrity > payment
    then recuse

    else continue

     

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  16.  
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    Markus (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Honestly, how rare is this?

    I imagine a lot of the problem is the proximity in time and subject matter to her previous position. She was just recently appointed, and the work she did immediately before her appointment was as an RIAA lobbyist. I agree that topical overlap may occur often, but (as a Supreme Court example) Justice Kagan recused herself when she had been working on a case right before she was appointed that then came before the court, and it's arguable that this situation is somewhere int the same neighborhood of relevance, since this judge's entire job was to advance the goals of the RIAA. To me it actually looks like an even larger conflict of interest in this instance.

    As for your second point, a federal appellate lawyer friend of mine recently said the same thing about 3 judge panels. Apparently, even without a conflict of interest, some judges make bad decisions. Shocking, I know.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Rich, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    Core dump: underflow attempting to evaluate integrity

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    RD, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

    Re:

    "Hmm, how many instances of libel will we see here...

    Article forwarded to Judge Howell's office."

    Facts and opinion are not subject to libel. Section 230 as well.

    TrollFail.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Conflict of interest?

    There are plenty of judges who may have strong opinions on issues before them (whether it's something as boring as copyright or true hot-button issues like gay marriage or abortion or health insurance reform); those strong opinions are certainly likely to have an influence on how the judges rule, but having thought about or worked on an issue before isn't a "conflict of interest" that should lead a judge to recuse herself from a case.

    If the RIAA or a company they represent were actually a party in this case, it's likely that this could represent at least the perception of a conflict of interest, but the RIAA is not involved. This is a law suit brought by movie studios over movie file sharing.

    I'm not saying that this isn't an incredibly stupid ruling or that ill-conceived and twisted patterns of deceptive thought she acquired as a RIAA lobbyist had no effect on Judge Howell's ruling, but it's just bad law. It's not a conflict of interest.

     

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

  20.  
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    CK (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    Except no one has proven that the defendants in this case actually are lawbreakers. That's why there is a trial, and as it stands an unfair one to the accused. That should concern anyone in the US, not just "freetards".

     

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

  21.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Quote

    Found this quote attributed to Beryl Howell:

    "Unquestionably, there are online crooks who are getting away with impunity. Victims are fending for themselves."

    Not really sure what context this was in or what it referring to, but it is interesting for sure.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Quote

    Interesting in that it's 100% true?

     

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

  23.  
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    Greg G (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re:

    the AC will highlight that one and should "LIBEL!" from the rooftops.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Donnicton, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    Although, on the other hand, I'm not entirely convinced that she earned half a million over five years lobbying for the RIAA in order to promote the excitement of Justin Bieber's latest hit album to congress.

    I can understand having worked with legislation towards a particular goal such as being involved with the creation of the DMCA, that's not necessarily going to be a smoking gun, it just happened to be something you were involved with.
    But, when you receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from a private corporation to promote a particular viewpoint to the government, and then become a judge and just happen to immediately start ruling in favor of those particular viewpoints(regardless of whether it's for the same company), I can see it being rather understandable that a few eyebrows are going to be raised.

     

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  25.  
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    Markus (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Conflict of interest?

    You're right. She didn't work for any of the companies in the suite. She (immediately prior to this) worked as a lobbyist of an organization that would greatly benefit should this ruling stand. If that is not enough of a conflict for you, maybe the fact that these companies are members of an organization (MPAA) that has extremely close ties to the RIAA and would also likely benefit is enough? No? Well then, yeah, she didn't work for those specific companies.

     

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  26.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    You mean whiny tech and freetard blogs like this one?

    Any time you want to go away and find a blog for arrogant, rude, pointless people who whinge about how hard-done-by they are because the goverment doesn't just automatically tax everyone and give them the money instead of them having to work for a living would be just fine. Send a postcard.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    If it's no different than "garden-variety theft" then why didn't they just call it garden-variety theft?

     

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

  28.  
    icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re:

    Core dump: underflow attempting to evaluate integrity

    Ooo geek humour... love it. Yep a divide-by-zero error will do it every time :-)

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    HothMonster, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    How many different things do I have to take from the garden for it to be a variety theft?

    Is that better or worse than a garden-monotony theft?

     

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

  30.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Quote

    Interesting in that it's 100% true?

    I'd certainly agree. Your task-masters (the labels) are getting away with impunity and the victims (artists and consumers) are stuck fending for themselves. When the whole label astroturfing thing doesn't work out for you, I am sure Mr. Hope from JAWA might be able to use your services.

     

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

  31.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Re: Quote

    Nope, I found it to be interesting because it seems to be a very biased statement, that's all.

    As for the "Victims are fending for themselves." part, I am really OK with that myself.

    Copyright is a government granted monopoly where only the rights holder is allowed to profit from the works, so it makes sense to me that if the rights holder wants to enforce that copyright then the rights holder should shoulder all the responsibility to do so, financially or otherwise.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    JMT, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Conflict of interest?

    If the judge's performance had been beyond reasonable criticism your argument would be much stronger. But she appears to have made a very unusual ruling which goes against precedent, and made bizarre claims that are demonstrably false (“this benefits the defendants”). Given that this is exactly the result she would’ve recently pushed for as a RIAA lobbyist, it raises the very strong possibility, and more importantly the perception, of a conflict of interest. That sounds like grounds for her to be recused to me.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Rich, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks! Although, the geek in me just has to say that divide-by-zero is not an example of an underflow. An underflow occurs when a value is too small to representable in the given type (which usually result in the value being set to 0). A divide-by-zero will (assuming IEEE Standard 754) result in either infinity or a NaN. Sorry, I just had to...

     

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

  34.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The geek is strong with this one.......

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re:

    Get off his back, she probably ruled in his favor at some point.

     

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

  36.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    Except no one has proven that the defendants in this case actually are lawbreakers. That's why there is a trial, and as it stands an unfair one to the accused. That should concern anyone in the US, not just "freetards".

    I think you mean "Freedomtards."

    Damn leeches.

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    crade (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    I love that word. I love how it sounds like you are saying people wanting freedom are retarded and it's supposed to be a derogatory term. I can just picture them using "freetard" to try to demean the slaves that dissented back in the day. Seriously they have got to come up with a better derogatory term. Maybe try playing off a word that doesn't also mean an ideal that nearly everyone admires and people fight and die for? I almost think that "freetard" has got to be a planted term to sabotage people who use it :)

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    The crooks from the music industry are becoming judges now?

    I'm shocked, the justice is just failing apart in the U.S. there is no bar if the ex-employee's from the recording industry can anybody can be a judge now.

    Maybe Osama Bin Laden can be a judge to.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:21pm

    Corrupt Legal System

    Just another example of how corrupt the US legal system has become. And when a system is corrupt, no one has any moral obligation to obey it. If anything, they have a moral obligation to bring it down. Too bad there seem to be so few moral people in the US.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    Since you are clearly the message boy could you please forward my "f. you" to her?

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

    Then the government asks why people don't take them seriously.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    With the conflict of interest, the judge should have reclused herself. That she didn't means it's a very likely subject in the appeal and one that will carry weight in favor of an overturn.

     

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  43.  
    icon
    Steven (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This of course assumes floating point representation of integrety (IEEE 754 is the floating point standard)

    However in integer division by zero there is usually a failure, small explosion, fire, and then engineers running around like chickens with there heads cut off.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Rich, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, and the technical term for this is going off in the weeds. :)

     

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  45.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    He is, he's just beding his time until Infidel America falls apart.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Re: How is it...

    judge lobbyists?

     

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

  47.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    f*ck man... you just made me inhale my coffee!

     

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

  48.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Bollocks... now I've spilt the bloody cup down my shirt! ggrrrr..

     

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

  49.  
    icon
    Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 5:25pm

    Re:

    Just hope somebody tells the lawyers.

     

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

  50.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Mar 29th, 2011 @ 5:49pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm pretty sure the EFF has been made aware of this. What they do now would be very interesting.

     

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

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Re: Conflict of interest?

    This is like saying that Justice Kagan should continue recusing herself from any cases involving liberals or liberal causes because her previous job was as solicitor general under a liberal president.

    Yes, this is an absurd ruling which goes against how other judges has ruled (though I don't think it specifically violates any appellate precedents in that circuit), but there's no evidence that she made this absurd ruling for the sake of personal gain rather than due to the same bizarre copy-right-wing ideology that likely got her her lobbying job in the first place (or that she developed during her time there).

    Now, if she still owned a bunch of stock or stock options in RIAA companies, the argument you're making about the benefit the precedent might have on the RIAA could certainly hold some weight, but I've heard of nothing like that here.

    (I'm also not saying that this isn't corruption--it's certainly conceivable that her original appointment was in some sense Obama paying the MPAA/RIAA/etc. back for campaign contributions. I'm just saying that there hasn't been any evidence that there was a conflict of interest of the sort that would be expected to lead to an ethical judge recusing herself from the case.)

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    monkyyy, Mar 29th, 2011 @ 11:48pm

    the defenses case

    1) the judge is on the riaa`s payroll
    2) that riaa lawyer wanted on this judge
    3) no other judge has ever lumped so many unrelated cases together
    4) reminder: their is a law in place for prevent this, but yet we are here

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:16am

    Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    The Supreme Court called it no different than "garden variety theft". Want to complain about them too?

    Which is funny, because they've ruled over and over that it is, in fact, NOT THEFT!

    get your facts straight troll.

     

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

  54.  
    identicon
    Jim, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Re: Justice

    don't forget the 2 PA judges who got paid for sending juveniles to detention centers without representation

     

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  55.  
    icon
    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:40am

    Re:

    How considerate of you! It almost offsets the fact that you are completely full of shite.

     

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

  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Justice

    That proves that all judges are corrupt and the whole legal system is rigged. QED.

     

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

  57.  
    icon
    hmm (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:04pm

    well

    I'd have thought they'd have noticed she was from the RIAA, firstly because she makes her opinions quite obvious, but mostly from the fiery glowing eyes and stench of brimstone whenever she entered the courtroom.

    Well that and the wailing of the damned whenever she banged her Gavel of Soul-Eating.

     

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

  58.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: So why didn't she recuse herself?

    To me the word suggests a mixture betwen two ancient categories of saint

    A "Holy Unmercenary"
    and a "fool for Christ's Sake"

    If you read the links you will find they are really very appropriate - and the term is actually a great honour

     

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

  59.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The geek is strong with this one.......
    err - no ..... technically a geek is actually a performer who bites the heads of live animals (Ozzy Osbourne?)

     

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

  60.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    However in integer division by zero there is usually a failure, small explosion, fire, and then engineers running around like chickens with there heads cut off.

    by a geek? - see above...

     

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

  61.  
    identicon
    Ken, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:18pm

    Facebook Group Calls To Impeach Judge Howell for Conflict of Interest

    I have created a Facebook group to bring public attention to Judge Byryl Howell. This is the very definition of a conflict of interest. She should have recused herself from hearing any copyright cases.

     

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

  62.  
    identicon
    Ken, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Facebook Group Calls To Impeach Judge Howell for Conflict of Interest

     

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

  63.  
    identicon
    Ken, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Corrupt Legal System

    What makes this case unusual too is she is a very new judge. New Judges usually always recuse themselves to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. She is really making herself out to be an activist judge.

     

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

  64.  
    identicon
    jim bank, Apr 6th, 2011 @ 4:45pm

    Judge Howell didn't check the copyright owner

    In this case, Maverick Entertainment is suing for copyright infringement for the movie "the clique".

    Maverick doesn't even own the rights to the movie, its owned by © 2008 Warner Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.

    The way most bit torrents work they are configurable for various settings on duplicate named files. Last in first out is common so in this case if multiple downloads happened simultaneously in the "swarm" chances are NONE of the data from the Maverick Entertainment movie of the same name was even downloaded, and even more likely the "swarm" side of the upload would have been confused.

    Anyway, five minutes and an understanding of bittorrent configurations could have saved thousands of lawsuits. The way it goes now however is that Maverick Entertainment is going to be collecting settlements enabled by a DC Judge Howell that is on the edge of conflict of interest, for copyright infringement of a movie they don't even own.

    CRAZY...I wonder if Warner Home Entertainment can sue Maverick Entertainment for gains $$$ that were knowingly obtained under a false and clearly confusible bit torrent file.

     

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

  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2013 @ 5:01pm

    average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

     

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


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