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.

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Companies: eff, mick haig, public citizen

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Comments on “Mass Copyright Lawsuit Lawyer Petulantly Drops Lawsuit After Called Out For Apparent Ethics Violations”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

average_joe says:

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Coasty (profile) says:

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’.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Will Sizemore (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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*

Anonymous Coward says:

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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