Richard Liebowtiz's Lawyer To Judge: Please Excuse His Lying To The Court Since He Doesn't Really Know How To Law
from the say-what-now? dept
Earlier this week we already covered infamous and oft-sanctioned copyright troll lawyer, Richard Liebowitz, showing up in court to explain to the judge why he lied about the timing of the death of his grandfather multiple times over the course of many months as he tried to explain away why he missed a discovery conference. As we noted, Liebowitz actually showed up in court this time (good call, considering that the judge made it clear she was considering sending him to jail), and brought a lawyer with him (also a good call). He did remain out of jail, though Judge Cathy Seibel noted that she had referred the matter to the Grievance Committee, which could lead to sanctions. She also warned that her various contempt rulings against Liebowitz will require him to disclose the sanctions both to other courts and to prospective clients.
At the hearing, it was mentioned that Liebowitz’s newly found lawyers, had sent a letter to the judge, but that letter was not public yet. Late yesterday, the letter was finally added to the docket and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. You can pretty much tell that the lawyer writing the letter, Richard Greenberg, admits, that he has just been brought into this shit show of a situation, and has decided the best strategy is to throw himself on the mercy of the court. And, apparently, Greenberg decided the best way to do this is to treat Liebowtiz as if he’s a little kid who just didn’t know any better that lying to a judge is a bad idea. It honestly does read like the kind of note a parent would write for a kid, so I have to admit that this little tidbit at the end of the letter puts much of the rest of it in context:
Counsel has known Richard and his family for years, even as long ago as Richard’s Bar Mitzvah, and will always be available to render advice and guidance to Richard, and counsel will advise Richard to make use of this resource more often.
In other words, it sounds like Greenberg is a friend of Richard’s family, and much of the letter then does read as if he’s referring to a naughty kid, not an actual lawyer with years of experience. So much of the letter is quite insane, but it seems to focus on how little experience Richard actually has, such that he might not know that lying to a judge and making up excuses is a bad idea.
Richard’s Background. Richard is an unmarried 31-year-old who resides with his parents in Hewlett, New York. He graduated with a BA degree in communications from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010, and with a J.D. degree from Hofstra University Law School in 2014. In 2015 he was admitted by the Second Department to the Bar of the State of New York, and in the same year he opened the Liebowitz Law Firm, located at 11 Sunrise Plaza, Valley Stream, New York, where he has practiced continuously ever since. Richard has had no other employment, experience or supervision as a lawyer.
Right. I get that Liebowitz may not know all the nuances and ins and outs of litigation and such, but the whole paragraph makes it sound like he’s a dumb child, rather than a 31-year-old man with a law degree, who has been practicing before the court in a huge number of cases. And this wasn’t about some sort of sophisticated nuanced issue. This was about lying to a judge. No offense, but you don’t have to have a law degree to know that’s a bad idea and he does have a law degree.
After first making it sound like Richard is a clueless, inexperienced idiot, he then immediately claims that Richard has a growing law firm, even employing experienced lawyers, and has filed approximately 2,000 cases. So, uh, which is it? Is he a clueless, inexperienced rube, or an experienced lawyer who employs other lawyers who actually know better?
Since its opening, Richard’s law practice has grown exponentially, filing approximately 2000 law suits under the federal copyright statute in the four years of his firm’s existence. Moreover, because of his burgeoning practice, Richard’s firm has grown commensurately; he now employs a staff of 12, two of whom are lawyers, including an associate with large commercial firm experience.
So… he does know other lawyers and has lots of experience. So, the whole “don’t lie to a judge” thing is the sort of thing that maybe he should have known about? But then Greenberg reverts back to Liebowitz being an inexperienced newbie… while also insisting that he “fills a need” by filing bullshit lawsuits to shake down people for money.
In short, while Richard is short on legal experience and training, he obviously fills a need in the ranks of freelance photographers who struggle to make ends meet financially…
Greenberg later admits that he, himself, is not very experienced or knowledgeable regarding copyright law, so perhaps he doesn’t know the nature of copyright trolling and the problems that trolls like Liebowitz create for tons of people. Perhaps he also doesn’t know the details of how frequently Liebowitz has been called out or sanctioned by judges. But all of that seems to matter here, and chalking up his lying to a judge multiple times over many months to his “inexperience” seems… questionable at best.
The letter is, at least, straightforward in admitting that Liebowitz lied to the judge, and tries to explain his possible reasons for lying, but they’re not very good reasons. Hilariously, the letter says there are no excuses, but then tries to argue that Liebowitz’s decision to lie is “understandable” even if (and I kid you not) he did it intentionally.
There can be no excuse for Richard’s lapse, whether he stated and maintained the erroneous date of death mistakenly or intentionally. Either would be understandable. For example, Richard may genuinely have misremembered the date of death, and continued to adhere to the April 12 date or, having taken the position that the date of death was April 12, he saw no reason to question his memory or why it should matter. On the other hand, Richard may have thought the Court would not understand his dysfunctional, grieving state originating three days before the conference, and decided to fix the date of death as the morning of the conference. If the latter explanation is the correct one, Richard not only misjudged the Court’s knowledge, experience and decency, no doubt as an inexperienced young lawyer might, but he engaged inexcusable falsity, however immaterial.
And, apparently, the lawyer who has filed “approximately 2000 cases,” many of them demanding insane sums of money from people over questionable claims of copyright infringement, is now claiming that the small amount the court has fined him is a “high price” to pay. Yeah right.
Of course, either way, Richard has paid a high price for his failure of memory or falsity concerning the true date his grandfather died. The incidence has been a financial disaster. Richard will have paid to the Clerk of the Court $3700 in financial penalties for his alleged contempt; he has paid adversary counsel for his adversary’s wasted time at the conference which Richard failed to attend; and Richard has paid thousands of dollars in attorneys fees for counsel’s representation in this contempt matter. Nor is financial loss the only adverse consequence. Richard has suffered horrible publicity as a result of being held in contempt and threatened with incarceration by this Court. And of course Richard, a young and inexperienced lawyer, is scared of the damage to his professional career as a result of his conduct in these proceedings. At the risk of appearing to minimize the seriousness of this matter, which counsel would not dare to do, counsel urges this Court to find that Richard has suffered or been penalized enough for his lapse or misconduct.
The fact that Greenberg keeps trying to suggest this may have been a “lapse” is pretty ridiculous — as his unwillingness to recognize the whole reason why the judge was so concerned with Liebowitz’s claims in the first place: that this is not the first or second time that Liebowitz has been called out by courts for some fairly basic failures. Greenberg then notes that he’s “recommended that Richard seek psychotherapy to understand and ameliorate the anxieties, tensions and infrequent lapses of Richard’s demanding practice” as well as that he “enroll in a CLE course addressing small law firm management.” He also recommends that Liebowitz find an experienced copyright lawyer to advise him.
As noted, the letter is truly astounding in the way it talks about Liebowitz as if he’s a small, clueless child, while at the same time trying to claim that he’s an important lawyer with a huge and growing practice… but somehow too ignorant to recognize that lying to a judge at least ten times in court filings was a bad idea. As the judge noted at the hearing after this letter was sent:
[Judge Cathy] Seibel stated that Liebowitz knew he was lying about the date of his grandfather?s death, but ?chose to repeat that lie six, eight, ten times? in court filings that the jurist said were part of a ?long-term campaign of deception.? Liebowitz, Seibel remarked, ?double-downed, triple-downed, quadrupled-downed, octupled-down, I don?t know what would come after that.?
?I question Mr. Liebowitz?s fitness to practice,? Seibel said at one point during the hearing.
I can recognize the tough position that Greenberg was put in, especially as it appears that this family friend was retained just days before the letter needed to be sent, but the entire premise of the letter is so ridiculous that it is difficult to believe there wasn’t a better way to throw oneself on the mercy of the court.