Deep Dive Analysis: Brett Gibbs Gets His Day In Court — But Prenda Law Is The Star

from the the-big-debrief dept

Ken White blogs at Popehat. He’s a litigator and criminal defense attorney at Brown White & Newhouse LLP in Los Angeles. His views are his alone, not those of his firm.

My past coverage of the Prenda Law saga is here.

There are few things more terrifying to a lawyer than a furious federal judge.

Today I saw one of those things.

It was a federal judge who was furious, intimately familiar with the case, and consummately prepared for the hearing.

Today United States District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II made it explicitly, abundantly, frighteningly clear that he believes the principals of Prenda Law have engaged in misconduct — and that he means to get to the bottom of it.

It was one of the most remarkable hearings I have ever witnessed.

The Scene

Today was the hearing on Judge Wright’s Order to Show Cause, directing former Prenda Law “Of Counsel” Brett Gibbs to show cause why he — or others associated with Prenda Law — should not be sanctioned. (I previously wrote about the circumstances leading up to that order.) The hallway outside Judge Wright’s courtroom was crowded half an hour before the hearing — crowded with lawyers, press, past defendants targeted by Prenda, Electronic Frontier Foundation representatives, and various interested citizens. I didn’t know Mr. Gibbs by sight, nor his lawyers, but I guessed when they rounded the corner, looked at the crowd, and assumed facial expressions I’d summarize as aw, this has ‘long day’ written all over it.

Eventually I counted 42 spectators in the courtroom, not counting lawyers for people present.

Judge Wright Minces No Words

Judge Wright took the bench, grim and stentorian and bow-tied, and immediately commenced to take absolutely no shit from anybody. “I spent the whole weekend reading a deposition,” he said, referring to the astounding deposition of Prenda principal Paul Hansmeier. “It is perhaps the most informative thing I have read in this affair so far.” There was a collective intake of breath from the onlookers, who guessed that was not a good thing for Prenda Law. They were right. “There was so much obstruction in this deposition that it’s obvious that someone has an awful lot to hide,” Judge Wright commented later.

Wright began by establishing who was present. To his visible irritation — if not surprise — John Steele and Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy and their paralegal Angela Van Den Hemel were not present. Heather Rosing, their attorney who had filed a last-minute application seeking to excuse their presence, was there, but Judge Wright was not having any of her. She said her clients were “not physically here” — implying they were here in spirit, of which I have no doubt. Judge Wright angrily pointed out that she had filed her application late Friday afternoon, very much the last minute. She began to protest that her clients had only been served last Thursday, but he cut her off and directed her to take a seat. She did not participate further in the hearing except to note that her clients were available by phone. Judge Wright did not take the opportunity to give them a call. He noted that he had “extended an offer” for them to attend (a rather gentle description of his order) and that an “opportunity to explain themselves” was all that he was required to give them. I, for one, took this to mean that he would make rulings about their involvement without further input from them.

What followed was three hours of witnesses and legal arguments. I will deal with them thematically rather than chronologically.

The Real Alan Cooper Stands Up And Reveals Threats

One of the most interesting live witnesses was Alan Cooper — the actual Alan Cooper, who has accused Prenda attorney John Steele of stealing his identity to use as the figurehead executive of Prenda’s various “clients.” Cooper is a tall, rangy man, dressed modestly today in jeans and a t-shirt, looking a bit like a gray-haired Jim Caviezel. He took the stand at Judge Wright’s bidding, and clearly nervous and out of place in the magisterial federal courtroom, told his story. He explained that he took care of two houses Steele owns, and Steele let him stay in one as payment. He knew Steele when Steele was in law school; later he knew Steele to aspire to be a divorce attorney, and then later something else. “Something in . . . internet porn piracy?” Cooper said hesitantly. “Internet porn piracy sounds pretty good,” quoth Judge Wright. (In interacting with Cooper, Judge Wright became kindly, but with his anger writhing visibly just below the surface.) Cooper said that Steele bragged of wanting to make “$10,000 a day” by “sending letters to downloaders.” Cooper himself is “not very internet savvy” and couldn’t say more about the plan.

Eventually, Cooper said, Steele told him words to the effect that if anyone called him about Steele’s law firm or anything “out of place,” Cooper should call Steele. But Cooper was clear: he never signed anything as an executive for any of Prenda’s clients, was never asked to be a representative of any of the Prenda Law client entities, and never agreed to do so. Shown signatures purporting to be his, he disclaimed them. “I use a middle initial,” he said, and these signatures did not. He also disclaimed even seeing lawsuits filed using his signature or assignments of copyright bearing his signature in multiple cases. Cooper said that the address Prenda Law used for him wasn’t his, and that the email address Prenda Law used for him definitely wasn’t his. He also wasn’t familiar with web sites registered using his name. “No tissues dot com — or perhaps that’s pronounced not issues dot com,” said Mr. Pietz, getting the best laugh of the day.

Gibbs’ attorney Andrew Waxler tried gamely to object to some of this evidence on the grounds that some of the cases mentioned weren’t listed in Judge Wright’s OSC. “It’s about fraudulent practice in federal court” said Judge Wright in the sort of eerily level tone that makes a lawyer wish the judge were yelling again instead.

The most dramatic part of Cooper’s testimony — and perhaps the most dramatic moment in the hearing — came when Cooper described what happened when his lawyer Paul Godfread notified Prenda Law that he was suing for the misappropriation of his identity. Within minutes, he said, John Steele began to call him. Steele called many times, and over the course of weeks sent texts and left several voice mail messages. Mr. Pietz played the messages for the court.

In each message, Steele began by telling Cooper that Steele understands that Cooper’s lawyer is only representing Cooper in Cooper’s lawsuit, not in Steele’s and Prenda’s and Duffy’s lawsuits against Cooper. It’s evident that Steele was saying that in an attempt to justify why he would be directly calling a represented party, which lawyers are prohibited from doing by the disciplinary rules of every jurisdiction. In the calls, Steele talked with escalating intensity about how Cooper was now facing lawsuits, that Cooper needed to call Steele to talk about being deposed and responding to discovery, how things were going to “get ugly” now, and how things were now “complicated.” On hearing the voice messages, I thought there was only one reasonable interpretation: John Steele was trying to menace and intimidate Alan Cooper to get him to back off from talking about John Steele’s use of his name. By the end of the calls, there was a stunned silence in the courtroom, and I suspected that many spectators were sharing with me a deep sympathy for Mr. Cooper and an abiding sense of revulsion for John Steele. Judge Wright rather clearly felt mercy towards Mr. Cooper as well, some of which bled into pointed comments to Brett Gibbs’ legal team. “You turn it from the O-F-F position to the O-N position” he said rather sharply when Gibbs’ counsel asked how to turn the monitor on their table on.

By the way, someone told me that the Electronic Frontier Foundation may be picking up Mr. Cooper’s expenses for flying to Los Angeles. Good for them if that’s true.

AT&T and Verizon Say They Didn’t Get The Order

Judge Wright also permitted testimony from attorneys for AT&T and Verizon. You may recall that one of Judge Wright’s concerns — to use the mild term — was the allegation that though he had ordered a stay on discovery in the Prenda Law cases before him and ordered Prenda Law to send his order to the ISPs, Prenda Law did not do so and in fact collected consumer data from the ISPs after Judge Wright’s order. Today Verizon filed a declaration directly contradicting Brett Gibbs’ assertion that they had been called off. On the stand, attorneys for Verizon and AT&T asserted that their clients never received Judge Wright’s order from Prenda Law, and AT&T’s lawyer said that Prenda Law paralegal Angela Van Den Hemel continued to contact AT&T seeking the status of the pending subpoenas. It was only after AT&T itself discovered Judge Wright’s order on PACER and responded to her that discovery was stayed that she subsided.

Brett Gibbs’ attorneys pointed out — rather reasonably — that the ISP’s attorneys couldn’t say of their own knowledge what their clients did or didn’t receive, and suggested that ISPs are known for destroying such documents too quickly. (On this point Judge Wright pointed out that it seemed that Verizon had maintained everything else except the purported notification from Prenda Law, and characterized Gibbs’ argument as “they eliminate their documents pretty much the way Mr. Gibbs eliminates original documents,” which was perhaps not the response Gibbs was hoping for.)

On this point, Gibbs’ attorneys represented — and Gibbs testified — that the other attorneys of Prenda Law were responsible for handling all subpoena-related correspondence, that Gibbs reported Judge Wright’s decision to John Steele and Paul Hansmeier, and that they told Gibbs that they would take care of it, and later claimed they had. But Judge Wright made Gibbs admit that Gibbs found out that the ISPs had produced documents to Prenda Law after Judge Wright’s order, and never updated the court about that or amended his prior status report to the court. To put it mildly, Judge Wright was not happy about that.

Client, Client, Who’s The Client?

It was clear from the beginning of the hearing that Judge Wright viewed Prenda Law’s clients as shams — as mere instruments of the lawyers involved. “The only entities getting funds are law firms,” said Judge Wright. There was “no effort to transmit those funds to the entities,” which got “not dime one,” and the entities had not filed income tax returns, because they had no income. Wright also pronounced it “very interesting” that Hansmeier’s declaration suggested that settlement funds were being moved from one firm’s client trust account to another. He demanded of Waxler: “Is that what you get? That’s what I get.” Waxler responded that Gibbs had no personal knowledge of such things, and suggested that Hansmeier’s deposition showed he was the one with knowledge. “Mr. Hansmeier has no knowledge of anything,” Judge Wright scoffed, rather accurately depicting Mr. Hansmeier’s know-nothing stance at his deposition. There was a nervous titter — one of many — in the courtroom.

Waxler suggested that Prenda Law retains the funds to pay litigation expenses for things like forensics. “Like Hansmeier’s brother?” Judge Wright shot back, referring to payments to Hansmeier’s brother who acted as a computer forensic expert. Waxler later suggested that the funds are used to retain law firms. “They retain firms? Seriously? You can barely keep a straight face!” retorted Judge Wright. Judge Wright concluded that the law firms “basically prosecuted on their own behalf.”

All of that is important, by the way, because it goes to the disclosures that litigants must make in filing a federal case. Adam Steinbaugh has a good description of the federal rules requiring lawyers to disclose the parties with an interest in the lawsuits they file or defend. Judge Wright’s comments strongly suggested that he believed that Prenda Law’s principals were the only beneficiaries of these lawsuits, and that by concealing their interest, they were violating applicable federal rules. Under tough questioning from Judge Wright, Gibbs’ attorneys said that Gibbs made no such disclosures because he was aware of no such hidden interests — he relied entirely on Hansmeier and Steele for client information.

No Crying in Baseball, No Speaking Objections In Los Angeles

Mr. Pietz called a former client, Jessie Nason, who briefly testified that Brett Gibbs sued him in state court on various harebrained substitute-for-copyright state law claims, and that Gibbs had represented to a state court that he was able to identify Nason as a downloader because he lived alone. Nason noted indignantly that he doesn’t live alone, he lives with his wife, and therefore it wasn’t right to assume that he was the downloader. Dude, I don’t think you’ve thought this plan all the way through. This testimony fell largely flat — Judge Wright had already clearly formed an opinion that Mr. Gibbs’ investigation of the identity of downloaders was insufficient, and Nason’s testimony didn’t seem to accomplish anything. When one of Gibbs’ attorneys objected, at length, Judge Wright rather sternly told him that there are no speaking objections in Los Angeles (meaning you say “objection, irrelevant,” and then sit down — you don’t speechify). Damn straight.

Brett Gibbs’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Eventually Gibbs’ lawyers called him to the stand. He’s a tall, thin, dark-haired young man with a serious expression. He looked appropriately unhappy. I felt bad for him. “Let me be honest with you,” he stuttered at one point. “That would be good” said Judge Wright, deadpan.

Gibbs explained that he was hired as an independent contractor — not an employee — by Steele & Hansmeier, and later by Prenda Law. He took all his direction from Hansmeier and Steele — which cases to file, what to do with them, etc. Later, when Judge Wright began to question Prenda Law’s approach, he and Hansmeier and Steele together made a “cost benefit analysis” and decided to pull out of cases in this district. I’m sure. Later in January 2013, he said, Hansmeier offered him a job as “in house counsel” at Livewire LLC. This made him, Hansmeier told him, in house counsel of AF Holdings as well, because Livewire LLC owned AF Holdings.

On this point there was a rustling in the audience, where many people remembered that in February 2013 Hansmeier testified in San Francisco that a mysterious “undefined beneficiary trust” owned AF Holdings, not Livewire. Gibbs nervously explained that he was informed that the trust had sold AF Holdings to Livewire, but then learned at the time of the deposition that the transaction had not happened yet, hence Hansmeier’s testimony. I’m not sure what that made Gibbs between January and February, but that’s neither here not there.

Gibbs explained that he learned that Prenda Law, without his permission or knowledge, was sending out many letters with his signature stamp demanding settlements in cases across the nation. Ever optimistic, he asked Mark Lutz to stop it — but Lutz unsurprisingly responded that this was a matter for Steele. Gibbs smartened up and quit, substituting out of all California cases and letting Paul Duffy of Prenda Law substitute in.

Quitting under those circumstances sounds reasonable. Yet Judge Wright was aghast that Gibbs knowingly allowed Prenda Law to use his phone number and email address on Prenda Law cases filed in other states across the country by other lawyers. Gibbs explained he was tasked to help those other lawyers, and that he would forward messages to them. “That doesn’t sound sensible to me,” said Wright, rather understating it.

Judge Wright also questioned Gibbs rather harshly on how he identified downloaders, suggesting that he found Gibbs’ methodology (which included looking at maps to determine how far wifi signals from houses might reach) to be entirely insufficient. Judge Wright was looking at different maps. In fact he revealed that he looked up things on Google Earth himself — a comment that bought him much geek cred in the courtroom. (Pietz had more, by virtue of using an iPad mini to display his exhibits on the monitors, which I regarded as simply showing off.)

I found Gibbs believable as a young attorney out of his depth who fell in with the wrong crowd and made bad choices. But Judge Wright was clearly not entirely satisfied. He quizzed Gibbs on why he didn’t file notice of related cases informing the court that the various Prenda Law cases were related. Gibbs responded that courts in San Francisco had said that in Prenda Law cases up there, Prenda improperly joined multiple defendants in the same case even though they should be separate. That, Judge Wright points out, confuses the question of joinder of parties in one case with the question of whether cases are related, as every attorney in the room (save Gibbs’) nodded. Ultimately, on this point as on others, Gibbs said that Steele and Hansmeier made the decision.

We’re All Perry Mason In Here

In real life, people in the audience in court proceedings do not spring up to make dramatic revelations, because that gets you arrested. Today, it happened. Just after Gibbs testified that he had only limited responsibility for AF Holdings, an attorney in the audience stood and asked to be heard. I cringed, waiting for the kill. But Judge Wright asked him who he was and what he wanted. He identified himself as an attorney for Paul Godfread, who in turn is Alan Cooper’s attorney. Gibbs, he said, spoke with him in November 2012 and represented himself as “national counsel” for AF Holdings, one of the Prenda Law clients. Wright shook his head. “Have you noticed,” he said in rhetorical tones, “that every representation made by a lawyer with Prenda Law is not true.” The lawyer sat back down again. Some might say that didn’t bode well for Prenda.

The Road Ahead

Ultimately Judge Wright took the matter under submission, meaning he will rule in writing. “Good luck to you,” he said to Gibbs as he stepped down, eliciting more nervous chuckles.

Brett Gibbs is in trouble. I buy him as a dupe here. Indeed, he admitted that “maybe” he felt duped. Yet though he pointed to Hansmeier and Steele as the decision-makers in this travesty, and disclaimed any knowledge of wrongdoing, he and his attorneys seemed oddly reluctant to throw Steele and Hansmeier all the way under the bus. It’s more like he handed them a bus schedule and gave them a gentle shove in that general direction. Gibbs continued to argue that it wasn’t clear until Cooper’s testimony today that the Cooper signatures weren’t genuine, a position that drew guffaws in the courtroom and an incredulous expression from Judge Wright. He and his attorneys seemed to want to suspend judgment about whether Prenda committed any misconduct at all — a tactical error at this point, I think, and harmful to their credibility. The judge interrupted their closing arguing by asking pointedly whether a lawyer — even if he is supervised by people out of state — has an obligation to investigate facts himself. Ultimately, Judge Wright did not sound inclined to accept Gibbs’ innocent stance.

Wright did not say, explicitly, what he would do about Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, or the rest of the Prenda Law team. But when Pietz began laboriously to explain the basis for jurisdiction over each of them, Wright cut him short, suggesting that he found the evidence clear. (So, for the record, did I, given the evidence of Steele’s contacts with California, Steele’s and Hansmeier’s supervision of Gibbs in California, and Duffy’s substitution into cases in California and membership in the California bar. Their lack-of-jurisdiction argument is borderline frivolous.) I suspect, based on his comments, that Judge Wright will not let the consequences of this situation rest entirely on Gibbs’ shoulders. What could he do? He could probably sanction the Prenda Law parties under his inherent authority based on their supervision of Gibbs. But I suspect Judge Wright will go further than that, with criminal referrals and messages to various state bars. There could also be further orders to show cause, or even bench warrants. Judge Wright didn’t seem inclined to give them warning. But every indication is that they are in real legal peril.

There’s been a lot of anticipation of today’s hearing. The hearing lived up to it. It was a disastrous day for Prenda Law.

I’ll analyze Judge Wright’s order when he issues it.

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Comments on “Deep Dive Analysis: Brett Gibbs Gets His Day In Court — But Prenda Law Is The Star”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Been waiting all day...

As a side note, anyone else think this is like lawyer porn? You know someone is going to get completely and ruthlessly fucked in this case.

I don’t know about lawyer porn, but the schadenfreude is well deserved in this one. It is nice when bad things happen to very bad people. They saw this as a license to print money…by extorting people who may or may not have committed copyright infringement, but felt it was better to pay off the lawyers than spend the money on a lawyer and a court appearance where they could possibly lose a lot more money. And they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that meddling judge and the defense lawyer too.

Deimal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Been waiting all day...

Eh, I already used Schadenfreude this last weekend expressing myself over the Simcity 2013 launch fail. You’re point is well taken though. It is extremely pleasing to finally see ONE of these trolls taken to task.

Admittedly it is probably the group currently the most incompetent and public, but I hope to see others scared off because of this.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Been waiting all day...

Eh, I already used Schadenfreude this last weekend expressing myself over the Simcity 2013 launch fail.

That too. We can agree that both parties are pricks that deserve everything coming their way.

I hope to see others scared off because of this.

Certainly. I have nothing against people enforcing their copyright, though I’d love to see copyright brought back to 1790 standards instead of what we have today. But this was a get rich scheme that benefited corrupt lawyers at the expense of the public. However, like Righthaven before, I suspect another group is forming to do something similar as we speak. There is no shortage of fraudsters and con artists.

Deimal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Been waiting all day...

However, like Righthaven before, I suspect another group is forming to do something similar as we speak. There is no shortage of fraudsters and con artists.

As with CISPA and SOPA however, it is the duty of the public to keep themselves as aware as possible about these issues, and ensure they are handled appropriately. Public engagement in these things hopefully will help begin to swing the pendulum the other way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You're welcome, fanboys!

He actually considers himself a contributor to the site and claims that without him the site would be doomed.

Which makes him a paradoxical lunatic. If he’s so interested in Masnick’s demise and he insists that he can’t stand the site he should’ve made good on his threats and left long ago. Instead the best he can do is whine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Surprise Witness

“In real life, people in the audience in court proceedings do not spring up to make dramatic revelations, because that gets you arrested. Today, it happened.”

Wow… Just wow. I compared this to Ace Attorney games in my comment to the previous post, but did not expect that. Are you guys sure this is not fiction?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Surprise Witness

On the subject of Ace Attorney, I’m personally waiting for the following to occur (not in any particular order):

– Horrified, a lawyer ends up losing their hair.
– Someone throws their toupee, and faints after foaming at the mouth.
– Someone breaking a cigarette holder.
– Someone going into a massive headdesk session.
– Someone clapping to the point where they get struck by lightning.
– Someone strangling themselves breathless with a scarf.
– Someone clawing their face until they bleed.
– Someone incinerating a few butterflies.
– “Zvarri!”
– A visor exploding.
– A woman screaming, and feathers flying everywhere.
– Someone completely losing their shit, leaving their hair disheveled then laughing long and loud as the verdict is called.

But it all needs to end with the flying “NOT GUILTY” caption and confetti thrown everywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Time to come clean

These morons need to man up and admit they were running a scam. In the long run it would probably be easier for them that way.

I cant help but wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes with these guys. Its clear they’re hiding something, otherwise they should have quit long ago.

Is this entirely on Steele, or was he in league with a wider network of trolls, could some of them even be on the MAFIAA payroll?

davnel (profile) says:

Re: Time to come clean

I’m with you. There has to be something else going on. No one in their right mind would try to foist off the kind of crap they’re doing to a Federal court and not expect to get sanctioned, hard, unless they’re being paid, handsomely, to perpetuate the farce. Righthaven tried it, to a much lesser extent, and got bounced off the deck a few times. These guys should get slammed THROUGH the deck, directly into the jail floor. Who’s backing them? Who’s running them? Not even Steele is that smart.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Time to come clean

Eh. I’m not sure I see the need for this to go beyond Steele and Prenda. While he has proven himself quite clever at finding legal loopholes to exploit to his profit and the harm of many, Steele’s also shown himself to be arrogant and not quite as clever as he thinks he is. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he seriously thought (and perhaps still thinks) he can tap-dance his way out of this – because he’s simply that smart.

As for whether the others think the same or are just scared out of their minds as they see their house of cards crashing down, I couldn’t venture a guess.

Deimal (profile) says:

Sheer, complete idiocy

Honestly, how good is the law school that Steele went to? I mean, most of my pot-addled friends could tell you that leaving threatening voice mails is a sure-fire way to seriously screw over any remaining goodwill a judge may have for you. For an ATTORNEY to do that, displays not only incompetence, but a complete and total absence of intellect and tact (not that we had much evidence of either to be sure).

I think that this will figure fairly prominently in the coming decision, and I eagerly anticipate it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sheer, complete idiocy

According to his personal website (At least I think its him, the mailing address matches one of his nastygrams and he talks bs about being a divorce attorney) He went to the University of Minnesota Law School, not the best, but certainly not the worst (ranked #19).

Of course, who knows what his grades were.

Somebody please correct me if I’m blatantly wrong here, information on this goon is hard to come by.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sheer, complete idiocy

Tried to say it before but the comment got flagged for moderation, not sure why, maybe I accidentally used some kind of trigger word.

I suspect it was the combination of a link with the text being the same as the link, and the shortness of the post. The computer probably thought it was SPAM, but Mike or his daemons are good at getting moderated comments posted.

Its a never ending war with those SPAM bots.

Purple Emily says:

What did CEO-Cooper say?

Did the CEO-version of Alan Cooper ever respond to the summons?
Obviously he didn’t (and probably couldn’t) show up in the court, but I’m wondering if “he” has a lawyer representing him. The opposition filed on Friday was only for Steele, Hansmeier and Angela Van Den Hemel.

S. T. Stone says:

Prenda Law proves why jokes about lawyers exist.

United States District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II proves why we ultimately believe in the legal system, even when it fails us.

When you try to fuck the legal system up the ass and a true believer sits on the bench, you shouldn?t consider it surprising when they bend you over the table and ream you instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Brett Gibbs used the phrase, “Let me be honest with you.” This is like a verbal tic shown by people who are lying to you. I can’t think of a single time I’ve heard this phrase when the speaker wasn’t lying. It’s obvious to everyone, except the speaker.

If someone feels the need to clarify that they are now being honest, they are about to continue lying to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How long?

Sometime this week – probably depends on what other cases the judge has. Since the judge was well-prepared today, I expect he’s got the order already written in his mind.

I expect that the people who didn’t bother to show up are going to have a MUCH worse punishment waiting than Brett Gibbs, who did. Unless they can prove that Alan Cooper is lying, I think they deserve disbarment for misusing his identity (and forging his signature.) That’s not something you can do and still be able to represent people.

The subpoenas for AT&T and Verizon are sanction-worthy themselves – even if you give Prenda the benefit of the doubt (and I don’t) that those companies somehow received the stay order and ignored it, the fact remains that a Prenda employee kept calling AT&T for updates. That was inappropriate for a stayed order.

Then there’s the possibility of there being no actual client, the depositions where people seemed to not know how their own companies operated or who owned them, Gibbs saying they misused his signature, Steele leaving those voicemails for Cooper, the shoddy work identifying possible infringers, and the disobeying of the order to appear. Did I miss anything?

Lutz Is a Funny Guy (profile) says:

I Predict Criminal Charges

First, excellent write-up. Second, these guys are screwed. When the judge said: “It’s about fraudulent practice in federal court” – that is a clue he is about to bring the hammer to not only their careers, but also to have the US Attorney investigate charges for conspiracy to commit fraud on a court. LOL, this is the best thing to happen to Lutz and the boys…can’t wait for the order.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would echo others thanks for an excellent write up of Federal Court in action, Ken. This is an article I’ve been waiting on all day and your report does not disappoint in it’s tone nor in it’s conveyance of just how serious the judge is over these travesties of justice happening in his domain.

Given that judges are usually serious of demeanor, quiet in their intentions till the end, and patience sometimes that would give credit to a marble statue till all are heard, pretty well lays out the judge is about his business and has enough facts to have made up his mind just what is going on and how to deal with it.

Pretenda’s day has arrived needing only the nightcap to finish off courtroom drama that has been years in the making, starting off in Illinois. There has been left no doubt in my mind this will cascade down to the individual players. I will honestly be surprised if jail terms are not looming on the horizon for at least one of the bad actors in this.

Again, my thanks for such a well written and informative article given from first hand witnessing in what has to be a busy day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Bawk bawk bawk, Chicken Joe!

LMAO! Huh? I’m still here, waiting for Mike to man up enough to actually have a substantive debate with me where he answers direct questions directly and where he doesn’t run away like a little girl. I’m not really waiting, since I know he never will. But I’m here. Wake me up when Mike grows a pair.

DannyB (profile) says:

List of what they are in trouble for

Please feel free to add to this list anything I am failing to remember.

1. Gibbs lying in court under oath, contradicted by lawyer in audience.

2. Order suppressing AT&T & Verizon subpoenas for IP addresses, was ignored.

3. Forging Alan Cooper’s signature on documents.

4. Contacting a party Alan Cooper directly by phone.

5. Leaving threatening voicemail messages.

6. Threatening to use the courts as a club to silence Alan Cooper. (But that’s business as usual, like their extortion racket of using courts as a club to extort copyright “settlements”, which is what led to where we are today. They should have bypassed using the court and went directly to “sick strikes”.)

7. Not disclosing the actual interested parties of the litigation to the court. (The attorneys themselves are the interested parties, using the courts for subpoenas, then threatening parties directly, then dropping claims in court once the shakedown is complete.)

8. Obstruction to conceal the true organization of the sham of shell companies.

Any others?

I know that Out of the Blue just hates it when the crimes of copyright criminals are listed out and recognized by a federal court.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: List of what they are in trouble for

Thats about it – for now I would ascertain too.

Though I suspect Gibbs is going to specifically be on the hook under FRCP 7.1 and most definitely Local Rule 7.1-1

Then you have strange anomalies within his Declaration for the show cause compared to the Deposition he was counsel for in regards to Livewire Holdings LLC now owning AF Holdings LLC in one, and an unknown trust owning AF Holdings LLC in the other.

This is all going to have to be a case study in Professional Responsibility (or lack thereof) someday.

Oh also a very new analysis (looking at more of the atmosphere of the court) has been posted in a comment over at FightCopyrightTrolls here.

The last part of that long comment needs to be recopied everywhere and states it all I think:

What struck me as ominous for Gibbs and especially the rest of Prenda is that Pietz and Ranallo appeared well prepared to go into greater depth to establish that Gibbs was working in more than an ?of counsel? role, to argue the jurisdictional issues of the other Prenda guys, etc. But Wright really wasn?t interested in hearing more. But I don?t mean he didn?t find it relevant or convincing, more like he had made up his mind that this circus has gone on long enough. I would sum up his attitude at this point as ?Why bother? I don?t need to hear this.? It was as if Wright was satisfied that he had more than enough for? Whatever comes next? And when he got to that point he was just done.

To me, the absolute standout moment of the day was when Gibbs stepped down from the witness box and Wright said ?Good luck to you.? You had to be there to appreciate the menace in his voice.

For now, we can only guess what Gibbs might need that luck for.

Personally, I think Lady Justice is practicing her dropkicks. [emphasis added]

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: List of what they are in trouble for

11) Failure of many of them to appear in person at this hearing.

Failing to appear for the OSC simply means they are not wanting to be represented or to not, as judge Wright said, “explain themselves”. Therefore, they cannot contest anything that happens next. The judge said he gave them an opportunity to appear, and that’s all he had to do.

special-interesting (profile) says:

I am both breathless and speechless at the unusual directness of a judge’s examination of the normal, typical operations of a copyright troll. Yes this scrutiny is only likely because of flagrant violations of court procedures and falsifying submitted documents (and other stuff) but who’s complaining anyway?

What I do find so very encouraging is the brief mention of the methods for identifying potential targets for profitable prosecution. Not yet brought to light was why Steele apparently chose “Internet porn piracy?.

Clear (for whatever reasons) was the prosecutions choice to target the sensitive realm of controversial content. (p0rn) This is possibly abuse by segmenting out a class of people already targeted and publicly demonized (persecuted?) by religious and puritan organizations. Did they feel that pressuring such individuals from this group would be more susceptible to unpublicized capitulation?

This may not be specifically religious persecution but since it is a group persecuted by various religions it is definitely related. No question about it. It would be enlightening to examine the religious and moral beliefs of the prosecutors in such cases. Even if the motive was only profit it could still be found that the profiling was discriminatory.

A rare, decent to the point, article that brings up many of the predatory aspects of targeting controversial content viewers: (from

It is my understanding that this is the real ievil meat any such specialized copyright troll dines on. These are not just normal defendants but religiously segmented targets for legal stone-throwing.

Making sure to not leave unsaid the obvious; The unexplored depth of the many horrors of common copyright trolls has only been briefly touched on…

Forget the popcorn. (later) I want a hot dog with everything on it. -scarf-

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I am both breathless and speechless at the unusual
directness of a judge’s examination of the normal,
typical operations of a copyright troll.

So is Out of the Blue. No comments here yet. Imagine that.

Out of the Blue just hates it when a federal judge takes notice of how copyright trolls operate.

Using the courts as a mere tool in an extortion shakedown is going to get you in trouble eventually. I suppose that is why the new sick strikes program is designed to bypass all judicial review. But that tool will lead to trouble. Eventually, the copyright trolls are going to have to face reality.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Follow up.

It is often said and most of the time true that a lawyer only works for the client and often represents people/organizations whom they do not agree with otherwise how would a convicted felon get decent legal representation. This is obvious.

However. Ownership of the rights-holding firms, deciding such choice of counsel, themselves seem to be inextricably mixed with the principle partners of Predna.

Most (all?) of these firms seem to be artificial shell firms derived entirely by the Predna group. Only time and public scrutiny will tell. If such is true then the lawyer only working for the client defense is hollow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It very much has to do with copyright. Because it was based on the models of copyright enforcement so supported by many but untested in courts by the merits.

You’re just mad that you can’t squirm your way out of this, darryl. Why don’t you go back to talking to your solar panels and wish you had a brain that wasn’t composed of a polished turd?

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