Courts Start Demanding Actual Answers From Team Prenda
from the and-on-and-on dept
The saga of Team Prenda continues, as courts in two of the Prenda cases we’ve been following have shown that they’re getting pretty tired with Team Prenda’s attempts to dance around the issues. First up, we’ve got the various AF Holdings cases up in Minnesota. If you don’t recall, these cases had been dismissed, but after the court learned about some of Team Prenda’s antics, it reopened the case with an eye towards determining if Team Prenda was guilty of fraud on the court in coaxing settlements out of people on a faulty or illegal basis. Amusingly, late last week, Paul Hansmeier, sticking to Team Prenda’s ridiculous strategy of “whenever we’re completely backed into a corner, charge!” filed a notice claiming that AF Holdings intended to reopen the original cases. That is, he’s now claiming that because magistrate judge Franklin Noel is investigating them for fraud in the original cases, they now want to continue to “sue” people for infringement to show how “legitimate” their cases really were. The notice is worth reading, mainly for the comedic value. Hansmeier claims that Alan Cooper is mentally unstable and was trying to extort money from John Steele. Also, that there was no forgery of Cooper’s signature, but rather Cooper “repudiating” his association with AF Holdings.
Of course, the main reason for making this filing isn’t to reopen the cases, or to make laughable claims about Alan Cooper, but rather this:
However, Plaintiff has reached the outer-limits of what it can learn without the coercive power of formal discovery. As such, Plaintiff respectfully requests the Court to issue an order scheduling a Rule 26(f) conference so it resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
Basically, it’s Paul Hansmeier asking the court for a fishing expedition against Cooper and his lawyer Paul Godfread. It’s hard to see this as anything more than an attempt to be a nuisance.
However, it seems highly unlikely that magistrate judge Noel is buying anything that Hansmeier is selling. Instead, his latest order shows that he’s getting pretty damn tired of Team Prenda’s runaround. It makes no mention of Hansmeier’s filing, denies the local counsel Michael Dugas’ request to be dropped from the case (noting that he signed the forged papers), repeats the findings of Judge Wright in California, and then orders AF Holdings/Team Prenda to explain why Judge Wright’s findings shouldn’t apply equally to these cases:
The plaintiff shall file a memorandum of law on or before August 26, 2013 showing cause as to why Judge Wright’s factual findings are not binding against it in these cases under the common law doctrine of issue preclusion. See, e.g., Bechtold v. City of Rosemount, 104 F.3d 1062, 1066-67 (8th Cir. 1997) (issue preclusion appropriate under Minnesota law if (1) the issues are identical; (2) the prior adjudication ended with a final judgment on the merits; (3) the plaintiff was a party to the prior adjudication; and (4) the plaintiff was given a full and fair opportunity to be heard on the adjudicated issue).
The Clerk of Court shall correct the docket to reflect that Mr. Michael K. Dugas remains counsel of record for the plaintiff. Although he filed a notice of withdrawal and substitution, his withdrawal was not effective upon filing under Local Rule 83.7(b) because it would delay the progress of this case. He signed the complaint to which the forged documents were attached. If Mr. Dugas wishes to withdraw as counsel of record for the plaintiff, he must proceed in accordance with Local Rule 83.7(c) and establish good cause to do so.
In other words, Team Prenda’s can’t just ignore Judge Wright’s ruling here, and it certainly sounds like Judge Noel has no time for Hansmeier’s plans to play discovery games.
Meanwhile, back in the Navasca case in Northern California, it appears that the recent sanctions against Team Prenda that Judge Edward Chen awarded have been ignored by Team Prenda, and a magistrate judge in that court, Nador Vadas, would like to know why. Oh, that’s not all Judge Vadas would like to know. It appears that Judge Vadas is now taking a special interest in the now-infamous Paul Hansmeier deposition from this case, which was one of the key documents that convinced Judge Wright that Prenda was up to no good. Judge Vadas has some questions he’d like AF Holdings to answer, and they are the kinds of questions that Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, John Steele and Mark Lutz probably don’t want to answer about who actually is behind AF Holdings and the various “trusts” such as Salt Marsh:
Hansmeier testified that AF Holdings was owned by a trust, but he could not testify about the name of the trust…. In a May 2, 2013 filing, Mark Lutz, who identifies himself as someone who “manage[s] various adult content related companies, including AF Holdings LLC,” declared that “Salt Marsh is the name of the trust that owns AF Holdings”…. At the hearing, AF Holdings should be prepared to identify the name of its owner and any entity or person having a financial interest in the outcome of this case, beyond Salt Marsh.
AF Holdings should be prepared to explain why it represented that there were “no known persons, associations of persons, firms, partnerships, corporations (including parent corporations), or other entities (other than the parties themselves) that may have personal or affiliated financial interest in the subject matter in controversy, or any other kind of interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding other than the parties.” Doc. No. 2 (Certificate of Interested Entities).
AF Holdings should be prepared to explain why Paul Hansmeier was designated as its 30(b)(6) deponent instead of Mark Lutz.
Paul Hansmeier was unable to testify about “the exact mechanisms by which the money goes from” to AF Holdings from the law firms that represent it…. AF Holdings should be prepared to explain these “exact mechanisms” at the hearing, and also should be prepared to provide an accounting of the funds it has received from persons it has sued or threatened to sue for copyright violation based on allegedly illegal downloading of its adult titles.
Those all seem like important questions. Questions that would be easy to answer if there were nothing nefarious going on, but which Team Prenda has avoided answering in any meaningful way for months. The hearing at which they need to have such answers ready will be on August 28th. I imagine it will be quite interesting.