Judge Wright Denies John Steele's Motion, Says Any Problem Is Steele's Own Fault, Directs Him To Legal Clinic

from the oh,-and-more-sanctions-on-the-way dept

Well, this hardly comes as a surprise, but after John Steele tried, via multiple motions and a disastrous in court appearance, to argue that his own due process rights had been violated because opposing attorneys Morgan Pietz and Nick Ranallo had not properly “served him” (and, further to have those lawyers sanctioned for such “fraud”), Judge Wright has denied the motion. The full filing is, once again, worth reading. He points out that this second motion doesn’t offer anything new from the earlier motion, and explains why Steele failed, by any definition under the law, to meet the requirements for such a motion. But, that’s only the warmup to Wright verbally benchslapping Steele for his ridiculous conduct once again. First, in response to the Fifth Amendment claims from Steele, Wright is direct and to the point:

Steele’s instant Motion for Reconsideration fails on every front. First, he does not assert a proper legal basis for reconsideration. Steele cites no law in his Motion. And during the hearing, Steele claimed that his basis for reconsideration was his Fifth Amendment right to due process. Exactly how this translates to a legal basis for reconsideration is anyone’s guess. Steele’s Motion offers nothing new for the Court to consider—he uses it only as a vehicle to rehash his earlier-rejected arguments.

As for the basic claims that Pietz and Ranallo somehow failed to serve Steele, Wright points out that, even if Steele was not properly served, it was solely as a result of his own mistakes.

Second, assuming this is a proper motion for reconsideration, the Court finds that any failure by Pietz and Ranallo to serve papers to Steele was caused by Steele’s own incompetence. On May 16, 2013, Steele filed his Request for Approval of Substitution of Attorney, where he requested to represent himself in place of his attorney Thomas Mazzucco. (ECF No. 143.) But in the Request and the accompanying forms, Steele entered his address incorrectly—not once, but four times. And because the Clerk of Court entered on the docket Steele’s address as shown, it is very likely that correspondence sent via mail since May 16, 2013, never reached Steele. Nevertheless, it is Steele’s duty to ensure that the Court has his proper address. See L.R. 41-6 (authorizing the Court to dismiss an action for a pro se party’s failure to update his address with the Court). And Steele has a duty to provide the Court with not only his current address, but also his telephone number, fax number, and email address. See id.; L.R. 83-2.7. Steele cannot skirt this duty merely because he is in pro se—the Local Rules apply whether a party is represented by an attorney or in pro se. L.R. 1-3 (“Persons appearing pro se are bound by these rules, and any reference in these rules to ‘attorney’ or ‘counsel’ applies to parties pro se unless the context requires otherwise.”).

You may remember that, during the hearing, Judge Wright pulled up that Request for Approval of Substitution of Attorney and asked Steele about it — leading to what multiple people present noted was an extremely uncomfortably long silence. That silence, of course, was likely Steele’s brain coming to terms with the fact that he’d painted himself into a total corner.

Furthermore, Wright points out that contrary to Steele’s suggestion that he had no idea what was going on in the case and had not even looked at the document — a highly unbelievable claim in the first place — the actual evidence, including Steele’s own statements, showed the exact opposite.

Fourth, although Steele seems to contend that this lack of service prejudiced him, because he was nonetheless involved in the motions filed by his cohorts through his joint and several liability for the Court-ordered sanctions, evidence suggests that Steele had actual knowledge despite any failure by Pietz and Ranallo to properly serve him. Pietz presents an email chain suggesting that Steele was centrally involved in the entire supersedeas bond issue, with Steele commenting, “Philip [Vineyard], Great motion.” (Pietz Decl., Ex. 2.) Moreover, Steele’s intimate knowledge of the case docket—in sufficient detail to point out the documents that have not been served— further suggests that he had actual knowledge of the papers filed by Pietz and Ranallo. (See e.g., ECF No. 197, at 2.) This raises the question how Steele was able to do this given his assertions at the hearing that he did not log onto CM/ECF or otherwise see the case docket.

Oops. It looks like, as expected, Steele’s inability to stop himself from trying to talk his way out of his situation has meant that he’s been caught out by his own words again.

Judge Wright also notes that it’s also clear that Steele is still working closely with the rest of Team Prenda, despite denials. This was rather obvious from the fact that Steele, both Hansmeiers and Lutz all filed motions making the same argument on the same day — including the formatting, footers and other bits of the filings being identical. In the courtroom, Wright had asked about this, leading Steele to try to tapdance around it, and then get angry and yell at the judge (leading to the quick end of the hearing).

Finally, the Court notes that the Prenda parties (John Steele, Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier, Peter Hansmeier, Mark Lutz, AF Holdings LLC, Ingenuity 13 LLC, and Prenda Law, Inc.) continue to act in concert. Philip Vineyard’s email chain, addressed to a number of these Prenda parties, confirms this. Also, the similarities in the substance, formatting, footers, and service list of the three Notices to the Court, filed by Mark Lutz, Paul Hansmeier, and Peter Hansmeier, in relation to Steele’s instant Motion further indicate that at least the four of them are in cahoots. (ECF Nos. 201– 204.) The concurrent filing of their papers are another indication of their relatedness. Even without these indicia, the Court has already determined that the Prenda parties have a history of conspiring together—there is nothing to suggest that they have stopped.

The end result is not just a dismissal, but Judge Wright declaring the motion “meritless and frivolous” and then says that because it was frivolous, Pietz and Ranallo can seek Rule 11 sanctions against Steele for making them go through the whole process of dealing with those motions (including having to hire a lawyer of their own to defend against the accusations of fraud on their part).

And, as a final kick in the pants, Judge Wright adds this little kicker to the end of the order:

Steele is advised that the Federal Pro Se Clinic is located in the United States Courthouse at 312 N. Spring Street, Room G-19, Main Street Floor, Los Angeles, California 90012. The clinic is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Federal Pro Se Clinic offers free, on-site information and guidance to individuals who are representing themselves in federal civil actions. Steele is encouraged to visit the clinic for advice concerning his case.

Of course, in most cases, a pro se party is a non-lawyer, so it might be reasonable to direct them to a clinic to learn a bit about the judicial process. In a situation like this, where Steele is (amazingly, I know) an actual bar-certified lawyer (though not in California) suggesting he visit the Federal Pro Se Clinic for “advice concerning his case” is about the nicest ways possible for Judge Wright to John Steele “you are a really, really, really bad lawyer.”

Oh, and that wasn’t the final piece of business for Judge Wright on the Prenda matter either. There was also the issue of the bond for the money they already owe in sanctions. Wright responded to Paul Duffy’s request for an order allowing a cashier’s check, rather than a bond (apparently, they’re having trouble getting a bond), by noting no such order is necessary, but also pointing out that Team Prenda — as per usual, waited until the last minute, and did not pay on time, and thus, extra sanctions have been added:

The Court recognizes the difficulties that the Prenda parties are encountering in trying to obtain a bond. Nonetheless, the Prenda parties have missed their July 15, 2013 deadline, which the Court previously extended. Prenda’s characteristic last-minute scramble once again falls short. Having fallen short, they once again seek relief. But none will be given.

The Court hereby sanctions each of the following persons or entities $500 per day, per person or entity, retroactive to July 16, 2013: John Steele, Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier, Ingenuity 13 LLC, AF Holdings LLC, and Prenda Law, Inc. This sanction must be paid to the Clerk of Court at the same time the cashier’s check is deposited. Thus, if the Prenda parties deposit the cashier’s check on Friday, July 19, 2013, then they must also pay a sanction of $12,000 to the Clerk of Court. If they deposit the check on Monday, July 22, 2013, the sanction rises to $21,000.

It feels like there needs to be a “Judge Wright is not impressed” meme…

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Comments on “Judge Wright Denies John Steele's Motion, Says Any Problem Is Steele's Own Fault, Directs Him To Legal Clinic”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“The Court hereby reminds Steele that failure to timely oppose the motion may result in the automatic imposition of the requested sanctions. L.R. 7-12.”

And here’s another subtle jab. Normally a judge would not say something like this. But since they’ve filed so much stuff either late or at the last second…

out_of_the_blue says:

I'm not impressed, either!

Since my contribution last night drew so many yaps from the ankle-biters, when merely pointing out this whole Prenda thing is boring especially to those who don’t know what it’s about by following through the at least FIFTY pieces, then my deal with Mike* obliges me to put out some more bait so fanboys will again simulate enthusiasm. Points by length of rant, bonuses when mis-directed, and be sure to use those “First Word” points you “Insiders” paid for so that your comments will be in blue (for your tribute to out_of_the_blue!) and skipped past.

Boredom with this endless Prenda crap brings me to a low point in enthusiasm for Techdirt. I’m warning you fanboys, if I don’t get at least a dozen ad hom attacks from this like last night, I just may not show up tomorrow! **

* Our deal is, Mike publishes boring crap narrowly focused to only the persons involved; with snark and mockery I try to steer him toward instead spending his “valuable” time on true societal problems. It’s a thankless task, so don’t bother to thank me.

** This is schtick. But what else can a reasonable person do to protest DULL? And I bet the fanboys still bite on it.

Pragmatic says:

Re: I'm not impressed, either!

What did I say, people? What did I say??! Cathy has a huge girl-boner for Mike and fantasizes constantly about being able to control or influence him ? or us.

Cathy, none of us are interested in you except for rubbernecking at the trainwreck that is your every post.

You’re an idiot, Cathy, but sometimes you’re an amusing idiot.

Trelly (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm not impressed, either!

“None of us are interested …”, yet they post endlessly and immediately.

Hate to point out the obvious, but the traffic YOU bring is what keeps things alive.

Bored? Irritated? Whatever, solutions exist for you.

I will just point out the utterly obvious, that you attack the person at every turn, rather than the argument. Epic failure is yours to claim, you have proven yourself worthy.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm not impressed, either!

Cathy’s “argument” is that all TD readers are “commie pirates.” She pisses and moans on every post like a dog leaving its scent, all the while claiming that this is all part of her epic plan to convert us to IP douchebaggery, or something. Meanwhile, according to Cathy, teh googlez is spying on us all for teh gubmint.

Sometimes it’s funny.

By “interested,” I meant, “willing to take you seriously.” My bad, perhaps that’s what I should have said. Take a look through her posts and you’ll see the breadth and depth of her craziness. It’s a trip.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think “mugu” is a good term, based on the phenomenon of Nigerian 419 scammers:

– Elevated, pompous sense of twisted morals
– Insisting that they deserve the money because of bullshit wool-over-the-eyes reasons
– Getting angry at the victims when called out for it
– “Legal” shenanigans
– Ever-increasing payment demands
– Actually very well off in monetary terms

Yeah, “mugu” would be a good term to describe them.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Judge Wright advising the Pro Se Clinic, best laugh I had in days! In these days when the scary revelations about the government spying it is great to see a Team Prenda story for entertainment. These guys just don’t get it. Judge Wright is on to all their bullshit. They may have fooled less savvy judges in the past but now this beat down will follow them wherever they go. Any subpenas they try to get from now on will be blocked. The ISP’s will only have to present this court and a few others and even a less competent judge than Judge Wright will see them for what they are. Scheming, lying, fraudulent, incompetent boobs.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Memetic Suggestion

It’s a play on words rather than a play on words meant for a specific person.

The case with KTVU and the NTSB was racist because those names labeled real people of Asian descent as dumb and arbitrarily accident prone. My use of Wong is a play on English phonetics using a common name and only bounces back to the comment I responded to. Thanks for being a buzz kill.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

I feel compelled to point out a key point made by Judge Wright, in contrast to a comment on the post about the motions (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130710/15280323761/john-steele-keeps-playing-games-with-judge-wright.shtml#c37)

In short the commentator (Jim Tyre) suggested that as pro se defendants, the rules about maintaining proper contact information did not apply. Judge Wright disagreed, for the same basic reason as I did at the time: “And Steele has a duty to provide the Court with not only his current address, but also his telephone number, fax number, and email address. See id.; L.R. 83-2.7. Steele cannot skirt this duty merely because he is in pro se?the Local Rules apply whether a party is represented by an attorney or in pro se.”

I felt this comment by the Judge was particularly worth highlighting. Its an obvious approach to the rule, as without it a pro se defendant could do exactly what John Steele Just tried, go pro se to allow a claim of ignorance to slow down the judicial process. And yet, it obviously wasn’t obvious, because it needed to be said to more then just John Steele.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Has anyone considered this is all just a “master plan” to try and push Judge Wright over the edge and make an angry slip of the tongue so they can once again claim he is biased against them and not representing the law?

They have been suspected of fraud/wrongdoing in other case and Judges did nothing substantial, I think they are trying to get another swing at the pinata and hope they get a Judge who can’t accept a lawyer would ever do what its obvious they have been doing.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Mike has actually made that very comment. I think Judge Wright realizes it as well.

Judge Wright has, every time Prenda seems to piss him off, ended the proceedings. He then took several days to write a well formulated and legally grounded ruling, rather then make his ruling in court, in anger.

I think he recognizes exactly what they are trying to do. He hasn’t hid his anger and distaste, but his rulings are firmly based in law, so he can clearly show that he took steps to separate himself from his anger before making a solid ruling. I can name several cases on this very site where a judge did less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course it doesn’t stop the usual Steele apologists from demanding that Wright be replaced or punished on the grounds of anti-copyright/IP bias. They just hate it when due process is enforced.

No dice, though. This is going to have some very painful precedents for the copyright settlement moneymaking machine, and the rest of the Internet is going to be following the details every delicious step of the way.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

At this point I’m not sure it would do them too much good. Judge Wright has gotten the word out loud and clear that Prenda is not to be trusted, and judges all across the country seem to be increasingly interested in what he has to say regarding them(not to mention the various government and legal departments that have been given the head’s up).

So even if they did manage to get him replaced(which I’d find to be very unlikely, Prenda’s reputation is at rock bottom right now, no one is going to believe anything they say without a massive amount of supporting evidence, something Prenda seems to always be in short supply of), I’d imagine just about any future judges would take a similarly dim view of their activities and actions, especially given the sheer and utter contempt they’ve shown for the legal system.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

I'm disappointed -- No Star Trek References

Something like this would have been fun:

Sulu: Attention: John Harrison. This is Captain Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise. A shuttle of highly trained officers is on its way to your location. If you do not surrender to them immediately, I will unleash the entire payload of advanced long-range torpedoes currently locked on to your location. You have two minutes to confirm your compliance. Refusal to do so will result in your obliteration. And If you test me, you will fail.

Frankz (profile) says:

How long will the investigations take?

The question keeps coming up, “How are these guys still practicing law?”. Since we know that Judge Wright referred all of them to every bar they belong to, and the DOJ, and the IRS, can anyone take a guess as to how long any of those investigations might take, or till we at least hear anything more about any of them? I understand it’s a long and slow process, but how long and how slow is that? 6 months? 1 year? 2 years?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: How long will the investigations take?

Which wouldn’t be too bad, if they weren’t still causing havok to all the people they were shaking down for last minute cash in the meantime. As it is however they need to be dis-barred as quickly as the system can manage it, otherwise they will just keep racking up the money, and shaking down people all the while.

Anonymous Coward says:

>> It feels like there needs to be a “Judge Wright is not impressed” meme…

Unfortunately, I can’t find a decent-resolution image.

This one is most promising for facial expression.

This one could probably be doctored to look more unimpressed.

Also, that one may be encumbered by copyright given the immediate source, though it’s probably a crop from a court-generated press shot given that it appears on several other, unrelated pages.

GMacGuffin says:

A Theory on the Seeming Ubuiquity of Bad Lawyering

Thing is, in law school they teach you the law, and if you’re lucky, some practical skills for the real world. But it’s all rather abstract until you are actually in the litigation trenches.

Used to be that most law students would get a clerking job or internship while in school, where they would be mentored by a practicing attorney on how things actually work; what kind of arguments or motions you can actually bring without looking like an idiot or failing the laugh test; and how to go about doing it. Or, would get a job at a law firm after graduation, obtaining the same guidance.

Last five years or so, I have increasingly been astounded by incomprehensible arguments, bizarre motions, and all sorts of litigation weirdness that only frustrates and wastes the time and resources of the Court and all others involved.

When looking at the attorneys’ backgrounds, these are often fairly new attorneys, with no boots-on-the-ground practical law firm experience. This trend’s timing ties into that whole economic crash business and law firms downsizing, and the like. So these kids just go into business for themselves right out of school, and are wreaking bizarre havoc in the Courts.

This theory was recently buttressed by the California Bar, who is working up proposed CLE practical experience requirements for new lawyers. (OK, so it isn’t just me who is seeing this trend.)

An old adage was that a person who graduates from law school then hangs out a shingle should put the word “Malpractice” on it as well.

You damn sure don’t want a doctor just out of school cutting into you based on his test scores. Similarly, you probably don’t want a fresh new lawyer on his own representing you on anything, you know, important.

I frankly don’t know what practical experience the Prenda-related lawyers had prior to opening up their own shops, but I can sure see the correlation to the above theory (with an added extra dose of ethical bankruptcy).

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