Charles Carreon Has To Pay $46K In Legal Fees

from the boom dept

Charles Carreon may not be having a very good day. As you may recall, Carreon "represented" an internet site, Funnyjunk, that threatened Matthew Inman over an Oatmeal cartoon that made fun of that client. When Inman hit back with a (very successful) IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for charity, Carreon, ridiculously, sued Inman, IndieGoGo and the charities. After realizing the case had almost no chance of succeeding, Carreon dropped the lawsuit. However he (along with his wife) have since had an ongoing campaign attacking anyone (including us) who has mocked or criticized the Carreons over the whole Inman/Oatmeal fiasco. In one case, Carreon threatened a satirical, mocking blogger, even promising to wait until the public interest was gone to sue at a later date.

In response, the blogger filed for declaratory judgment that his actions were legit. Carreon responded by literally hiding from being served while also trying to intimidate the blogger, even contacting and threatening to sue his employer. After finally getting served, Carreon basically caved on every point, effectively settling the case. Except, Charles Carreon, brilliant legal mind, apparently didn't realize that he was still subject to having to pay legal fees. Over the past few months Carreon has done everything possible to avoid having to pay those legal fees, lashing out at the lawyers involved, demanding they submit to discovery and depositions, and even claiming that Paul Levy and Cathy Gellis, the lawyers representing the blogger, were involved in some sort of conspiracy against him, while simultaneously arguing (no joke) that he has a First Amendment right to make vexatious legal threats.

Despite all that impressive tap-dancing, it appears the court was not moved. Carreon has been told to pay $46,100.25. The court is not at all impressed by Carreon's legal "theories." Here's a sample snippet, trashing Carreon's reasoning:
Defendant first opposes plaintiff’s motion, arguing the traditional American Rule applies, in which litigants “pay their own attorneys’ fees, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings.” ... He contends this case not be found to be an exception to that traditional rule, as the action was filed under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, which does not have a fee-shifting provision. While declaratory relief was the remedy sought, the claim for relief arose under the Lanham Act. Indeed, this Court would not have jurisdiction over this matter without the presence of a federal question, in the form of the Lanham Act. Defendant offers no support for the proposition that the statute supporting the underlying claim should be ignored in favor of the statute providing for the legal remedy. He has pointed to no authority to suggest that when only declaratory relief is sought, as opposed to damages or injunctive relief, the Declaratory Judgment Act supersedes the act providing for the underlying claim for relief. Without such authority, it defies logic to ignore the fee-shifting provision provided by the Lanham Act in favor of the Declaratory Judgment Act.
As for his first amendment claim, and the suggestion that this lawsuit was a SLAPP suit designed to silence him... the court is again, not impressed, noting that this is a standard declaratory judgment case filed over Carreon's own threatening email, and pointing out that under Carreon's reading, any declaratory judgment against a threat could be seen as an anti-SLAPP case, which makes no sense. Finally, Carreon tried to argue that no fees should be awarded because the case is not "exceptional", while also arguing that the blogger had intent to profit because "it contained two links to websites that are operated for-profit." The court, again, doesn't see how this makes the case Carreon thinks it makes, noting that two links to commercial websites does not make the original site a for-profit entity. As for the claim that this case is not "exceptional," well, there's where the judicial smackdown comes in. No, the court says, the case wasn't exceptional, until Carreon went nutty:
While defendant’s threatened claims were not “exceptional” at the outset of this case, defendant’s actions throughout the litigation certainly transformed this case into an “exceptional” matter, deserving of an award of attorney fees. The Ninth Circuit has stated that “bad faith or other malicious conduct satisfies the exceptional circumstances requirement.” Boney, 127 F.3d at 827. Evidence supports a finding of malicious conduct during the course of this case. Defendant first went to great lengths, imposing unnecessary costs on plaintiff, to avoid service. Then, in response to this motion for attorney fees under the Lanham Act, defendant engaged in unnecessary, vexatious, and costly tactics in preparation of his opposition to the motion. The Ninth Circuit discourages major litigation with respect to attorney fees. See, e.g., Camacho, 523 F.3d at 981; Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983) (“A request for attorney’s fees should not result in a second major litigation.”). Defendant’s serving of interrogatories and taking of plaintiff’s deposition amounted to a mini-trial on plaintiff’s motion for fees. Indeed, plaintiff incurred an additional $37,650.25 in fees and costs after his motion was filed. Despite this additional discovery, defendant has presented no evidence to support his initial contention that plaintiff’s attorney is on a mission to “turn Internet gripe sites into profit centers for him and Public Citizen Law Group.” Doc. #45, at 4. Defendant has failed to show that his additional discovery efforts led to anything other than additional frustration for plaintiff and his attorneys. Accordingly, plaintiff’s efforts to respond to defendant’s litigation tactics merit the imposition of a fees award.
The court then laughs off Carreon's suggestion that legal fees should be merely $200, by noting that Carreon provides no explanation for why, and that this ignores all the time and effort Levy and Gellis had to put in. As for the breakdown of the fees, it's $8,450 for the initial case... and the other $37,650.25 all stems from Carreon's crazy fight against attorney fees. All of this from a case that came about because of his own ridiculous legal threats.

So... the question remains: will Charles Carreon stop digging?

Update: Paul Levy has posted his own analysis, noting that while it's good, it is not a complete victory for consumers:
The opinion is not a perfect one, from a consumer perspective. The Ninth Circuit does not limit fee awards to those who successfully defend against frivolous trademark claims; under Ninth Circuit law, it is enough that the suit be “groundless or unreasonable.” On the other hand, the fact that Judge Seeborg drew a different distinction in the context of trademark claims that were only threatened, and never actually made the basis for a complaint, allows future successful defendants to argue that the “groundless or unreasonable” standard still applies in that sort of case.
He also points out that the old adage of lawyers representing themselves holds true:
First, it reminds us of the adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. Carreon did himself a disservice by representing himself after we sought a declaratory judgment. A good lawyer would have counseled him not to duck service, and he could have given Carreon good advice about his offer of judgment — we would have been happy to discuss a compromise on fees at that point of the litigation, and indeed it does not appear to me that Carreon understood, when he sent the offer of judgment, that it was going to subject him to an award of fees by making Recouvreur a prevailing party. And a lawyer would likely have advised him not to embark on the course of frivolous and abusive discovery. I urged Carreon on more than one occasion to get himself a lawyer, if not to negotiate with me then at least to give him an objective opinion about what he was facing. This was particularly important because Carreon is a sole practitioner who does not have colleagues off whom he can bounce ideas, and because he rejected private advice from at least one lawyer who has told me of his efforts to help Carreon to steer himself into safer waters. And a document that Carreon showed Recouvreur during his deposition makes clear that he actually was talking to another lawyer when he made his first threat to

Carreon made clear at various points in the fee proceedings, that he had made his threats out of anger at the public obloquy he was facing, making independent judgment from a lawyer he could respect particularly important. He seemed to be asking me to put myself in his shoes and take pity. On a human level, I can understand how this could happen, and there is no way that Carreon would be facing this judgment if he had obtained independent counsel. But it is not an excuse for what he put Recouvreur through.
Separately, he points out that in the whole fight over whether or not Carreon could engage in discovery, demanding information from Levy, the judge warned Carreon not to go overboard, and then used Carreon's excessive discovery against him in the ruling. As Levy notes, "be careful what you ask for, because you might get it."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:40am


    Might be funny, but it's also why people don't like going to court. Even if it's just the initial fees, 8600 is still a good chunk of change for most people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Colin, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Good thing he's got that awesome SEO guru client! He'll rack, I mean pay off those costs in no time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:44am

    I think lawyers should have to go trough mental competency tests, atleast once every 2 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:51am

    Will he keep digging?

    id iot,/b> - Beijing police?
    police -Yes
    Id iot - There is this guy who just popped out of the ground in my backyard he says his name is Charles Carreon. Can you please come pick him up he is acting crazy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Designerfx (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:52am


    ethics, not mental competency. anyone can fake that they're not stupid, not everyone can agree to all aspects of ethics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 11:59am

    Re: Will he keep digging?

    If he digs a bit more Petrobras will find petrol contaminated with some weird substance baptized as Carreonide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    "So... the question remains: will Charles Carreon stop digging?"

    Yeah, he'll try to stop digging into his bank account to pay for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    Nobody fucks with the internet!!!! Yeah!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:05pm


    So... the question remains: will Charles Carreon stop digging?

    I sure hope so. I still have popcorn left.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Ninja (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    Now we have to start a poll to decide which term is better: "Carreon Effect" or "Prenda Effect".

    My vote goes for Carreon, sounds better. But in terms of stupidity it's a though choice =/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Trails (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:22pm

    Crazy rant incoming...

    You know who I'm talking about, and her train to wackyville is never late.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    CK20XX, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:32pm


    Thompson Effect. Jack Thompson was doing this kind of stuff long before Carreon or Prenda, and he didn't get slapped with mere legal fees. Oh no, because his quest for human decency was all that mattered to him, the court decided to do their part to bring some into the world by permanently disbarring him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    S. T. Stone, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    Keep digging, Charles; maybe you’ll end up in North Korea and Kim Jong-Un will give you asylum.

    Of course, by ‘give you asylum’, I mean ‘put you in an asylum’, but hey, what’s semantics between insane people?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    I gotta wonder, what happens to lawyers who go off the deep end like this? Do they get a job in some crazy law office or do they die in poverty since they don't know any useful skills aside from bullshit? It truly is a head scratcher.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    Send that man a shovel

    and tell him its complements of the Old guy laughing his dentures out reading this stuff!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Steerpike (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 2:04pm

    Sometimes, I'm convinced there is some justice in the world. This is one of those times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), Apr 12th, 2013 @ 3:35pm


    "So... the question remains: will Charles Carreon stop digging?"

    I can still hear "Journey To The Center of the Earth" playing in the background.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Zem, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 5:00pm

    He made a mistake, be kind.

    All this poor man did was make the mistake of defending himself. If he had hired a reputable firm such as Prenda Law I am sure things would have worked out much better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Eric, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 9:01pm


    This guy is a fucking joke!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Pseudonym, Apr 12th, 2013 @ 10:35pm


    Amateurs! The correct term is THE RAKOFSKY EFFECT

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Love the Ninth Circuit, too bad the rest of them don't go along with them. Too many cases get overturned from the Ninth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Mark Christiansen, Apr 13th, 2013 @ 10:17am


    All it takes is a few obviously bogus legal claims to run up a $46,000 legal bill. This award doesn't pay the target for lost time or trouble, doesn't pay for risk, just legal costs.

    This is some justice, better than no justice. Using the courts as club to beat people over the head is alive and well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Justin Olbrantz (Quantam), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    Not All Bad

    All this has established that Carreon's skilled at harassment, intimidation, and vexatious litigation - exactly the skill set the mafia looks for. And I imagine they pay very well. Could be a positive career opportunity for him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    vanessakachadurian (profile), Sep 22nd, 2013 @ 12:23am

    What is an Internet Attorney?

    harassment, intimidation, and vexatious litigation is exactly what happened to me. For 20 months, for 13 of those months I represented myself pro se. The last 7 months the attorney firm for my homeowners insurance paid for it.

    What is it about the Internet Police aka "Internet Attorneys" that think they can extort the truth and latch on to a wealthy client with promises of controlling the Internet. I have had my share of a particularly Internet Attorney, that created drama about me and tried to financial, socially harm me but it didn't work. Instead his human trafficker client has had 3 countries close down on her lucrative business ($1.8 million in fives years recorded on her 990 tax returns) We all know about International adoption and fraud, the declining numbers speak for themselves and they will never be revived no matter what these parasite human flesh peddlers do. If they cannot win a case (which in most cases you cannot sue free speech especially when it is TRUTH) These Sleaze ball Attorneys will walk to the line of the law, try to have you arrested, put false police reports out, harass your family, take your photo and put it online with sleezy stories that amount to nothing more than child's play and amateur and immature rantings. Internet Attorney is a self described name, they have not gone to Law School to learn this new niche area and are creating a new segment of the law for themselves. This particular Internet Attorney, tries shamelessly to promote himself as a writer (freebies like Huffington Blog) and on a FREE radio blog that barely has 2 people listen to it on Wednesday mornings. He has a lisp and horrible at public speaking. Its the same ole schtick with this loser : "Name calling" my special name is Serial Cyber Harrasser poster Child, He calls Internet Attorney foe that has beat his pants in court "Spamulance Chaser" and "only does things for a buck" THis guy is comical if it wasn't so tragic that losers like this actuall practice law. I guess that is what they called it "practice" because that is all they do is practice at it. No wonder lawyers are the bottom of the sewer in the trust category.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Tom Forrest, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 9:13pm

    Re: He has it better than you, you stupid asshole.

    Hey Colin,

    Even Chas has it better than your dumb-ass.

    Yes I am very successful, I know that really bothers you trolls.

    Why don't you get a life and money and make some money instead of wasting your life away on this garbage site techdirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Tom Forrest, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 9:24pm

    Re: Except me you Coward Bitch

    How come you can not find me Anonymous Coward?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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