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.