Prenda Lawyer Claims Judge 'Abhors' Copyright Holders After Judge Becomes Curious About Who Alan Cooper Really Is
from the discovery dept
We’ve been covering the bizarre situation surrounding some of copyright troll Prenda Law’s cases that involve two companies — AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 — where a mysterious person named “Alan Cooper” was listed as CEO. That, alone, isn’t so mysterious. But what made it odd was that a guy who took care of one of John Steele’s homes reached out to some of the courts hearing cases involving those two companies to note that his name is Alan Cooper, and he had reason to believe that Prenda had used his name illegally as the pretend CEO of these companies. A lawyer in California fighting some of these Prenda / Ingenuity 13 cases, Morgan Pietz, called this to the attention of the court. In response, Prenda’s California lawyer, Brett Gibbs, threw a bit of a hissy fit in which he refused to answer some simple questions concerning who actually runs Ingenuity 13, and who “Alan Cooper” really is. Gibbs then sought sanctions against Pietz, which were quickly rejected (pdf) by Judge Otis Wright.
Pietz then asked the court to basically put the case on hold and to order Gibbs / Prenda to respond to his questions concerning AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13:
This motion is made on the ground that “good cause” exists to authorize the limited discovery requested, per Rule 26(d)(1), because, very recently, deeply troubling factual allegations have been made which suggest the plaintiff is engaged in a widespread and systemic fraud on the Courts affecting thousands of ISP subscribers. Specifically, very troubling questions have been raised as to whether Prenda Law, Inc., has misappropriated the identity of one Mr. Alan Cooper of Minnesota, holding him out in federal court filings as the principal of plaintiff Ingenuity 13, a shell entity organized in St. Kitts and Nevis, without Mr. Cooper’s knowledge or consent. For weeks, undersigned counsel, and others, have sought answers from Prenda Law, Inc. and its clients AF Holdings, LLC and Ingenuity 13, LLC, to try and put these concerns to rest. None of the answers proffered to date have been at all reassuring; to the extent Prenda has engaged on the issue at all, the only answers provided have been evasive to a degree that is almost comical.
The filing goes on to point out that Prenda could have avoided all of this by simply producing the Alan Cooper in question and showing that it’s not John Steele’s housekeeper.
If Prenda Law would simply identify the “Alan Cooper” who it claims is the true principal of Ingenuity 13, LLC and AF Holdings, LLC, or even confirm that such a person actually exists (notwithstanding the allegations of Alan Cooper of Minnesota), this ex parte application would not be necessary. Essentially, whether or not there is another Alan Cooper is the million-dollar question. However, Prenda Law has explicitly stated that it will not address any of the troubling factual circumstances raised by Mr. Cooper, or answer any questions on this topic, unless it is compelled to do so.
Courts don’t often grant this kind of thing… but this time it did. Right after Christmas the judge granted the order in full, meaning that Gibbs and Prenda are now required to answer the following questions:
- Other than the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread, is there another Alan Cooper who is currently the principal of Ingenuity 13, LLC — yes or no?
- If the answer to the first interrogatory is yes, state all contact information for this Alan Cooper, including current home address, business address, and telephone number.
- Other than the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread, was there ever another Alan Cooper who was, in the past, the principal of Ingenuity 13, LLC — yes or no?
- If the answer to the third interrogatory is yes, state all contact information for this Alan Cooper, including all known home addresses, business addresses, and telephone numbers.
- Other than the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread, is there another Alan Cooper who is currently the principal of AF Holdings, LLC — yes or no?
- If the answer to the fifth interrogatory is yes, state all contact information for this Alan Cooper, including current home address, business address, and telephone number.
- Other than the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread, was there ever another Alan Cooper who was, in the past, the principal of AF Holdings, LLC — yes or no?
- If the answer to the seventh interrogatory is yes, state all contact information for this Alan Cooper, including all known home addresses, business addresses, and telephone numbers.
- If the answer to the third interrogatory is yes, state each position this Alan Cooper held at Ingenuity 13, LLC and the dates such position was held.
- If the answer to the seventh interrogatory is yes, state each position this Alan Cooper held at AF Holdings, LLC and the dates such position was held.
- Eleventh Special Interrogatory: Was the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread ever a principal, even unwittingly, of Ingenuity 13, LLC?
- Was the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread ever a principal, even unwittingly, of AF Holdings, LLC?
- On November 26, 2012, when undersigned counsel emailed Brett Gibbs to ask for a routine extension request, Mr. Gibbs responded by email “I would have to check with our client about that request. Just an FYI, our client usually does not like to grant these types of requests on short notice unless there is a reasonable chance that settlement may occur in the case.” Later, Mr. Gibbs purported to have an answer on his query to the “client” regarding an extension. Who is the client contact at Ingenuity 13, LLC that Mr. Gibbs spoke with on this matter? Note, no details of the communication are being requested, just the name of the client contact.
- Reference is made to the following civil actions filed by AF Holdings, LLC and Ingenuity 13, LLC in the Northern District of California: 4:2012-cv-02049-PJH; 3:2012-cv-02393-CRB; 5:2012-cv-02394-LHK; 3:2012-cv-02396-EMC; 3:2012-cv-02404-SC; 4:2012-cv-02411-PJH; 3:2012-cv-02415-CRB; 4:2012-cv-03248-PJH; 3:2012-cv-04218-WHA; 5:2012-cv-04219-LHK; 5:2012-cv-04446-EJD; 5:2012-cv-04447-RMW; 5:2012-cv-04448-EJD; 3:2012-cv-04982-CRB; 3:2012-cv-04216-JSW; 3:2012-cv-04217-RS; 5:2012-cv-04445-LHK; 3:2012-cv-04449-SC; 3:2012-cv-04450-MMC; 3:2012-cv-04976-JSW; 3:2012-cv-04977-WHA; 4:2012-cv-04978-PJH; 5:2012-cv-04979-LHK; 5:2012-cv-04980-EJD; 3:2012-cv-04981-RS. With respect to the copyright assignments attached to the complaints in these actions, as Exhibit B thereto, which all appear to have a similar signature by “Alan Cooper,” please state whether the person who signed these assignments was the Alan Cooper of Minnesota who is represented by attorney Paul Godfread — yes or no?
- If the answer to the fourteenth interrogatory is no, then state all contact information for the person that did sign these documents, including all known home addresses, business addresses, and telephone numbers.
The order also requires them to produce identification documents for the people identified in the questions above, along with proof of their employment at the companies in question. Oh yeah, and also to produce the “signature” of Alan Cooper on documentation which Gibbs had claimed (in earlier court documents) that he had seen on various other court documents.
Given that the judge has, in short order, denied Gibbs’ request for sanctions while granting Pietz’s request for such discovery, it would appear that the judge isn’t buying Prenda’s story and is at least curious as to whether or not Prenda can turn up an actual Alan Cooper who is not John Steele’s housekeeper. It appears that Prenda has until January 10th to produce the information. Of course, instead of doing that, Prenda appears to be throwing the judicial equivalent of a shit fit.
On New Year’s Eve, Gibbs filed one of the more extraordinary motions you’ll see, arguing that Judge Wright, in merely asking Gibbs to answer who the CEO is of Ingenuity 13, is impossibly biased against copyright holders and should be removed from the case. I am not joking.
The story Plaintiff now sets forth is rather simple: Honorable Judge Otis D. Wright, II simply abhors plaintiffs who attempt to assert their rights with respect to online infringement of pornography copyrights. Honorable Judge Wright’s abhorrence of such assertions of right under the Copyright Act has risen to a level such that a neutral observer would have reasonable grounds to question Honorable Judge Wright’s impartiality. Indeed, in light of Honorable Judge Wright’s conduct, Plaintiff contends that it would be impossible to convince a neutral observer that Honorable Judge Wright regards this particular type of case impartially.
What follows is a rather ridiculous diatribe, in which Gibbs argues that somehow Judge Wright has it in for companies like the ones he represents, because they dare to enforce their copyrights. He points to an earlier ruling from Judge Wright in a Malibu Media case in which the judge is clearly aware of how copyright trolling works, and says it’s somehow unfair for the judge to actually call these companies out on the fact that they’re using the court system as part of a business model, rather than for a legitimate judicial purpose. More importantly, he never points out why this absolves him from having to identify just who is Alan Cooper, and whether or not Prenda lied to the court about Alan Cooper and the various companies he’s associated with. Of course, nowhere does the evidence show that Judge Wright is biased against copyright holders — merely concerned that those who are engaged in copyright trolling have a legitimate purpose for what they’re doing. His actions, to date, have all revolved around requiring such companies to prove that they’re not just in the legal shakedown business — but rather than do that, Gibbs is throwing a temper tantrum. Crazy.