from the a-scorecard-for-those-playing-along dept
It actually leaves out some of the history and details that suggest Prenda/John Steele/others have been acting with something less than good faith. As we've discussed in the past, it often feels like Prenda Law is using an any means necessary approach to getting access to people's identities, often piling questionable legal trick upon questionable legal trick to create a multi-layer operation of questionable activity, all designed to get identities to then start hounding those people for "settlements." Even leaving aside many of those tricks, many of which don't touch on this particular case, Prenda's actions in this case alone are quite incredible. And as White makes clear, each move by Prenda lawyer Brett Gibbs seemed to only draw more attention from Judge Wright. This started early on, when Gibbs sought sanctions against the opposing lawyer, Morgan Pietz, which the judge quickly denied. As White points out: "It's a bad sign when the judge denies your motion summarily before the other side can even oppose it."
Throughout our coverage of this case, we've repeatedly pointed out that Gibbs could have just put most of the questions to rest by identifying Alan Cooper. But his continual tap dancing around the simple question "who is Alan Cooper?" has been pretty damning. Responding: "I am sure there are hundreds of Alan Coopers in this world," really seemed to make clear that something fishy was going on here. Personally, I was wondering if there was some reasonable legal strategy that I was completely unaware of, that would explain the failure to answer the Alan Cooper question, and White points out that everyone's general suspicions are correct: it makes no sense unless there is no such Alan Cooper:
I've been a lawyer for almost 19 years now. I've practiced in federal court that entire time. Here's what's very strange to me about Gibbs' opposition to the ex parte application, and about Gibbs' sanctions motion: they conspicuously avoid direct engagement with the most incendiary accusations Pietz makes. It's one thing to argue that Pietz' evidence is insufficient, or that other courts have failed to act based on them. It's quite another to evade the question of who "Alan Cooper" really is. I find it very difficult to imagine a scenario in which an experienced litigator would have a good reason to avoid confronting such a serious charge of fraud head on by saying, for instance, "the Alan Cooper who is a principal in Ingenuity 13 LLC is a real person who is resident of the State of X, living at Y, and has no relation to the Alan Cooper who has made scurrilous allegations against Prenda Law. Here is a declaration from the Alan Cooper who is a principal of Ingenuity 13 LLC, and here are reasons why the other Alan Cooper has a grudge against Prenda Law and is lying." It is very difficult to imagine an innocent scenario explaining why Prenda Law would not offer such a response if it could.So, what to expect? White lists out four possibilities, with a focus on the last two as being the most likely:
3. Some of the individuals named could assert that exigent circumstances or medical conditions prevent them from attending, or could ask for an extension to allow them to retain counsel and get their new counsel of up to speed.I've been wondering if Judge Wright would grant an extension, given the extremely short notice on all of this. Normally such an extension would be pretty normal, and lawyers and judges often bend over backwards to try to accommodate things like that. But given that it appears Wright is clearly deeply concerned about the possibility that Prenda is committing fraud on the court, I wonder if he'll be a little less lenient than might otherwise be normal.
4. Some of the individuals named could show up and answer Judge Wright's questions.
Oh, and for those wondering if this could end in jail time for everyone showing up in court, White is a little more skeptical there, but suggests it is entirely possible that it leads to a criminal case, which could result in jail time:
Judge Wright could certainly issue monetary sanctions against, at a minimum, Mr. Gibbs. The question of what other attorneys he could sanction under Rule 11 and his own inherent authority depends on a tedious discussion too long for this post; suffice it to say that he might conclude that he can sanction supervisory attorneys with Prenda Law.In the meantime, I'm curious if anyone can pinpoint the moment at which John Steele/Prenda Law surpassed Righthaven in the Hall of Fame for the Spectacular Self-Destruction of Copyright Trolls.
Judge Wright's terrifying comment aside, his ability to jail people before him for contempt is quite limited when they have not been charged with a crime by the executive. That, too, is a discussion too complex for this post. But Judge Wright might well refer the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution if he concludes that criminal contempt or fraud has occurred. Such referrals tend to get immediate and intense attention. Moreover, if Judge Wright finds misconduct, he could refer the matter to various state bars.