Appeals Court Not At All Impressed By Prenda's Appeal
from the wanna-try-that-again dept
Team Prenda finally got to an appeals court on Monday and it didn’t go particularly well. The appeal in the Lightspeed case, in which Judge Patrick Murphy called them out for “flat-out lying” to the court and hit them with $261,000 in attorneys’ fees (a number that has been bumped up as Team Prenda was found in contempt for not actually paying) was heard on Monday, and the three judge panel in the 7th Circuit did not appear at all impressed by the arguments made by Daniel Voelker who was representing John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy. You can listen to the 32 minute hearing yourself for all the fun.
It starts off almost immediately, as Voelker argues there’s no basis for the district court ruling — and is interrupted by one of the judges, noting that the court found that the case was pursued in bad faith “which stands on its own as a basis for sanctions.” Voelker insists that the court “didn’t rely on any record nor cite any facts” and, again, he’s cut off: “well, it talks about an extensive pattern of lying and misrepresentations, and vindictive pursuit of claims that were, in the court’s view, frivolous or marginal at best. And, trying to extract settlement payments before an inevitable voluntary dismissal.”
In other words, within 3 minutes of the appeal hearing, the judges had made it clear that they were well-informed about the scheme Team Prenda had cooked up and why the district court had ruled the way it had. Voelker tries to slam the judge for taking “extrajudicial notice” of basically every other case where Prenda had been thumped. Of course, I don’t see how that helps Team Prenda at all: to argue “please ignore my clients’ record of being slammed by judges all across the country” doesn’t seem very convincing. And, immediately another judge jumped in to point out that there were, in fact, statements made on the record in those other cases that contradicted what was being said in this case. The same judge immediately highlights the questionable nature of the different organizations, such as the affiliation between Prenda Law and AF Holdings, and says that of course it’s reasonable for the judge to take notice of those contradictory claims.
Eventually, the judges ask about the relationship between the various organizations, including Prenda Law, Alpha Law and Steele Hansmeier (“in 25 words or less”) and Voelker doesn’t inspire any confidence by saying he has no ideas: “I can’t your honor. I don’t know, I don’t know what it is today; I don’t know what it was a year ago. So I wouldn’t want to even begin to tell you because I just don’t know.” One of the judge hits back immediately:
After a bit more of a back and forth she understates the situation:
There’s a lot of shell game going on here.
Voelker claims this has no relevance to the issue at hand. The judges don’t appear to buy it, at all, noting “this is all pretty serious conduct.”
It’s often a mistake to read too much into what appeals court panels (and Supreme Court Justices) say during oral hearings. Sometimes they’re just testing out theories or pushing various attorneys to see how thoroughly their arguments make sense. But in this case, it seems abundantly clear that the judges are incredibly skeptical about Team Prenda’s appeal.