US Gov't Says Megaupload Shouldn't Be Allowed To Use Top Law Firm It Hired For Its Defense

from the fair-trials? dept

The US government seems to be bending over backwards to make sure that Megaupload cannot get a fair trial. Perhaps they’re finally realizing that their own indictment had serious problems and figure the best way to get past that is to make it that much harder for Megaupload to defend itself. We’ve already covered the desire of the feds to have significant evidence destroyed in the case, but now they’re trying to block Megaupload from hiring a top law firm. It had recently been noted that top litigator Andrew Schapiro from Quinn Emanuel, was joining the defense team.

But the US is objecting to Quinn Emanuel taking part in the case, claiming that Schapiro’s previous work with YouTube and Google represent a conflict of interest — since the government intends to try to show that YouTube was a “victim” of Megaupload, and use Google as a witness since it pulled AdSense over infringement concerns. Furthermore, the government uses the fact that Quinn Emanuel — a pretty large law firm — has also represented some Hollywood interests to say that it shouldn’t be able to take part. The thing is, law firms like Quinn Emanuel have a pretty detailed conflict of interest process, in which they check a bunch of things before they take on a case. If they satisfied that process, then why should the government be involved at all, other than just as an attempt to deny Megaupload the skills of the lawyer it wants to hire?

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: megaupload, quinn emmanuel, youtube

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “US Gov't Says Megaupload Shouldn't Be Allowed To Use Top Law Firm It Hired For Its Defense”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
John Fenderson (profile) says:

Changing my mind

You know, when Megaupload was first attacked, I didn’t really doubt that they MU engaged in infringing activities. But the more I see and hear from the government about the case, the more I doubt that they were actually involved in infringement much. The government’s actions look like they’re railroading MU, and you only need to railroad someone when they’re innocent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Changing my mind

Yep the more they do to block the MU defense- the more it looks like the Attorney Generals office is covering their own failures.

There are way too many people who were using MU for legal purposes. It is an over reach by the government and perhaps it is time for them to allow MU to defend themselves and prepare to accept the resignations of attorneys who screwed this up this badly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Changing my mind

In the meantime, MU should be allowed to continue its operations. The government shouldn’t be allowed to deliver punishment before a trial and to cut off their financial income necessary to defend themselves while the government is here attacking them, just to protect incumbent industry interests (at public expense), with taxpayer money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Changing my mind

As megaupload is not running their site anymore, they have the finances to do anything they want. It costs more for them to keep the site up AND pay for a lawyer than it would to shut it down.

Furthermore, in the evidence of laws having been broken, it would be irresponsible for the U.S. Government to allow the site continued operations; and should there exist digital evidence, allowing megaupload to destroy said evidence is absurd.

Megaupload is guilty, we KNOW they are guilty… and we know that they will win regardless. This is not a fight over who is guilty and who is not… it is a fight against the corporate takeover of the world, and the government’s inability to do anything about it.

DC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Changing my mind

Wow .. you really are out there (are you an official space cadet?) FYI: keeping the data there is costing them nothing currently.

They are offering to pay to keep the data available for their defense, but their assets are not available.

MU do not have finances to do what ever they want. Their money in most places is frozen … i.e. not available.

Said government colluding with the MPAA want the stored files … aka evidence .. destroyed.

2) Ding Ding Ding: the government should not be able to be allowed to deliver punishment before a trial and to cut off their financial income necessary to defend themselves while the government is here attacking them

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Changing my mind

“This is not a fight over who is guilty and who is not.”

So you don’t care if they are guilty, you just want to punish them for … taking over the world? Really? Wow, seems like they have managed to accomplish what Pinky and the Brain have been trying to do for quite some time now.

By your logic, lets just execute you for murder. Who cares if you are guilty or not, since this is not what the fight is about.

“it is a fight against the corporate takeover of the world”

I somewhat agree, the RIAA/MPAA, big pharma, and big agriculture (among other industries, like big oil), have taken over our government through campaign contributions and the revolving door. and that needs to end.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Changing my mind

That technicality came about because of a procedural error. The judicial system is intentionally set up with a bias towards innocent rulings to combat:

1) Extensive governmental resources

2) Anti-criminal bias, even alleged

and in an attempt to prevent even a single innocent being incarcerated. The designers of the system felt that it was more important that no innocent find themselves in jail than that all criminals did.

The Judicial system actually works moderately well from this point of view (where the only error in the system is an innocent in jail). Besides, only a judicial process can determine whether their case is actually justified.

Pwdrskir (profile) says:

Re: Changing my mind

“I didn’t really doubt that they MU engaged in infringing activities.” – John

I just came off a jury and the defense lawyer opened with:
Raise your hand if you think my defendant is guilty.( No hands.)
Raise your hand if you think my defendant is innocent. (No hands.)
Raise your hands if you need to see the evidence before deciding. (Every hand went up.)

Lawyer: Let me remind you all that the Constitution is very clear that my defendant is Innocent Until Proven guilty.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: good news

“Its nice to see lawyers realising what a sham this trial is turning into.”

No, lawyers are just realizing the money they can make by taking the case. It was lawyers that created the legal system that created this legal mess. This results in plaintiffs and the defendants hiring lawyers. It’s a win – win situation for the lawyers.

JMT says:

Re: Re: good news

It’s a sad truth. When all this is over their will be only one real winner:

The public will have lost a useful service (either temporarily or for good), potentially a lot of personal files, and a bunch of their tax money;

Artists using the service to distribute their content AND make money from it will also have lost a useful service and income;

MegaUpload will have lost a lot of revenue;

The USG will have massively lost face (yep, I’m betting on them losing);

The MPAA will have achieved nothing to stem piracy of movies, and most likely converted even more people from their cause;

And the lawyers will walk away with millions of dollars in fees.

What a great system…

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: good news

Actually, the Spanish Inquisition was nowhere near the villains that popular culture today makes them out to be. They literally invented the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” and far from being hysterical Salem-style witch-hunters, the rules they set for witch trials (they had to be based on actual evidence) effectively put an end to convictions for witchcraft in Spain almost a century before the rest of Europe.

You really should read up on history before you go talking about it…

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Actually, the Spanish Inquisition was nowhere near the villains that popular culture today makes them out to be.

No, they only railroaded Galileo with a forged document, and they only showed him the instruments of torture, they were nice enough to not actually use them on him.

And he just had to stay home and not talk to anybody for the rest of his life.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Actually, the Spanish Inquisition was nowhere near the villains that popular culture today makes them out to be.

pretty sure that was the Papal inquisition (different organization) and even the Galileo was NOT punished for his scientific theory (which, while it may have been correct in it’s conclusion, was horrible in it’s methodology, from memory) but due to constant screw ups politically… (hint: publishing literature mocking some of the most powerful individuals around at the time is not a healthy carrier move. )

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: good news

Just reading that extremely well done brief, and the USG is trying to stop “Foreign Attorneys” [argument 1]

Interesting, next time I see the USG trying to stick its nose into a foreign jurisdiction and criminal case (or civil) I think I might show this interesting statement that wipes out a century of working with foreign courts and solicitors/attorneys.

Oh wait, there might be a few I know about already and might even be involved in.

Is the DoJ composed of a bunch of blithering idiots in regards to this case?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hard core Republicans do think that America is not only corrupt but socialist and ruled over by a muslim dictator who isn’t even an american citizen, who will force children to become atheists and pass laws that will require all red blooded (and possibly necked) proper heterosexual men to enter into gay marriage against their will.
Not to mention that when they get Gay STDs they will be paraded in front of a death panel instead of being able to rely on the proper capitalist good will of an insurance company.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

He’s not, I’ve seen far too many sites spouting that kind of thing. It is the more right-wing Republicans, but the point is that an awful large part of the Christian/Tea Party right do say this stuff.

How come there’s still birther crud happening?
How come anything Obama does, he’s accused of being an ‘evil’ socialist?

If you want some ‘evidence’, go to Fundies Say the Darndest Things or such delightful places as Free Republic or WorldNetDaily.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

We’re trying (and you can kindly tell your politicians and negotiators that, it would be very helpful) but it is rather difficult when every idiot on a street corner can be wooed by false promises on billboards. We’ll get there, but it is going to take some time yet.

In the meantime, why don’t you focus on sorting out your own country as well, rather than lamenting about the influence of another nation? I see a whole bunch of politicians that keep caving to “American [‘based’ corporation’s] interests” rather than standing up for their own countries.

The most important thing you could do is get your diplomats to refuse to negotiate with the US in the absence of a truly transparent process (fully declassified and publicized would be nice). This kind of pressure would put the USTR between a rock (your diplomats) and a hard place (American citizens) and eventually grind them down to such a process, which would end much of America’s strong arming in other nations.

If you want, we could start working on a petition to show them that Americans oppose the way their diplomatic position is being abused. You just have to ask the ACLU and EFF and I’m sure they’ll be happy to put one together.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

This will probably be like Casey Anthony

Even my mom knew the prosecution’s “computer forensics expert” was making BS up when she was watching the trial. I was coincidentally taking a class on the topic at the time and laughed so hard at how bad they were trying to rail road her.

Trying to rail road someone so badly, is why I believe she was found not-guilty, and will hopefully lead to MU being found not-guilty, and the MPAA/DoJ having to pay restitution.

The DMCA notice and takedown exists for a reason, if MU had it… then it is MPAA/RIAA’s fault for having MU take away the search feature.

Anonymous Coward says:

If they satisfied that process, then why should the government be involved at all, other than just as an attempt to deny Megaupload the skills of the lawyer it wants to hire?

What process? Can you please describe it for us? There are plenty of lawyers who will gladly turn a blind eye to conflict of interest in order to reap a multi-million dollar payday.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re:

True, however a conflict of interest is a claim set up to protect those who retain the specific counsel. The government has no grounds to make these claims. If the motion were coming from one of the companies themselves, than the matter would be open for a judge to ultimately decide upon. As it is, the judge should not be considering the charge, as no qualified interest has filed for it.

Even so, the judge ultimately is granted discretion in this matter. It is not something that either the gov or the lawyers get to decide. I’m reasonably sure that if the judge has reservations, they can simply ask to review the process to ensure it meets the standards it claims.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What process? Can you please describe it for us? There are plenty of lawyers who will gladly turn a blind eye to conflict of interest in order to reap a multi-million dollar payday.

I’m assuming you have about 0 experience with a decent sized or larger law firm when it comes to these things.

They all have a process of checking the parties in the lawsuit to see if there’s any direct conflict. Different firms call it different things but the one I hear most typically is “running the traps.” And most top law firms take it pretty damn seriously. I’ve seen significant business turned away via that process, and from what I know of Quinn Emanuel, I’d bet they have a pretty detailed process.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The process is usually pretty good but sometimes mistakes happen. Case in point: I interviewed at Quinn a year and a half ago and asked a second-year associate what the worst experience of her job there had been. She told me that she and several other lawyers spent three months working non-stop on a case before discovering a partner had a conflict. It was a small conflict from a decade ago, but Quinn still had to withdraw.

So … mistakes happen.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Even if there was a conflict of interest, I don’t really see the problem since the “conflict of interest” the government claims exists is that the Law-firm that MegaUpload wants to hire would be in conflict against supporting Mega… which Mega has said they are absolutely OK with and that the Law firm claims that there is not… sooo, wouldn’t it be perfectly within Mega’s rights to hire a company they want, even if it turns out to be against their best interests (though I really really doubt it would be in this case.)

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t know exactly how Quinn’s process works, but I can describe how it works in general at most large firms.

The firm maintains a database of its lawyers and which cases they’ve worked on. Every time they work on a new case or matter, that gets added to the database. This list is usually very robust, since firms have to keep track of who their clients are in order to bill them.

The problems arise when lawyers are moving between firms. Usually the lawyer just takes the list of prior matters from the old firm and gives it to the new firm. But to my knowledge, there’s no standardized way of formatting that list, so someone at the new firm has to manually re-enter all the data or otherwise massage it to get it into the new database. This is probably where the most mistakes are made.

That said, firms have a strong interest in identifying conflicts. First, conflicts are expensive. If a conflict is discovered late in the game, the firm is disqualified and all the work they’ve done gets tossed out. That’s incredibly disheartening and huge pain in the ass to clean up. And you can’t bill for it.

Second, conflicts are hard to hide. If a firm is adverse to a client they had a former relationship with, there’s a good chance that the client will remember! Moreover, the fact that a firm represents a client isn’t always a secret. It’s often recorded in press releases, case opinions, and other publicly available information that gets indexed by major databases.

Anyhow, a firm will usually check with their internal database before taking on a case to see if there are any conflicts. Conflicts don’t automatically disqualify the firm though. If only a subset of the firm’s lawyers have a conflict, the firm can “wall off” those lawyers. Large firms are pretty good about maintaining these walls. They’ll restrict a conflicted lawyer from both physical and electronic access to confidential information. And everything you do at a firm is tracked and recorded. Ostensibly it’s for billing purposes, but it also means it’s hard for a conflicted lawyer to involve herself without leaving an incriminating paper trail.

That’s the high-level view. I don’t know exactly what Quinn does, but they’re a large enough firm that I imagine they have a similar process in place.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


You act like this is the first time they pressured a lawyer out of representing Mega.
Its not.

You act like this isn’t to keep the case in the headlines and gathering attention.
It is.

They (**AA’s you can’t really tell them from the DoJ anymore) are currently suing Hotfile and pushing claims that cyberlockers need to do more to protect the interests of the **AA’s at no cost to the **AA’s.
Their government granted monopolies are to costly for them to police themselves, so everyone else has to bear the burden and costs.

The DoJ is corrupt. (It has to be corruption because to think they are just naturally this inept and stupid is far more worrisome.)
They have been and continue to subvert the legal process they are charged with upholding. When they can’t be trusted, the Judges can’t be trusted, how the hell do they expect us to have any faith in anything they do any more?

They are trying to stack the deck in this case, and its obvious. I guess its time to cross the right to a fair trial off the list of “rights” we are allowed to have.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Yawn...

You act like this is the first time they pressured a lawyer out of representing Mega.
Its not.

No, that’s different. There was no indication the government was involved in that one. That was a case of the firm realizing his work tripped one of their conflict systems. That’s perfectly normal and happens all the time.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Ah conflict of interests.

Based on this logical analis by teh US Government prosecutors, they should then remove any prosecutor who has ever:
* Watched a Youtube video (ebedded or direct)
* Searched using Google, or knowingly used any google service.
* Have ever Payed to watch, rent, or purchase a “Hollywood” movie

Sadly, the logic they are using to try to remove law firms (which are representatives not the actual witness’s [another logic fail by the DoJ]) is totally unmitigated bullshit and smacks of bias, so the above criteria to remove the prosecutors for bias wont happen.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Forget wining and dining them, the lawyer who brought this whole case in front of the grand jury had a job outside the government before being hired. He worked for BSA.

Beryl Howell (sp) was paid as an RIAA lobbyist before becoming a Judge who decided that Doe defendants in copyright trolling cases had no standing to object to the ISPs having to hand over their information so they could be “sued” * .

* – The number of people actually sued in the copyright trolling cases is tiny. The evidence used to turn these peoples lives upside down is flimsy at best, but very few Judges have actually wondered why out of the 200,000 Does named in these cases so few ever are in a court room. They assume people will not just fear the $150,000 number, or would pay more money than the settlement to hire a lawyer to tear the case to shreds. Oh and the handful of people who have gotten a lawyer and tried to fight see themselves dropped from the cases before their day in court, or the trolls claiming there was never any lawsuit naming them, despite what their own settlement letters claim.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...