Copyright Troll Evan Stone Sanctioned For More Than $10k For Sending Subpoenas When Court Said To Wait

from the ouch dept

You may recall that the somewhat brash copyright trolling lawyer, Evan Stone, got into a bit of legal hot water earlier this year, in a case for porn producer Mick Haig. Stone had been trying to follow in the footsteps of other copyright trolls who shake down people for money by filing a John Doe lawsuit against them, but the entire purpose of the lawsuit is to find out who they are to send them “settlement offers,” for much less than it would cost to mount a defense. In one of Stone’s lawsuit, the judge had, quite reasonably, asked Public Citizen and EFF to act as the Does’ attorneys prior to their identification, for the sake of seeing whether or not revealing their info was proper. As part of that, the judge had ordered Stone not to send any subpoenas to get identifying info until after the court had ruled whether or not that was proper.

And yet, Stone sent the subpoenas anyway, and began identifying individuals, even though the court was still determining if it was proper to allow this.

In response to being called on this huge ethics violation, Stone petulantly dropped the case and blamed the judge for bringing in Public Citizen and the EFF — while basically ignoring the massive ethics violation and questions raised about whether or not he had received settlements from people whose identity he wasn’t supposed to know yet. Public Citizen and the EFF asked for sanctions against Stone in response to this.

And, boy, did they get sanctions. Both Public Citizen and the EFF have blog posts about it — and both suggest that you’re best off just reading the ruling (pdf) by Judge David Godbey which is also embedded below.

The key points: the judge slams Stone and orders him to pay $10,000 in sanctions, take remedial steps (including filing the court order in every ongoing proceeding in which he represents a party) and pay the legal fees of Public Citizen and the EFF. He also needs to reveal if anyone he sent a settlement letter to paid up — which would suggest he’ll have to pay back that money too. While the ruling runs through the whole thing, this paragraph from the ruling both summarizes what happens and makes it clear that the court is not pleased:

To summarize the staggering chutzpah involved in this case: Stone asked the Court to authorize sending subpoenas to the ISPs. The Court said ?not yet.? Stone sent the subpoenas anyway. The Court appointed the Ad Litems to argue whether Stone could send the subpoenas. Stone argued that the Court should allow him to ? even though he had already done so ? and eventually dismissed the case ostensibly because the Court was taking too long to make a decision. All the while, Stone was receiving identifying information and communicating with some Does, likely about settlement. The Court rarely has encountered a more textbook example of conduct deserving of sanctions.

The court also notes, “Stone?s representation to the Court that it should grant his motion so he could serve subpoenas, when in fact he had already done so, treads perilously close to violating a lawyer?s duty of candor to the Court.”

From there, the court goes on to attack Stone’s “substanceless” explanation for his actions, noting, “this court deals in facts, not counterfactuals.” Ouch. It also dings Stone for arguing that his actions were okay because most courts approve such requests for discovery:

This argument also fails. Discovery proceeds in ?normal fashion? according to the Rules of Civil Procedure. They provide that no discovery of any kind takes place prior to a Rule 26(f) conference unless the Court orders otherwise. Although Stone might believe that motions like the Discovery Motion are mere formalities and that courts routinely grant them, that misapprehension provides no basis for proceeding with preconference discovery without court order. The only ?highly irregular? activity here is Stone?s disregard of the Rules and the Court?s orders, which would have constituted sanctionable conduct even if the Court eventually had granted the Discovery Motion.

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Comments on “Copyright Troll Evan Stone Sanctioned For More Than $10k For Sending Subpoenas When Court Said To Wait”

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22 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We discussed this a bit in my picks of last week, because Stone getting what he deserved made me happy.

The settlements are “contracts” entered into outside of the court, so the general consensus was that the Judge could not undo those contracts.
There was however some interest if those contracts could be voided as there was not a legal cases moving against the Does as was claimed, which means Stone was misleading people as to their actual position.
There was also curiosity as if Stone had finally crossed the line into “true” extortion and what sorts of lawsuits those who settled with him could pursue against him/Mick Haig Productions.

Mr. Cashman had noted on his blog that if you remotely believed Stones claims of settlement rate that this fine would only represent 4 settlements and would not be a big deterrent as the loss was not that great considering what he stood to get in “settlements”.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree, however he might be ordered to report to these people that he indeed violated privacy laws and had no right to send the settlement papers to begin with. This would mean he has a bunch of costly cases coming at him that he will eventually lose especially if every name is listed and they file for a class action lawsuit.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The court also notes, ‘Stone?s representation to the Court that it should grant his motion so he could serve subpoenas, when in fact he had already done so, treads perilously close to violating a lawyer?s duty of candor to the Court.'”

How is that “perilously” close? Seems kinda like a women with a fetus growing in her uterus being described as perilously close to pregnancy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry, Stone, but you really screwed the pooch here. What were you thinking? My goodness. Instead of taking responsibility for your actions, you just whine and spit out facially implausible excuses. “I coulda under 512(h)!” Um, no, you couldn’t (do you know the law?), and more to the point, you didn’t. WTF? I could have forgiven sending out the subpoenas since that could have been an accident. But then you go and send demand letters to the names produced by the subpoenas. In my book that removes all doubt that you were acting innocently. I know you’re a big-eyed recent law school grad trying to take down the pirates, and I applaud you for it, but this is too much. You got off easy, Stone. The damage to your checkbook is one thing–you’ll be able to shake that off in time, I’m sure–but the damage to your reputation lasts forever. Shame on you. Was it worth it?

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