Bad Lawyer Tricks, By John Steele

from the not-a-good-idea dept

Last week, we wrote about a bunch of the members of Team Prenda submitting separate filings with Judge Otis Wright, who has been the most vocal in calling them out for their questionable legal shenanigans, trying (once again) to go on the offense and accuse their accusers. John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, Peter Hansmeier and Mark Lutz all filed motions claiming that the lawyers representing the John Doe defendant in the case, Morgan Pietz and Nick Ranallo, had failed to serve each of them with updated filings concerning the case. Incredibly, they tried to suggest that it was Pietz and Ranallo who were acting fraudulently and should be sanctioned. It’s the classic John Steele move of “I know you are, but what am I” any time anyone calls him on his activities.

Pietz and Ranallo, having now been ridiculously accused of fraudulent activity, have hired another lawyer, Lawrence Heller, to represent them on this silly tangent, and Heller submitted quite a response, focused on John Steele’s motion. The filings from the other three are dismissed in a footnote:

Mark Lutz, Paul Hansmeier and Peter Hansmeier have filed what they call “Notices to the Court,” which are unsworn pleadings which attempt to evidence that they have not received certain pleadings since going pro se. Among numerous other defects, these “Notices” are neither verified, nor sworn under penalty of perjury and, to the extent they have any evidentiary value at all, should be struck or at least wholly ignored.

But the arguments against Steele’s filing are much more serious. As you may recall, this was actually Steele’s second attempt at making this argument, with the first one getting rejected by Judge Wright in less than an hour. The claims that Steele and the others were somehow taken by surprise by the filings in this case and were unaware of them are hard to support, and Heller makes that point excessively clear. First, Heller points out that Steele’s claim that Pietz and Ranallo had submitted “scores of papers” without serving him, and that those papers were “requests for relief” was entirely bogus. Steele was represented by counsel for quite some time, and after he went pro se (representing himself) Pietz and Ranallo had only filed two documents, both merely opposing specific motions from Team Prenda.

Furthermore, Heller points out that the only one actually violating the court’s rules are the members of Team Prenda who failed to properly notify a change in contact information, leading to the lack of direct service. Most seriously, Heller says that the email “evidence” that Steele submitted with his filing, which he claims is “proof” that Pietz knew he wasn’t serving Steele, has been doctored. And, finally, Heller points out that this all just seems par for the course for Team Prenda in playing word games rather than facing up to the fact that they’re in deep trouble:

Although already sanctioned by this court, it is clear that neither Steele nor his contingent have learned their lesson. As frivolous as Steele’s motion is, Pietz and Ranallo were compelled to retain outside counsel to defend it. Pietz and Ranallo should be compensated for having to respond to this baseless motion through the court’s issuance, on its own initiatve, of an OSC re: Sanctions or, alternatively, through the court’s setting of a hearing date for Pietz and Ranallo to have their Rule 11 sanctions motion heard…

It must be said: finally, enough is enough!

As for Steele’s “evidence,” Heller points out, as is clear from the email itself, that rather than an admission of a failure on the part of Pietz, Pietz’s email is actually an attempt to stop Steele from avoiding service, by noting that Pietz is happy to send Steele copies of the filing, by whatever means are most appropriate — and that this wouldn’t have been an issue if Steele had properly kept everyone informed of his correct contact information, as is clearly required by the court. Separately, they point out that plenty of evidence, including some submitted by Steele himself has clearly established what his email address is, which is also where Pietz sent copies of the filings that Steele claims were never given to him.

Moreover, Steele himself has submitted evidence to this Court definitively establishing that he maintains at least the email address: Specifically, in his “Amended” Motion For Reconsideration (ECF No. 205, pp. 6-7), Steele for, the first time attaches as Exhibit 1 the email which be omitted from the original Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 201), and which he swears, under penalty of perjury, that he received at the said email address. Steele’s submission of the June 23rd email confirms that he does in fact have an email account he has used recently, and that he is therefore in violation of L.R. 41-6 and L.R. 83-2.4, for failing to provide that email address to the Court and to all parties. Similarly, Steele’s Illinois ARDC page lists a phone number; so he has one of those too, which he has also neglected to provide to the Court or the parties. There can be little doubt that he also has a fax number he failed to disclose. In View of Steele’s violations of the local rule designed to facilitate service of process, the instant motion is clearly brought in bad faith.

And then we get to the funny stuff. The email “evidence” that Steele submitted to the court was an email that Pietz sent, but when he sent it, it bounced back, saying that there was no such email address. That leads to one of two possibilities, neither of which look good for Steele:

In view of Mr. Steele’s sworn assertion that he actually did receive the June 23rd email from Pietz, it is thus surprising that the email in question, which was sent to immediately bounced back to sender from that address. (See Pietz Dec’l., Exhibit 1). In light of the bounce-back, there are only two possibilities: either Steele has somehow configured his Gmail account to automatically respond with false “Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently” messages to all emails he receives, even though he actually does receive the messages; or (ii) as seems more probable, Steele did not receive the June 23rd email directly, but rather it was forwarded to him by one of his cronies who was also included on Pietz’s email chain. A close look at the top of Steele’s Exhibit A shows partial text remnants. Moreover, the email is of an abnormally small size. Both of these facts strongly suggest that a header has been cutoff at the top of the email to conceal how it was received. It seems apparent that Steele has purposefully omitted an email header, which would presumably show one of his co-conspirators forwarding the June 23rd message from Pietz to whatever new email address Steele is using nowadays.

Since Steele’s motion, as well as his sworn affidavit, tacitly rely upon the premise that he has not been in close contact with Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and counsel for Prenda Law, Inc., about the bond issue since going pro se, one can certainly understand why he may have been tempted to cut out the header showing him communicating with these people. In other words, in what would seem to be a truly staggering–and foolish–bit of chutzpah, Steele appears to have once again tried to slip a doctored document past this Court in the hopes of getting his way.

Further, given that the email address was used by “someone” to register certain Internet domain names to “Alan Cooper” at a Phoenix residence where Steele’s sister lived with Anthony Saltmarsh, there can be little question as to why Steele might have been tempted to discontinue using that account. Using that email address potentially links Steele to criminal identity theft activity. However, thanks to his recent filing. Mr. Steele has now sworn under penalty of perjury, that he has recently received email sent to even though that may be perjury.

You get the feeling that John Steele is stupendously bad at chess, while simultaneously believing that he could beat Kasparov and Deep Blue in concurrent matches. The more he talks, each time believing he’s found the magic “out,” the deeper he seems to dig his own hole. This is a different kind of digging than, say, a Charles Carreon, who would just keep fighting. Steele acts as if he really thinks that he has the whole system beat, when the reality is each time he tries to “beat” the system, he’s just piling up another potential problem for himself.

For example, there’s also more evidence that Steele is making claims to the court that are not just bogus, but where Steele’s own actions show that they are bogus:

However, through what may have been an inadvertent slip-up, there is compelling evidence that Steele was actually aware, or should have been aware of ECF No. 175 (Pietz’s opposition to Duffy’s motion to approve the initial bond) since at least June 14, 2013. On May 23, 2013, Paul Duffy filed his motion to have the bond he posted on behalf of all Prenda parties other than Gibbs approved by this Court (ECF No. 171). On June 3, 2013, Pietz filed a response asking that the bond be conditionally approved, subject to certain conditions, and subject to the posting ofan additional bond (ECF No. 175). It is this document, ECF No. 175, from early June, which Steele would later say he was denied an opportunity to respond to. On June 6, 2013, the Court entered the proposed order submitted with the response, conditionally approving the bond, as requested by Pietz (ECF No. 176). On June I 1, 2013, Prenda Law, Inc. through associate Philip Vineyard of the Kleindinst Firm, announced by email to all parties (including to that they would be appealing the Court’s order on the bond (i.e., appealing ECF No. 176) and filing an emergency motion seeking relief from the Ninth Circuit on that issue. (Pietz Dec’l., Exhibit B.)

By itself, the email from Philip Vineyard to Steele et al. Would have been sufficient to put Steele on notice of the fact that proceedings were underway in the District Court on the bond issue. See id. at pp. 1-2. The fact that Prenda was appealing the issue would also have put Steele on notice that the bond proceedings had not gone as his similarly situated counterparts may have hoped. However, that is not all that happens on the email thread.

On June 14, 2013, at 9:54 AM, Mr. Vineyard circulated to all parties what he styled a “pre-executed version of Prenda Law’s emergency motion to the Ninth Circuit” on the bond issue. Id. at. p. 11

About a half hour later, at 10:20 AM, John Steele wrote back to Mr. Vineyard, copying Pietz, saying,

Great motion. On page 5, I want to take issue with the bottom of the page, right before footnote 23. No one that I am aware of (on our side) stated that Prenda or anyone else had a policy of demanding a settlement amount just low enough to avoid legal action. This is something the bad guys always claim.” Id. at 14.

Vineyard then wrote back a few minutes later saying “Thanks, John. I shall amend the motion to reflect this.” Both the “pre-execution” version Vineyard circulated, which Steele apparently reviewed and provided guidance on, as well as the final version ultimately filed with the Ninth Circuit, extensively discuss Pietz’s opposition to Duffy’s motion to the approve the bond (ECF No. 175). Clearly, Steele reviewed Vineyards motion on June 14, 2013, and Vineyard’s motion discusses at length the opposition (i.e., ECF No. 175) to which Steele states he was denied an opportunity to respond because he was unaware of it. There can be no question that Steele had every opportunity to respond to Pietz’s opposition, despite his false claims, which form the basis of his motion, to the contrary.

Further, Steele has known that there would be a dispute about the amount and conditions of the bond since at least May 20, 2013. See ECF No. 175-2, pp. 1-5 (meet and confer email from Pietz to Prenda parties, including to, which was ignored by all of them, except for some nonsensical ramblings from Mr. Duffy).

In view of all this evidence, it seems that Steele was just about as “shocked” about the bond issue before this Court as Captain Renault was to find that gambling was going on at Rick’s Cafe Americain.

Here’s a basic tip: if you’re going to claim to a court that you have no idea certain documents are being filed, probably don’t (a) use the same email address that the very same documents were mailed to and (b) don’t send the counsel you’re accusing of not informing you of documents filed in the very case in question — that you insist you’re not paying attention to — email evidence that you’re not only very much paying attention, but actively involved in the drafting, review and approval of filings in the case.

In a footnote, the filing also notes that this is more evidence that Steele has a leading role in Team Prenda’s legal strategy, despite his claims to have absolutely nothing to do with any of it:

This obviously begs the question of why counsel for Prenda Law, Inc., whose “sole principal” is supposedly Paul Duffy is taking their marching orders from Steele, a party with which Prenda likely has a conflict (particularly in view of Hansmeier’s deposition testimony that obtaining the Alan Cooper signatures was all Steele’s doing).

This case just gets more and more and more entertaining.

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Companies: af holdings, prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “Bad Lawyer Tricks, By John Steele”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And people wondered why when sued by Steele, Duffy, Prenda my response wasn’t fear, but getting pissed off and reaching out to people to line up help for others also targeted if they wanted it.

This is part and parcel the Steele school of legal maneuvers. I think I was just ahead of my time.
Scroll down to where I say…
“Because it’s my tour, I want to give a shout out to Steele Hansmeier LLC”

And now there are tags just for the players in that game. I am awesome at predicting the future I think…

I’d wish Steele luck, but he needs way more than anyone can offer.

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

One significant (IMO) inference from the memorandum that was left out, is the very fact that Steele deleted his email account. To those who did not follow the link to my story, here is the comment by Mysterious Anonymous that elaborates this thought:

John Steele deleted his Gmail account?

One that has been used extensively in the course of his litigation activities at Steele | Hansmeier and Prenda Law, Inc., in perhaps hundreds of cases in dozens of federal district courts across the USA?

One that was used to register domain names for Prenda and their supposed clients?

One that was associated with the Alan Cooper ID theft?

After he was referred to the USAO and IRS-CI for criminal investigation?

After he was referred to state Bar associations for investigation?

Holy shit! Can you say






Wow. Wow. Wow.

What was in there that Steele is suddenly so desperate to hide?

I?m surprised Heller didn?t raise the issue, seems like a huge oversight. Even though it may not be strictly relevant to the 08333 case and their response, it is surely useful as another demonstration of Prenda?s bad faith and lack of ethics. Surely attorneys operate under record retention requirements that do not include ?I can delete all my f%^&king email whenever I want because I am in a panic trying to avoid service and destroy evidence!?

All the histrionics about the guy with CCleaner installed and Steele wipes his f%^&king email account?

This isn?t going to end well. If Nick and Morgan don?t take him to task for it, every other defendant with a counterclaim will have a field day, as will the guys driving the party vans.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wow, the contents of that account must have been damning indeed if he’s willing to be charged with destruction of evidence like that, that or he just panicked and did it without realizing what exactly that will look like to anyone who is investigating him.

Unfortunately, if I’m reading the wikipedia entry right, that was probably the worst thing he could have done, as it means any investigators will be able to go off of ‘worst case scenario’ regarding what to charge him with, as he no longer has any contradictory evidence, and his other actions strongly indicate ‘less than legal’ actions and motivations.

Here’s hoping one of the lawyers involved, or one of those investigating are quick enough to keep any backups from getting deleted as well, I would find it absolutely hilarious if his emails were able to be used as evidence against him, and he was able to be charged for attempting to destroy said evidence.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

One significant (IMO) inference from the memorandum that was left out, is the very fact that Steele deleted his email account. To those who did not follow the link to my story, here is the comment by Mysterious Anonymous that elaborates this thought:

Did he really delete the account? I’m not convinced of that. He could have set up an autoresponder for emails from Pietz that pretends to be a bounceback notice…

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes they did:

I also sent an email to that address and it bounced:

Mike, it is possible, but out of two possibility: deleted account and faked autoresponse: which one is more plausible?

On the other hand, being cautious in accusations never hurts. I’m sure ( 🙂 ) there are currently inquires are being made, so it is possible we will soon learn the truth.

apauld (profile) says:

Stupid Lawyer Tricks

I was thinking this post should be entitled “Stupid Lawyer Tricks.” However, being that John Steele is now known throughout the world as an exceptionally stupid lawyer, it becomes difficult to classify any thing he does as ‘tricks’ anymore. Perhaps the title “John Steele Gives The Government Reasons To Jail/Castrate Him” would be more appropriate.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

I think Steele has been stretching the truth for so long now that he doesn’t know the difference of what’s true and what’s fiction.

My opinion of course but if what Heller has put forth in these documents is true from Rannalo and Pietz’s side of the argument then Judge Wright is not going to be a happy camper.

Also did anyone notice that Steele avoids any sworn affdavits or any filings that are under oath so he can not get grilled in court on them if he needs to conveniently have a “refreshed recollection of events” if so warranted to get him out of the crosshairs.

This is standard for anyone associated with Prenda to deny, deny, deny and blame anyone not in the Prenda inner circle and make them the scapegoat.

Prenda still has not posted the 235K bond with Pietz and the court. This hearing in front of Judge Wright should go over real well, especially when he finds out Team Prenda is not living up to his order to communicate with Pietz in regards to the conditions of the bond and the 14 days they had to do it in.

I recall Judge Wright stating in his order they would face an additional 1k a day penalty and he might issue additional sanctions against Team Prenda.

Now that Gibbs seems to realize that Steele is throwing him under the bus, I wonder how much old John is sweating that Gibbs may turn witness is a RICO investigation kicks in and he may also turn witness for the IRS Criminal Division.

It should be interesting, Prenda still has to give answers to Troll Gooodhue for Judge Snow in the Harris case in Arizona as well.

Should be interesting to see how things fair for these clowns in the next while

John Henry (profile) says:

Just to put a fine point on the so-called deletion of the email account – it’s not necessarily spoliation. He may have preserved all of the emails and metadata in an off-line container.

I am not saying that would be a smart way to go about things, just saying that it is probably reasonable enough to avoid a spoliation sanction.

With all that said, when are we gonna get some discovery requests for evidence from that account?

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I doubt Steele would preserve anything to help any defense counsel, so I think we are dreaming a tad if we think that happened.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone does make a query to the court asking any information regarding the deleted e-mail account to be held, we will have to see if a request is made to Judge Wright for this.

Lord knows I think when Steele realised how much of these domains registrations and other information led back to him and his e-mail account I am sure he went into panic mode and deleted it to try and wash some things away, except it only make it looks more suspicious than it already was.

In my opinion Steele is one of those guys who just thinks he is too smart for his own good and that he thought opf every little thing in this scheme, except he wasn’t and he has left a trail of evidence that point back to himself.

No wonder he took the fifth

Anonymouse says:

What a mess

I am still amazed that this is going on i have not been following techdirt as much as i usually do so missed the last few posts, but to read this it seems like nothign has changed from a few months ago, with Steele still playing games and trying to show he does not know anything about anything…lol. I wonder when the Judge is going to hold him in contempt of court and have him jailed for a short while so he can figure out what he actually wants to say, because at the moment he seems to be bouncing around trying to grasp at anything that will make this all go away.

Steeley boy, if you happen to read these comments just stop already, accept you have been caught out and pay what is due to those you have tried to manipulate illegally.

Then go about your business and hope that no other judge is going to come crashing down on you, sadly this is the nature of the business you are in, when it has been found you have lied as much as you have you are going to feel a lot of pain before it calms down, probably the best thing would be to hire an attorney who can stop you putting your foot in it and just do as the court asks, if you are afraid of criminal actions being taken against you well just know that they are going to happen and accept them quietly with as little fuss as possible, maybe it will cost you a few thousand dollars and a little time in jail but eventually you will be out to spend your millions made from the cases you have won.

CTVic (profile) says:

This case keeps getting more and more entertaining … the same way that Brittney Spears, or Amy Winehouse got more entertaining. I always felt a little guilty watching these self-made celebrities slowly self destruct just as an empathic response. These are people, and they’re putting themselves and their families through hell for the general public to laugh and sneer at.

Not so with John Steele. Here’s a lawyer (strike one) running a settlement factory (strike two) that makes his living by threatening thousands of people, guilty and innocent alike (strike three). I feel the same level of empathy for John Steele that I do for that little desert lizard that shoots blood out of its eyeballs: subhuman and a little bit gross.

Squirm, John. Squirm.

Arioch (profile) says:

The thing about an email address is

The one thing that has struck me about this Prenda fiasco is the assumption that john steele (which doesn’t half sound like a made up name) runs a set of companies with what apparently is a quite large turnover dealing with internet issues, but he uses a free email address from gmail?

Oh come on.

Perhaps the American justice system should look a little deeper for all his other email addresses

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