Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Has Two Separate Courts Sanction Him For His Ongoing Copyright Trolling Failures

from the richard-liebowitz-keeps-on-liebowitizng dept

It’s worth pointing out just how difficult it is to get a judge to issue sanctions against a lawyer behaving badly. We cover many, many, many cases involving lawyers behaving really badly, and over and over again we see judges refuse to issue sanctions against those lawyers. Judges give lawyers the benefit of the doubt over and over again. That’s one reason why it’s so incredible that terrible lawyer and copyright troll Richard Liebowitz keeps getting smacked down by courts for truly egregious behavior.

Last week was special for Liebowitz in that he got hit with sanctions twice by two separate courts. In the first case, in the Southern District of NY, Liebowitz, representing Angel Chevrestt (it appears Liebowitz has sued multiple websites on behalf of Chevrestt) against Barstool Sports. As the sanctions order shows, Liebowitz continues to be his own worst enemy in that he’s just a terrible, terrible lawyer, who basically seems to ignore basic civil procedure and the court’s own instructions:

On March 5, 2020, the Undersigned issued an order referring the case to Magistrate Judge Netburn for a settlement conference. Dkt. 4. The March 5 Order directed Plaintiff to ?file proof of service no more than three days after service has been effected; and to produce to Defendant(s), by the earlier of 1) 14 days after service of process or 2) three business days in advance of any mediation session, copies of records sufficient to show the royalty paid the last three times the picture that is at issue in this case was licensed, as well as the number of times the picture was licensed in the last five years; if the picture at issue has never been licensed, Plaintiff must expressly certify that fact to Defendant(s) as part of Plaintiff?s production.? Id.

Despite the simplicity of the March 5 Order, Plaintiff?s counsel, Mr. Liebowitz, failed to comply with both directions. First, although service was effected on March 6, 2020, Mr. Liebowitz did not file an affidavit of service until March 31, 2020. Dkt. 8. Second, as of April 13, 2020, Mr. Liebowitz had not produced the required royalty information to Defendant. See Dkt. 9. In light of Mr. Liebowitz?s failure to comply with the March 5 Order, the Court ordered Mr. Liebowitz to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed on him. Dkt. 14.

The point at which a judge issues an order to show cause as to why you shouldn’t be sanctioned is normally when a competent lawyer realizes they must have fucked up royally, and starts paying close attention to following what the judge is saying. But this is Richard Liebowitz. What do you think he did? For what it’s worth, Liebowitz’s reputation is now being widely acknowledged by judges who have to deal with him:

Mr. Liebowitz, who has been described as a ?copyright troll,? is no stranger to sanctions orders issued by the undersigned and other Judges in this District…. In fact, in his relatively short career, Mr. Liebowitz has ?earned the dubious distinction of being a regular target of sanctions-related motions and orders,? and ?it is no exaggeration to say that there is a growing body of law in this District devoted to the question of whether and when to impose sanctions on Mr. Liebowitz alone.?… This Court, once again, joins that growing body of law, and finds that a sanction under Rule 16(f)(1)(C) for Mr. Liebowitz?s violations is appropriate.

The judge also points out that the instructions Liebowitz failed to follow in this case are identical to instructions he failed to follow in a previous case he was sanctioned in, by the very same judge:

Mr. Liebowitz is familiar with both instructions; not only are they given in every similar copyright case filed before the Undersigned, but Mr. Liebowitz has been previously sanctioned by the Undersigned for failing to adhere to them.

And, not surprisingly, Liebowitz’s response to the order to show case why he shouldn’t be sanctioned is deemed: “inadequate and entirely unconvincing.” On failing to follow the first instruction (filing the affidavit for service):

Although Mr. Liebowitz admits that the ?affidavit of service was filed 22 days past the Court?s deadline,? he maintains that his ?non-compliance was substantially justified on account of the fact that Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC (?LLF?) did not actually receive a copy of the affidavit of service from its Delaware process server until March 15, 2020.?… Even assuming that is true, Mr. Liebowitz offers no legitimate explanation as to why it then took an additional 16 days to file the affidavit of service. Mr. Liebowitz?s explanation that the COVID-19 pandemic ?disrupted LLF?s ordinary work flow, thereby causing administrative oversights,?… is wholly unconvincing. First, the notion that LLF needed over two weeks to ?[get] its bearings? before Mr. Liebowitz was able to accomplish the simple task of filing an affidavit of service is preposterous. Although the COVID pandemic has presumably had some effect on LLF, as it has affected all lawyers and law firms throughout the country, it does not serve as an excuse to disregard the Court?s orders. Had Mr. Liebowitz requested an extension of the deadline to file an affidavit of service, the Court would have considered it. Mr. Liebowitz?s attempt to attribute his ?administrative oversight? to the COVID pandemic is disingenuous, distasteful, unpersuasive, and likely perjurious.

There’s a footnote after the claim of “likely perjurious” noting that in those two weeks when Liebowitz claimed that the pandemic disrupted his ordinary workflow, Liebowitz was still able to file 25 new copyright trolling lawsuits in the very same court, and notes that Liebowitz’s “filing rate for that period in 2020 is approximately 30% higher than his rate of filing cases during the same period in 2019.”

Ouch. In another footnote, the judge notes that Liebowitz’s history of lying to courts does not help him here:

Normally the Court would not be skeptical of the truth of such a representation from a licensed attorney. Mr. Liebowitz has, however, a track record of misrepresenting facts to judges on this Court.

And, again, Liebowitz’s own reputation hurts him here:

Moreover, this is not the first time that Mr. Liebowitz has attributed his failure to follow this Court?s order to file proof of service to ?administrative oversight,? nor is it the first time that this Court has found such an excuse to be inadequate or sanction-worthy.

The other court instruction that Liebowitz ignored had to do with producing invoice details of other times the photo in question had been licensed, and Liebowitz did what Liebowitz does:

Mr. Liebowitz ?admits that the licensing fee information was not produced 14 days after service of process, as per the Court?s March 5, 2020 order.?… In a lackluster attempt to justify his utter disregard of the Court?s order, Mr. Liebowitz simply stated that ?non-compliance was substantially justified for all the same reasons set forth in paragraph 5 above.? Id. This explanation (i.e., that COVID-19 disrupted normal work flows) is conclusory and unacceptable. If Mr. Liebowitz was unable to produce the documents by the Court-ordered deadline, he should have moved to adjourn the deadline to produce the documents, rather than ignoring it altogether.

Oh, and then he made it worse:

The Court finds it particularly ironic that Mr. Liebowitz chastised defense counsel for violating the Court?s individual rules and ?clear mandate,? … when it is Mr. Liebowitz who continually fails to adhere to this Court?s simple instructions.

And worse:

Moreover, Mr. Liebowitz?s statement that he somehow complied with the Court?s March 5 order by producing ?the only financial information that he has in his possession,?… is nonsensical. As noted supra, Mr. Liebowitz did not produce the invoice until April 14, 2020, almost a month past the deadline set by the March 5 Order. In addition, the invoice failed to indicate whether any of the photographs had ever been licensed or to certify that none had. Thus, Mr. Liebowitz has indisputably violated the clear and unambiguous instruction of the March 5 Order.

I mean, it’s beyond obvious by now that the judge is fed up with Liebowitz, but when a judge calls your arguments “nonsensical” you’re not doing well.

And then there’s another footnote, responding to Liebowitz trying to minimize any sanctions by saying that his failure to comply with the court’s instructions “caused no prejudice whatsoever to the defendant.” As the judge points out, that’s bullshit:

The Court disagrees that the Defendant has not been prejudiced. This case should have moved seamlessly from a complaint being filed, to Plaintiff providing basic information to facilitate settlement, to a settlement conference to, hopefully, a settlement. Instead, it foundered on the first step. Because Plaintiff failed to provide the required information, Defendant was required to enlist the help of the Court in obtaining the required information. Then, the Plaintiff, rather than promptly coming into compliance, filed a letter that was sneering and unprofessional and, in essence, argued that it was Defendant?s fault that the Court was bothered as the Defendant failed to alert him that he had failed to comply with the Court?s Order. It was only at that point that Mr. Liebowitz produced to the Defendant the one page invoice for four freelance assignments, only one of which was relevant ? a fact he failed to disclose to the Defendant. When the Defendant was then forced to again involve the Court, Mr. Liebowitz responded not with a civil explanation of the cryptic invoice, but again with complaints about defense counsel?s professionalism and a motion to strike Defendant?s submission on the ground that it disclosed confidential information. When the Court denied the motion with direction to Mr. Liebowitz to explain how it could possibly contain confidential information, Mr. Liebowitz responded with silence. In short, Defendant was prejudiced by having to spend time and money obtaining from Mr. Liebowitz information that Mr. Liebowitz was under Court order to provide.


In the end, Liebowitz is sanctioned to the tune of $3,000, which might not seem like much, but then he (not his client) is also instructed to pay Barstool Sports’ legal fees as well, which will likely add up.

Finally, the judge cites another Liebowitz case we wrote about last year. That was the one where Liebowitz lied about his dead grandfather and ended up having to have a friend of his parents send a ridiculous letter to the judge promising that young Richard would take some classes in how to manage a small law firm. The judge notes that didn’t seem to happen:

As noted above, this Order is neither the only time the Undersigned has sanctioned Mr. Liebowitz nor is the Undersigned the only judge in this district who has sanctioned him. In Berger v. Imagina Consulting, Inc., 18-CV-8956 , in responding to a contempt citation that was precipitated by Mr. Liebowitz having lied to Judge Siebel, Mr. Liebowitz?s attorney argued that Mr. Liebowitz should not be held in contempt and recommended a number of steps Mr. Liebowitz should take to improve the professionalism of his practice. Among counsel?s recommendations was professional psychological help and a CLE course on small law firm management. See 18-CV-8956, Dkt. 61 at 4. While both may be helpful, psychological help is best obtained because the patient wants help. Whether Mr. Liebowitz wants to improve or not (and the Court questions whether he does), this Court concurs with Mr. Liebowitz?s attorney in Berger that management training is in order. Accordingly, Mr. Liebowitz is ordered to participate in CLE training regarding management of a small law firm. Mr. Liebowitz must attend such training on or before September 1, 2020. The course must cover the basics of setting up and running a law practice, including how to maintain systems so that Court obligations are tracked and obeyed. Mr. Liebowitz is directed to provide the Court with information about the course he wishes to attend for the Court?s approval. He will, at the end of the course, be required to present proof of attendance and to provide a sworn statement to the Court on what he learned from the course and what concrete steps he has instituted in his practice to improve compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Court orders.

Is there a betting market on how that’s going to turn out?

Anyway — that was just one of the times he was sanctioned last week. The other time was in the Southern District of Illinois in Ward v. Consequence Holdings and again, we have a judge who appears to be done taking Liebowtiz’s bullshit excuses. This case involved a bunch of procedural weirdness by both the plaintiff and the defendant, but one thing consistent with the last case (and many other Liebowitz cases) is that Liebowitz is a terrible, terrible lawyer:

It is a simple matter for the Court to conclude that Liebowitz?s conduct in this case has been irresponsible, unreasonable, and detrimental to the fair administration of justice, harming both Consequence, the Court, and even his own client, who has lost his opportunity to advance what appears to have been a meritorious claim. Even without the ample evidence on the record as to Liebowitz?s consistently poor practice of law in other jurisdictions, his filings in this case do not indicate any basis upon which Liebowitz could have thought that this Court was the appropriate venue for this action, leading the Court to conclude that he likely filed this action as a bad faith, frivolous effort to harass Consequence. Liebowitz?s conduct in proceeding with the action after being notified that this Court was an inappropriate venue, then seeking a default judgment without notifying the opposing party, further demonstrates a tendency to vexatiously and unreasonably create frivolous work for the Court. While the undersigned is generally inclined to give attorneys the benefit of the doubt, based on the sheer volume of cases that Liebowitz has filed, the Court feels that he should know better by now.

Don’t hold back, judge. Of course, the judge then notes that a lot of Consequence’s original mistakes in this case harm its case, and suggests that a competent copyright lawyer had a legitimate case that Consequence would have lost (and gives an aside about the poor, poor photographers who have to deal with internet infringement). The judge also notes that it’s lawyer Dan Booth who eventually steps in to represent Consequence, pointing out that Booth’s (who has built a good legal practice being on the right side of fighting against copyright trolls like Liebowitz) prior history fighting Liebowitz leads to some increased skepticism that some of the fight is perhaps “personal.” I find this part of the ruling a bit bizarre, but…

Consequence finally did emerge from its torpor and take an interest in this case, with Dan Booth entering an appearance as Consequence?s counsel. The Court was intrigued by Booth?s claim that he had discussed this case with Liebowitz ten months before he represented Consequence. Taking judicial notice of other similar proceedings and Booth?s own website, the Court observes that Booth has found himself opposite Liebowitz with some frequency in forums across the country. The Court does not wish to encourage personal disputes between individual attorneys that extend across multiple representations, and in this context it is logical to look with some extra skepticism on Dan Booth?s motivations in pursuing this representation and his estimates of his fees.

In the end, Liebowitz has to pay $20,000, half to the court and half to Consequence.

Based on its own inherent authority, the Court will sanction Liebowitz in the amount of $20,000, a sum which represents the Court?s estimate of Consequence?s reasonable legal fees as well as the expenditure of the Court?s resources. Half of this amount will be paid to the Court, with $10,000 in fees awarded to Consequence.

The judge then notes that assuming this does not cover Consequence’s full legal costs, well, that should be some sort of lesson to Consequence in not making use of images without proper licensing:

The Court hopes that Consequence?s remaining uncompensated financial expenditure and the experience of wrangling with legal lampreys such as Liebowitz will serve to ensure that Consequence in the future exercises the merest modicum of caution necessary to avoid misusing the intellectual property of others.

Of course, the big remaining question: who in their right mind would still hire Liebowitz as a copyright lawyer these days?

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Comments on “Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Has Two Separate Courts Sanction Him For His Ongoing Copyright Trolling Failures”

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Thad (profile) says:

Of course, the big remaining question: who in their right mind would still hire Liebowitz as a copyright lawyer these days?

The only export of NowWhat is the NowWhattian boghog skin, which no one in their right minds would want to buy because it’s thin and very leaky, and the export trade only manages to survive because of the significant number of people in the Galaxy who are not in their right minds.
– Douglas Adams

That One Guy (profile) says:

Now if that can go from the exception to the norm...

While it’s nice to see judges finally having enough of Liebowitz I can only hope that this becomes the standard response to him, as his past actions would seem to make pretty clear that unless he starts being consistently slapped down and sanctioned he will simply brush aside any penalties or benchslaps and carry on, same as before.

Leibowitz has more than burned any good-will or benefit of the doubt he might have had as a lawyer, such that any judge that sees him on the docket at this point should assume that he will be intentionally dishonest at some point and judge any actions of his accordingly, rather than assuming that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing and just needs a little nudge to get things right.

Dan says:

Re: Re: Now if that can go from the exception to the norm...

He could probably get an extension on the class deadline under the circumstances, particularly if the mass panic persists. If no accredited CLE providers are running such a class within that timeframe, for example, and he timely (and accurately) notifies the court that this is the case, the time to comply would likely be extended. But if he’s going to tell the court that, he’d better be really sure it’s the truth–because you can bet the judge (or his clerk, more likely) will be checking.

Odds that all of this will happen? Given his history, I’d say 20:1 at best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Now if that can go from the exception to the norm...

rather than assuming that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing

Judging from is actions, he probably cheated and lied his way to a law degree, which would explain his lack of knowledge of how to practice law.

(Some students will expend more energy on cheating that it would take for them to actually do the work and learn.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Copyright is morally justified – the problem is that enforcement is borked for a couple of reasons. One, you’re trying to punish a nebulous counterpart to "theft" for which evidence doesn’t exist to meet the standards of criminal law. Two, the amount of money involved is miserable. If it wasn’t for statutory damages nobody would enforce copyright law.

Statutory damages mean that copyright has gotten past the issue of monetary motivation. What it’s consistently failed to do is to shake off its enforcement reputation of chasing children, grandmothers, etc based on terrible evidence standards for thousands of dollars, all for an offense that the average person thinks ranks lower than shoplifting in terms of severity.

Sure, copyright enforcement could avoid this sort of PR nightmare if they didn’t appear to be veteran-chasers for a quick buck, but then they’d scupper their own gravy train trying to do it. Efficient moneymaking encourages rapid enforcement and quick settlements at all costs, regardless of legitimacy. You don’t get ethical people lining up for this kind of confidence-trickster work.

The good news is that a decade after the RIAA spread its claws over the nation (and the globe via its international incestuous brotherhood), thanks to the terrible PR they’ve got, all copyright enforcement organizations can do is quietly bide their time and pray for a kinder era. Which thanks to the efforts of bottom-feeding scum like Nicoletti, Hansmeier and Liebowitz, is a dying prospect.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Copyright is morally justified – the problem is that enforcement is borked for a couple of reasons."

Is it? I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of any moral argument in favor of copyright which didn’t have to be propped up on the assumption that actual property right was worthless or that freedom of speech was.

In fact the only moral argument I’ve ever heard neatly does away with the privilege of deciding who gets to make copies completely in favor of something which looks more like trademark law – where the protected parts are the commercial exploitation and the right to stand as original author are all that’s protected by law. That would stand a chance of being properly enforced – unlike the current shit-show of "Copyright" which, as you note, caters primarily to opportunistic grifters.

Crafty Coyote says:

Re: Re: Re:

And then comes the rise of the Creative Commons movement, of people like Lawrence Lessig and Nina Paley, and Internet access itself becoming enshrined as a human right that truly would sound the death knell for copyright.

This particular year has been especially rough for copyright enforcement (and conversely, wonderful for the "pirates") because with the courts being shuttered by CoViD-19, there is no way to conduct trials against infringers. As has always been the case with regards to property, the best defenses are physical i.e. a locked door and a loaded gun as opposed to a legal fiction censoring use of non-rivalrous ideas that requires the State to enforce.

Crafty says:

Re: Re: Re:

Copyright is morally justified.

No, it’s not. Once something is sold, the seller relinquishes any and all rights to its use so that the buyer can have those rights in exchange for money. If the seller comes back after the deal and says the buyer can’t use that item the exact way he wants, then it wasn’t really a purchase at all but a rental or licensing agreement. The video games and farm equipment you buy should be things you own and can sell off or repair, but DRM, which is the 21st-century version of copyright prevents you from doing those things. Because the developers of those items know that copyright can bring back feudalism and make you into a "sharecropper" rather than an owner of the item.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Because the developers of those items know that copyright can bring back feudalism and make you into a "sharecropper" rather than an owner of the item."

They had something in the middle ages which looks exactly like Copyright, but it wasn’t Feudalism.

Copyright is the exact analogy of the old medieval blasphemy laws the church used to determine who would be allowed to read and interpret the bible, with the result that the greatest single power in medieval europe relied exclusively on never actually having to produce a damn thing to retain their ridiculously disproportionate influence on economy and politics.

That’s the reason why the current copyright cult keeps bypassing any actual reform of copyright which would earn them money but give up control. Being the gatekeepers of every public narrative is just that lucrative.

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