by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 6th 2014 12:42am
by Mike Masnick
Tue, May 27th 2014 11:56am
from the good-to-see dept
That case made its way slowly through the appeals process, and earlier today, the DC Circuit appeals court overturned the ruling, highlighting a bunch of Prenda's bad behavior, but (perhaps more importantly) pointing out that the subpoenas for information on these 1,000+ Does was clearly inappropriate, first because almost none of the Does appeared to live in Washington DC, and thus were outside the court's jurisdiction. Prenda/AF Holdings complete failure to do anything even remotely close to figuring out if people might be located in DC was pretty damning here:
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 45 and 26 set forth the relevant considerations. Rule 45(d)(3)(A) requires a district court to “quash or modify a subpoena that . . . subjects a person to undue burden.” If a subpoena compels disclosure of information that is not properly discoverable, then the burden it imposes, however slight, is necessarily undue: why require a party to produce information the requesting party has no right to obtain?And, here, the court certainly finds the discovery attempts to be "undue," because AF Holdings/Prenda could show no good faith belief that they were going after information relevant to a lawsuit in that court.
Here, we think it quite obvious that AF Holdings could not possibly have had a good faith belief that it could successfully sue the overwhelming majority of the 1,058 John Doe defendants in this district. AF Holdings concedes that under the District of Columbia’s long-arm statute, which along with the Due Process Clause governs this question... the only conceivable way that personal jurisdiction might properly be exercised over these Doe defendants is if they are residents of the District of Columbia or at least downloaded the copyrighted work in the District.... But AF Holdings has made absolutely no effort to limit its suit or its discovery efforts to those defendants who might live or have downloaded Popular Demand in the District of Columbia. Instead, it sought to subpoena Internet service providers that provide no service at all in the District. As Duffy reluctantly conceded at oral argument, AF Holdings could have no legitimate reason for objecting to the court’s quashing the subpoenas directed at these providers.... Even for those providers that do serve the District of Columbia, AF Holdings’s discovery demands were overbroad because it made no attempt to limit its inquiry to those subscribers who might actually be located in the District. It could have easily done so using what are known as geolocation services, which enable anyone to estimate the location of Internet users based on their IP addresses. Such services cost very little or are even free.The court notes that Prenda's failure to do even the most basic things to limit discovery raises questions about its motives:
Given AF Holdings’s failure to take even these minimal steps, we cannot escape the conclusion that it sought the vast majority of this information for reasons unrelated to its pursuit of this particular lawsuit.... . Indeed, Duffy essentially admitted as much at oral argument, stating that if, as appears to be the case, 399 of Comcast’s 400 identified subscribers were found to live outside the District, “the 399 likely wouldn’t be named as defendants in this case.”The court then checks in on the big question of "joinder" -- and whether or not it's appropriate to lump together over 1,000 totally unrelated individuals in one of these copyright trolling lawsuits. Like most courts to date, but unlike Judge Howell, the appeals court sees how problematic this is.
We are unconvinced. For purposes of this case, we may assume that two individuals who participate in the same swarm at the same time are part of the same series of transactions within the meaning of Rule 20(a)(2). In that circumstance, the individuals might well be actively sharing a file with one another, uploading and downloading pieces of the copyrighted work from the other members of the swarm.It's nice to see that the court picked up on many of the amicus arguments made by EFF, ACLU, Public Knowledge and Public Citizen.
But AF Holdings has provided no reason to think that the Doe defendants it named in this lawsuit were ever participating in the same swarm at the same time. Instead, it has simply set forth snapshots of a precise moment in which each of these 1,058 Does allegedly shared the copyrighted work—snapshots that span a period of nearly five months. Two individuals who downloaded the same file five months apart are exceedingly unlikely to have had any interaction with one another whatsoever. Their only relationship is that they used the same protocol to access the same work. To paraphrase an analogy offered by amicus counsel at oral argument, two BitTorrent users who download the same file months apart are like two individuals who play at the same blackjack table at different times. They may have won the same amount of money, employed the same strategy, and perhaps even played with the same dealer, but they have still engaged in entirely separate transactions.... We therefore agree with those district courts that have concluded that the mere fact that two defendants accessed the same file through BitTorrent provides an insufficient basis for joinder.
Oh, and, in case you're wondering about all the other stuff, such as the Alan Cooper forgery, the court notes those allegations, while saying they are unrelated to the issues here, but, at the very end, in sending the case back to the district court, tosses this in:
Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We leave it to the district court to determine what sanctions, if any, are warranted for AF Holdings’s use of a possible forgery in support of its claim.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 22nd 2014 1:13pm
from the get-crackin' dept
At issue is the continuing fight over getting Steele and his collaborators, Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy, to actually pay up for their abuse of the legal process. Last we checked in on this particular case, the district court was finding them in contempt and piling more onto the money they would need to pay, while the appeals court does not appear to be impressed by Team Prenda's arguments, clearly calling out the "shell games" that Prenda and associated entities were playing.
While aspects of the case have been stayed during the appeal, other aspects are moving forward, including Smith's lawyer continuing to push for discovery on the actual assets of Steele, Hansmeier and Duffy. As you may recall, despite being required to provide such information, they did so in a questionable manner. As Judge David Herndon pointed out:
The Court finds that plaintiff's counsel has not met its burden. They submitted incomplete, and to say the least suspicious, statements of financial condition. Attached to each statement was a letter from their certified public accountant ("CPA"). In these letters, the CPA indicates a departure from generally accepted accounting principles. He further notes that plaintiff's counsel elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles. The Court finds these statements insufficient to establish plaintiff's counsel's inability to pay.Since then, Smith's lawyer, Jason Sweet of Booth & Sweet, has continued to push for determining the financial position of the three individuals here. There's a sealed document which apparently hints at some shady financial dealings, but it appears to be making Steele very angry. While Paul Duffy filed a pretty empty opposition saying that he has no offshore accounts, Steele went into full on, ultra-aggressive "who me?" defensiveness in response, leading to some incredible statements, considering what multiple courts have already said about them. The classic part has to be this:
For this Court to find any act of Prenda should be attributed to Steele, the Court would have to believe that Steele lied to multiple federal judges without getting caught, committed massive tax fraud without the IRS finding out, and proactively broke into the Illinois Secretary of State’s corporate records database to hide his ownership of Prenda Law, all because of the remote chance that years later a federal judge might sanction Prenda Law for $261,000.Except... of course, multiple judges have already claimed that Steele and the others have lied, including in this very case. In the original ruling in this case, Judge Patrick Murphy directly called out Steele for lying, saying: "These men have shown a relentless willingness to lie to the Court on paper and in person." He furthermore highlighted how it was quite clear that Steele was directly involved in Prenda, which Steele is now denying yet again. And no one is claiming he hacked into the corporate records database (though, now that he's denied it, it almost makes you wonder...), but that he was clearly in control of Prenda and received much of the money that went into Prenda.
As for the issue of the IRS, well, last we checked, at least one judge, Otis Wright, has referred their conduct to the IRS, and there are at least some indications that an investigation is ongoing. And while no one thinks they set up this shell game specifically to avoid this particular ruling, it's not difficult to see that they did so to try to avoid a series of similar court rulings, after Prenda's initial approach started getting regularly shot down in court.
Steele's response also ratchets up the ridiculous rhetoric in describing the copyright trolling shakedown business, which they copied from a bunch of other firms:
Steele and his partner, Paul Hansmeier (”Hansmeier”) were early pioneers in catching thieves and hackers who engaged in stealing copyrighted works and other computer related misdeeds, including computer hacking and copyright infringement.Except, of course, they were neither pioneers, nor were they catching "thieves" or "hackers." Rather, by all accounts, they set up a honeypot site, uploaded their own content to it, shared it on file sharing sites, and then used the IP addresses of those who followed the release that they themselves put online, to shake them down with lawsuits and demands for settlement. The evidence on this is fairly overwhelming.
Steele tries to argue away the "oddities" the court noted in the filings made by the CPA they hired this way:
At the hearing, no reference was made to the GAAP, the Generally Accepted Accounting Rules, a set of standards designed for the financial reporting of corporations, not individuals. Steele submitted his financial statement as directed. Steele’s submissions were accurate, and no filing since has disproved any aspect of Steele’s statementIf he thinks that this will get him out of the fact that the CPA "elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required" I would imagine he's got another thing coming.
Steele, also tries to angrily argue away the infamous Brett Gibbs spreadsheet that revealed the revenue of Prenda Law, and how 70% of it went to both Steele and Hansmeier, who have long denied being associated with that firm. Steele argues that this spreadsheet was made by Gibbs, as opposed to (as Gibbs has noted) made by Prenda and shared with Gibbs via a shared Dropbox account.
It appears that Mr. Gibbs created some accounting sheet of Prenda Law finances for some period of time prior to this case, and thus is irrelevant. Steele has no personal knowledge of Mr. Gibbs’ accounting records, methodology, or how Mr. Gibbs created his documents. According to Mr. Gibbs himself, he doesn’t either, and claims he doesn’t even know how his document came into existence. Such a document hardly comports with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing admissible evidence.He focuses on the fact that the spreadsheet is not admissible. Of course, his partner, Hansmeier, having argued basically the same thing in the past, has also suggested that the facts of the document are accurate, noting (incorrectly) that the document supports Steele/Hansmeier's position and that it was "stolen."
Related to all of this, Steele appears to still be playing games. In a separate filing, Sweet details how Steele took it upon himself to (incorrectly) inform various parties that Sweet had subpoenaed, that the stay on one part of the case meant those subpoenas were withdrawn as well. Except that they're part of a separate process, which is still ongoing. Sweet asked Steele to confirm that Steele had gone back to those third parties, and admitted that he was wrong in interfering with the discovery process. Steele did not do so, but rather sent one of his snarky emails about how he promises that he "will address your most recent round of subpoenas as appropriate."
It's been a while since Steele has done this kind of thing, but it's the same old John Steele, cocky until the very end, even as all of the evidence is against him. It reminds you of a little kid who has been caught doing something wrong but figures if he just keeps denying it over and over again, buying himself time, there will be some way to get out of it all.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 8th 2014 5:31am
from the wanna-try-that-again dept
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:
That's shocking!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.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 31st 2014 3:50pm
from the well-that's-unfortunate dept
Well, it appears that's all for nothing now. Judge Joan Ericksen has apparently stepped in to put magistrate judge Noel in his place, pointing out that he went way beyond what a magistrate judge is allowed to do and then actually siding with Prenda lawyer Paul Hansmeier in saying that the fact that team Prenda forged Alan Cooper's signatures on the copyright assignment isn't fraud on the court... and, in fact, saying that it basically doesn't matter at all. First, as to a mere magistrate judge sniffing out these problems, judge Ericksen isn't having any of it:
AF Holdings consistently objected to the magistrate judge’s authority to determine whether it had committed a fraud on the Court. The magistrate judge had no such authority. See Reddick v. White, 456 F. App’x 191, 193 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (“A motion for sanctions under the district court’s ‘inherent’ power is not a pretrial matter under Ã‚Â§ 636(B)(1)(a). Magistrate judges have no inherent Article III powers—they have only those powers vested in them by Congress. Congress has not created statutory authorization for magistrate judges to exercise inherent Article III powers.”Furthermore, Ericksen points out that, as a magistrate judge, Noel can't really make an order like he did (which is likely accurate), but instead can just make a recommendation for a "real" judge like Ericksen to review. And Ericksen just doesn't seem concerned about the forgery, lying and other shenanigans from Team Prenda.
Cooper’s signatures were immaterial to the decision that granted AF Holdings expedited discovery.... AF Holdings’ submission of the agreements with Cooper’s signatures—legitimate or not, authorized or not—to evince the transfer of the copyrights to AF Holdings did not amount to a fraud on the Court.It's somewhat disappointing to see a court not all that concerned that an effort that involved forgery is really no big deal, especially when it was about copyright trolling, a practice of abusing the court system to hound people into paying up to avoid having to fight a lawsuit.
That's unfortunate, but given how many other courts have ruled on Prenda's efforts and the multiple referrals to state bars, DOJ and others, I would imagine that this is merely a slight and brief reprieve for Team Prenda.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 28th 2014 3:02pm
from the nice-try,-guys dept
Team Prenda has been avoiding paying that ever since. There was an amusing hearing back in February in which they weakly sought to justify the non-payment, first quibbling with Judge David Herndon that the original order to pay up was a "money judgment" rather than an order, in the belief that this would give them more flexibility in paying. That ridiculous argument was more or less dismissed out of hand by Judge Herndon quickly. Following that, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier specifically tried to plead poverty, arguing that they simply couldn't pay the amount. Judge Herndon said, effectively, okay: prove it. And while they filed documents that attempt to prove that, Judge Herndon is not buying it at all. In a ruling earlier this week finding Paul Duffy, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier in contempt, Herndon noted that even in filing financial statements, it appeared they were trying to deceive the court:
In the case where there has been no attempt to comply with the Court's order, plaintiff's counsel must show a "complete inability to pay." ... Plaintiff's counsel, "stated differently, . . . [has] the burden of establishing clearly, plainly, and unmistakably that compliance is impossible." ....Given all that, he notes that Team Prenda "significantly violated an unambiguous order of the Court" and has tacked on an additional 10% to the original order, giving them until March 31st to pay up... or the amount will keep going up at $500 per attorney per day (so $1,500 more per day). After another 30 days, the amount will increase to $1,000 per attorney per day. Hansmeier is already begging for a reconsideration, but given how many times these guys have been called out for attempted deceptions in court, it seems unlikely he's going to have much luck.
The Court finds that plaintiff's counsel has not met its burden. They submitted incomplete, and to say the least suspicious, statements of financial condition. Attached to each statement was a letter from their certified public accountant ("CPA"). In these letters, the CPA indicates a departure from generally accepted accounting principles. He further notes that plaintiff's counsel elected to omit substantially all of the disclosures required by generally accepted accounting principles. The Court finds these statements insufficient to establish plaintiff's counsel's inability to pay.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 3rd 2014 3:06pm
from the not-going-well dept
As you may or may not recall, Duffy tried to keep the case in state court by doing a little trick whereby they added Paul Hansmeier's law firm, Alpha Law Firm, in an amended complaint (which would keep the case in state court since both the defendants and one of the plaintiffs would all be in Minnesota). Yet, as it quickly came out, the amended complaint was done through questionable means -- by apparently misrepresenting information to the court clerk, who told the court that Prenda's lawyer had misled her. So that attempt to keep it in state court totally failed, but Duffy then (on top of that) lied about the situation to the federal court.
Judge Darrah points basically all of this out and rips Duffy to shreds in the ruling. A few choice quotes:
When pressed, at the remand hearing on August 14, 2013, Duffy, counsel for Prenda, admitted he “filed substantially the same motion in the Southern District.”.... As discussed above, when asked what the Southern District of Illinois said about the motion, Duffy stated to the Court: “They denied the motion. They indicated - - the Court indicated that on the four corners of the complaint, it stated that it was a Minnesota corporation. However, the complaint also states that its principal place of business is in Minnesota.” .... However, the record reflects that the Southern District of Illinois Court said nothing of the sort. Duffy had the opportunity to address this lie in his response to the Motion for Sanctions and did not. To fabricate what a federal judge said in a ruling before another court falls well outside the bounds of proper advocacy and demonstrates a serious disregard for the judicial process.Needless to say, the court rules in favor of sanctions, noting Duffy's "unreasonable and vexatious conduct."
Following this duplicitous behavior before the Court, Duffy sought to withdraw the renewed motion for remand, generously explaining that the reason for the withdrawal was “due to the apparent confusion arising from [the] motion.”...
[....] Prenda, through its counsel, Paul Duffy, filed a response to the Motion for Sanctions. In it, they argue that “Defendants have made no showing that attorney Hoerner was aware that service had been accomplished at the time he attempted to file the amended complaint.” (Resp. to Motion for Sanctions at 10 (emphasis added).) Demonstrating Hoerner was aware that service had been accomplished is not necessary to determine the deception inherent in Hoerner’s affirmative (and false) representation to Kent that service had not been accomplished.
Indeed, rather than explain their conduct, they seek to attack the form and procedure by which Defendants filed their Motion for Sanctions. Prenda contends it is entitled to the safe harbor provision under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2), which provides that a motion for sanctions may not be filed “if the challenged paper, claim, defense, contention, or denial is withdrawn or appropriately corrected within 21 days after service . . . .” Here, however, Prenda does nothing to explain or withdraw its assertions regarding what the Southern District of Illinois purportedly said about Alpha. Moreover, in its motion to withdraw the renewed motion for remand, Prenda continues to stand on its rejected assertions, insisting that “there was not diversity jurisdiction in this Court” and that Prenda “vehemently disagrees with representations made by Defendants . . . regarding its motion, but nevertheless due to the apparent confusion arising from Plaintiff’s motion, Plaintiff seeks to withdraw it.” .... The purpose of Rule 11 is to, in part, emphasize “the duty of candor by subjecting litigants to potential sanctions for insisting upon a position after it is no longer tenable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 1993 Advisory Committee’s Notes (1993 Amendments) (emphasis added). Moreover, sanctions under Section 1927 and pursuant to the Court’s inherent authority are not subject to the safe harbor provision.
[....] Grasping at straws, Prenda next asserts Defendants failed to serve their Rule 11 motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 and that “Duffy has never consented in writing (or otherwise) to accept service of papers via electronic means.” ... This is clearly rebutted by the docket itself, which indicates that Duffy is an E-Filer of the Northern District of Illinois. “[S]ubject to the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(3), the Notice of Electronic Filing constitutes service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(D) . . . as to all E-Filers in a case assigned to ECF.” .... Therefore, whether or not Duffy realizes it, as an E-Filer, he has accepted service by electronic means.
[....] In a final act of audacity, Prenda, in response to Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions, contends that the “Court should award Prenda the fees it incurred in defending against Defendants’ patently frivolous motion.”
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 31st 2014 5:31am
Confused Law Professor Cites Fraudulent Prenda Win As 'Proof' That There's No Problem With Statutory Damages
from the uh-what dept
However, as EFF points out, Besek's argument here is suspect, given that she just a few weeks ago sent a letter on this issue in response to the Commerce Department's green paper on copyright, in which she defends current statutory damages practices... by pointing to a ruling in a Prenda case making a defendant pay $6,000. Specifically, her letter notes the following:
There is no satisfactory rationale at this time for singling out individual file-sharers with regard to statutory damages. The majority of reported cases against individual file-sharers have been resolved on summary judgment or on default, with the statutory damage awards under $10,000.And after the $10,000 is a footnote, where she points to three cases where courts granted awards of ~$6,000, including AF Holdings v. Bossard. You might recognize the name AF Holdings, better known as the shell company set up by Prenda Law which has been accused by multiple courts of being engaged in forgery and fraud in shaking down people into paying up. This seems like an odd choice for Besek to choose to support her position that statutory damages are not a problem, given that Prenda/AF Holdings has been using the threat of statutory damages on its bogus copyright claims to shake down millions of dollars from people without ever going to court.
In fact, the AF Holdings/Prenda fiasco is a perfect example of why statutory damages are so dangerous. They allow a new category of copyright trolls to go around sending out threat letters threatening the possibility of $150,000 awards, which lead many, many people to just pay up rather than go to court. For Professor Besek to use Prenda/AF Holdings as an example of how the system is working, at the very same time that the folks behind it are facing sanctions from multiple courts, have been referred to law enforcement and multiple local bars for discipline for their fraudulent actions, which were almost entirely predicated on using the threat of crazy statutory damages to make people cough up thousands of dollars is laughable.
And, it's not like Professor Besek used this example back when there was still some uncertainty about Prenda. She used in just a couple weeks ago, months after multiple courts had outlined the fraud AF Holdings was involved in. The fact that she would use that as an example of statutory damages working as intended suggests she is either ridiculously uninformed or dangerously confused about how statutory damages are used in practice.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 19th 2013 4:27pm
from the order-to-show-cause dept
This was yet another case where when the going got tough, AF Holdings/Prenda tried to turn tail and run by dismissing the case, but the defendant, in this case a guy named Rajesh Patel, fought back and sought sanctions from AF Holdings for the bogus lawsuit it had initially filed -- and the whole "forged" copyright assignment by Alan Cooper. Nazaire turned the whole thing into an ongoing circus. Soon after the fight over sanctions began in this case, Judge Wright in California famously issued his big ruling, calling out Team Prenda and AF Holdings for a variety of misdeeds. Patel's lawyer, Blair Chintella, sought to add that ruling to the record, leading Nazaire to bizarrely argue that the Judge in this case should ignore that California ruling because California recognizes gay marriage. Later, he tried again with a bizarre and nonsensical claim about hackers being after him. Then, he sought to file all future documents under seal because some of you people in our comments (yup, Techdirt comments were filed as a part of the case) said mean stuff about him and that was mean.
Throughout all of this, Chintella kept seeking additional evidence via discovery -- which Nazaire repeatedly appeared to ignore completely, or file nonsensical arguments why he wasn't going to comply. Elsewhere, though, Chintella was able to dig up a a series of recordings from GoDaddy customer service in which the same individual identified himself as John Steele, Alan Cooper and Mark Lutz in different calls. He also got Comcast to reveal that a key IP address that was presented in another case as being the IP address that uploaded the content in question, directly belonged to John Steele and Paul Hansmeier, further confirming that they were uploading their own works to file sharing sites (calling even further into question the legality of what they were doing with Prenda).
Oh, and Chintella sought to depose Mark Lutz, the purported head of AF Holdings, who simply didn't show up -- the start of a now repeating pattern of Lutz disappearing rather than showing up when required to by a court.
Still with documents flying back and forth, the judge eventually angrily told both sides to shut the hell up and to stop filing anything.
Having completed the other business he was working on, Judge William O'Kelley of the district court in Northern Georgia, has finally ruled in this case and he's still not at all pleased. He's clearly angry with both lawyers, but the majority of his anger is directed at Nazaire, whom he repeatedly upbraids for a variety of problematic actions. The end result is that he's clearly threatening sanctions, potentially against both lawyers, and will hold a hearing in which both lawyers will need to show cause why they should not be subject to such sanctions. But that's not all. He has also ordered Nazaire to produce the original copyright assignment allegedly signed by Alan Cooper, which is at the heart of this matter. O'Kelley does not appear at all interested in hearing any excuse for not showing up with the original. Among a variety of things he orders to happen for the hearing, the one bit he italicizes is the following:
Specifically, plaintiff must produce the original assignment agreement for inspection.Note the "must" in there. Somehow, I doubt that he's going to be satisfied.
The Judge is clearly unhappy about Mark Lutz not showing up, and finds Nazaire's excuses to be ridiculous:
Plaintiff’s excuses for Lutz’s failure to attend the deposition are beyond frivolous. Plaintiff’s “justification” for the failure of plaintiff’s managing member to attend his deposition is that Lutz “has been deposed before,” which plaintiff considers sufficient to conclude that “the defense wants Mr. Lutz to fly to Georgia by his own expense for the sole purpose of being humiliated.” ... (“Mr. Lutz has every reason not to appear at a deposition which may also be attend [sic] by individuals who follow a website named dietrolldie and which has identified him as a troll as well.”) (emphasis in original)). However, Lutz was never deposed in this case. The fact that this would not have been Lutz’s first deposition on his relationship to AF Holdings is irrelevant. The fact that there are individuals on the internet adverse to plaintiff’s litigation strategy is irrelevant. However, the court’s ability to address blatant and willful discovery violations is very relevant.He further notes that the law requires him to impose attorneys' fees in this situation, though he'll figure out how much after the show cause hearing. Of course, I'm wondering if Mark Lutz will ever make a reappearance. As we noted recently, while his signature showed up on a recent document, he still hasn't explained another one of his mysterious disappearances, which Team Prenda insisted he would explain.
The court finds that Lutz failed to attend a properly noticed deposition and that Lutz’s failure to attend was not justified. Rather than provide any meaningful explanation for Lutz’s failure, plaintiff offered bizarre tangents about how “any new deposition of Mr. Lutz or any interrogatories or any production responses will be sought solely for the purpose of providing a good laugh for” several websites.
While Judge O'Kelley makes it clear he's not interested in rehearing stories of Prenda/AF Holdings' actions elsewhere, he's solely focused on misconduct in this case, and he certainly suggests there's been a fair amount of that. Beyond calling out Nazaire for arguments that are "legally frivolous and generally incomprehensible," as well as "nothing more than disjointed assertions that are completely immaterial to the case," the judge has a long list of things he's concerned about and wants to hear Nazaire try to explain:
- Nazaire's failure to properly disclose everyone who had a financial interest in the matter
- Nazaire's potential failure to properly list all of the lawyers working on the case (earlier, the judge highlights that when Nazaire filed the complaint, he appeared to use Brett Gibbs' email and phone number.)
- Nazaire's "failing to make a reasonable inquiry into the facts and the law before filing this case."
- And also "whether Nazaire facilitated vexatious and frivolous litigation by maintaining a meritless suit, filing frivolous and unwarranted motions, and making frivolous and unwarranted objections to defendant's discovery requests."
The Judge also scolds Chintella for "a lack of familiarity with basic evidentiary and procedural rules" and also asks him to further explain the effort to crowdfund money to hold Lutz's deposition. Nazaire suggests this is sanctionable, and while O'Kelley seems unsure exactly what the problem is, he wants to hear Chintella's defense of this action.
Judge O'Kelley also adds the following "note of caution" which suggests he's not interested in any kinds of games, though given Prenda's history, they seem almost unable to avoid trying to play games. It will be a measure of incredible self-restraint for them to actually abide by the following:
In case this order did not adequately drive the point home earlier, the court is not pleased with how this litigation has progressed. Failure to attend the show cause hearing will not be well received. Failure to attend will result in severe sanctions and may result in referral to the State Bar of Georgia. Failure to directly address the court’s concerns will result in equally severe sanctions.Can't wait to see how that hearing turns out.
Notwithstanding this court’s prior order prohibiting the parties from filing additional motions, the parties may file a supplemental brief addressing the court’s concerns to the extent that the supplemental brief provides facts not already present in the record. The parties are strongly encouraged to bring any relevant evidence to the show cause hearing. Specifically, plaintiff must produce the original assignment agreement for inspection. If a party wishes to present testimony that it deems critical to its case, the party should be prepared to solicit that testimony through a live witness. The parties are on notice that they may not use affidavits as a means to circumvent cross examination.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 6th 2013 2:44pm
from the wtf dept
But the really incredible part in this is that when reporter Joe Mullin, from Ars Technica, reached out to Prenda's Paul Duffy to comment on whether or not Prenda had paid up the fees, Duffy responded in the most bizarre way possible:
I hope you are doing well. I am devastated by the loss of Nelson Mandela and I hope you join with President Obama in remembering his legacy. He ranks with Mohandes Ghandi, Dr. King and President Kennedy in the struggle for human rights over the past 50 years. There are larger issues than the ability to steal porn... You seem like a nice guy. Thanks.Yes, the copyright porn trolling lawyer, whose firm has been implicated in setting up bogus honeypots to shake people down, in forging signatures and in efforts to publicly embarrass people (oh, and whose wife more or less admitted that her husband was engaged in interstate extortion) is now claiming that he's "devastated" by the loss of Mandela, and talking about "the struggle for human rights." That's a laugh. I'd guess he's a bit more devastated about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's on the hook for and the criminal and tax evasion charges he may be facing before very long.