Hurt Locker Producers Demand Sanctions Against Lawyer Offering DIY Legal Kits

from the completely-insane dept

We've discussed in great detail the efforts by Voltage Pictures, the producers of the movie Hurt Locker to sue thousands of people for sharing the movie. Well, "sue" should be used loosely, as the effort, coordinated by US Copyright Group (really DC law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver), is really about demanding people pay up to avoid getting sued. We also wrote about a lawyer, Graham Syfert, who was offering (for sale) a DIY legal kit for individuals on the receiving end of such a lawsuit, who couldn't afford a lawyer. Apparently a bunch of folks have used those legal forms to make pro se filings -- and apparently some of them are working. The motions to quash have gone nowhere, but motions to dismiss are apparently getting some traction, and USCG and Voltage are not at all happy about it.

Apparently, the first threatened Syfert and have now filed a motion asking for sanctions against him. Yes, they want him fined for daring to help people respond to their scorched earth legal (business model) strategy.

What's funny is that Voltage, USCG and Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, may not be thrilled when they realize that some of the language used in their request for sanctions could be turned around and used against them as well:
"Any attorney ... who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct."
That sorta sounds like what USCG/DGW is doing, doesn't it?

Beyond sanctions, the motion says that Syfert should have to pay them for having to deal with people making filings in their own defense. Are they serious?

Syfert has a wonderful reply to the motion, noting that the jurisdiction is wrong, that since he's not a party to the lawsuit he is not subject to sanctions and that offering up legal forms does not make one liable for how they are used (and if it did, all sorts of legal forms publishers would be in trouble). There's also an amusing bit, where DGW includes an angry email from Syfert in response to a phone call between Syfert and Weaver (the W in DGW), where Syfert, in a mocking tone, suggests DGW hire him. DGW uses this to suggest that Syfert has ulterior motives. However, in his reply, Syfert points out that DGW left out the email where Weaver told Syfert they were actually looking to hire lawyers and asked for his resume... Both the motion for sanctions and the reply are after the jump...


Filed Under: copyright, diy forms, education, graham syfert, hurt locker, sanctions
Companies: dunlap grubb & weaver, us copyright group


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  1. icon
    average_joe (profile), 1 Dec 2010 @ 7:33am

    I love this Syfert guy: "In short, if you're not going to hire me, take a flying fuck and leave me alone about the forms--both of you. . . . Hire me or eat shit" LOL! That guy's awesome. I'm surprised DGW didn't bring up Syfert's quote that was picked up by the "press" about how he hoped everyone would buy and use these forms so they could jam up the court. I thought that statement was particularly egregious coming from an officer of the court. The very thought of it made me cringe. I can't imagine why DGW didn't use it.

    I remember warning people that these forms were potentially a bad idea since DGW would likely retaliate against those using them. Apparently, DGW told Syfert that they were going to ask for double the settlement from anyone who used the forms. Who knows if they really did that, but obviously I was right that DGW intended to punish those using the forms. At the time, I predicted that when DGW gets to deciding which defendants to actually name and sue, I bet those that used these forms would be moved to the top of the list. I wouldn't be surprised if that really happens.

    I also said the forms were "losers" and, IMO, this turned out to be true. The motions to quash and motions for protective orders were being denied by the judge en masse, as quickly as they were filed. DGW is right in the sense that these forms did nothing more than muck up the court's docket with unnecessary, crappy motions that had no chance of being granted.

    I know some are arguing that the motions to dismiss were successful, but I don't really see it that way. The fact is, DGW had until sometime in November to replace the Doe defendants in the complaint with a named defendant. This deadline is set by the rules of civil procedure. DGW tried to get the deadline extended again, but the judge wasn't buying it. I don't think the motions to dismiss had anything to do with the judge's decision. As far as I know, the judge never ruled on the motions to dismiss. I haven't checked the docket in a while, but I think the judge just shelved the motions while waiting for the clock to run out of time so they would become moot.

    It will be interesting to see how the judge rules on DGW's motion for sanctions. Syfert did thrust himself into the fight by creating and marketing the forms for the defendants in these USCG cases. But I think Syfert's right and the court doesn't have jurisdiction over him since he's not a party to the proceeding.

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