from the revealed-in-a-new-benchslap dept
I had meant to write an update on the never ending clusterfuck that is copyright troll Richard Liebowitz last month, as things appeared to be going badly in the two cases where the judges had clearly grown completely tired of the games he was playing with the court: Usherson v. Bandshell and Chevrestt v. Barstool. In both cases, judges had gotten very, very angry at Liebowitz for continuing to lie, play games, mislead and so on. In the Chevrestt case, the judge actually let him off kind of easy last month, saying that for the next two years, any time that he is ordered to show cause for why he shouldn’t be sanctioned again (basically, any time he gets in trouble with a judge), he has to share the details of what happened in the Chevrestt case (in which he does not come out of it looking good).
But the bigger story is in the Usherson case, where this week, Judge Jesse Furman mentions in passing that the Southern District of New York’s Grievance Committee had issued an order suspending Liebowitz “from the practice of law before this Court.” This is temporary, pending “final adjudication of the charges against [him]” so it’s likely to get worse. Also, it only applies to SDNY, but that’s where he’s filed so many of his cases, and the stink over his practically non-stop sketchy behavior in court will follow him everywhere else. It’s not clear exactly which of the many problems that Liebowitz has brought upon himself resulted in the Grievance Committee acting, but the list is very long.
In fact, it’s rather convenient that it’s Judge Furman who is revealing the suspended license, given that he was the one who catalogued the dozens upon dozens of times that Liebowitz had been caught lying to courts or has been sanctioned for lying to courts.
As you may recall, Judge Furman laid out those details in an order telling Liebowitz to file a copy of that order with every case that he was involved with. Liebowitz, in true Liebowitz fashion, waited until the last minute to whine that this was unfair and a violation of his rights. The judge was not impressed and neither was the appeals court.
Liebowitz then had one day to send a copy of Judge Furman’s order to every one of his clients and to every court in which his cases were being heard. At the time, we pointed to at least one case where the order had not been filed, but we had heard from a few lawyers in other cases that no such filing had been made either. And those lawyers weren’t just telling me: they told Judge Furman as well. At the beginning of October, Judge Furman asked Liebowitz to file a declaration addressing why he hadn’t filed the order in some cases (and why he had filed it late in others). Liebowitz then filed quite an amazing declaration on October 15th, explaining how and why he had failed to file the order in 113 different cases. In typical Liebowitz fashion, he had excuses for all of them. He blamed PACER (which we agree is a terrible service), but he also admits that he never thought to use his case management system — the one he’d been forced to install a year earlier as part of sanctions in another case (the one where he blamed the death of his grandfather for failing to appear in court, and then lied about the actual date of his grandfather’s death). That case also involved the judge referring Liebowitz to the Grievance Committee.
Other excuses Liebowitz gave for not filing the order in cases was that he thought some cases were completely over and just missed that they had motions pending. Some cases he closed out between the time the original order was made and his attempted compliance with them. And then there were some cases which he argued he was more peripherally than directly involved in them.
Either way, Judge Furman, finds this literally unbelievable.
Had Mr. Liebowitz failed to file the Opinion and Order in a handful of cases, the failure to comply might have been understandable and excusable. But the failure to file it in 113 cases is astonishing and suggests contumaciousness, an egregiously disorganized case management system, or both. It is all the more astonishing in light of Mr. Liebowitz?s record, set forth in painstaking detail in the Court?s Opinion and Order, and his repeated representations to Judges ? in this District and beyond ? that he had taken steps to improve his case management practices.
Contumaciousness is a good word. Look it up.
Basically, Judge Furman notes that Liebowitz has not shown any real evidence that he’s changed. At all. And thus, it’s clear that the judge believes that Liebowitz deserves further sanctions. However, as he notes, the sanctions should be designed to lead to correction of the bad behavior — and thanks to the Grievance Committee’s suspension of Liebowitz’s license, there’s not a current threat of this behavior continuing.
That said, the ultimate purpose of sanctions is deterrence… and, as Mr. Liebowitz?s extraordinary record of both sanctions and noncompliance with court orders demonstrates, it is far from clear that there is any additional sanction that would serve to deter him. Moreover, on November 30, 2020, this Court?s Grievance Committee ? noting Mr. Liebowitz?s ?repeated disregard for orders from this Court and his unwillingness to change despite 19 formal sanctions and scores of other admonishments and warnings from judges across the country? ? entered an Amended Order immediately suspending Mr. Liebowitz ?from the practice of law before this Court pending final adjudication of the charges against [him].? In re Liebowitz, No. M-2-238, at 1-2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2020). Thus, for the time being, there will be nothing to deter when it comes to Mr. Liebowitz.
Accordingly, and in light of the Grievance Committee?s Order of November 25, 2020, the Court, exercising its discretion, determines that additional sanctions are not appropriate at this time.
However, just in case, Judge Furman clarifies that when he said that Liebowitz had to file the order in all of his cases, he did mean all of them, and amends the original order to make that abundantly clear and to make sure that Liebowitz cannot wriggle free from complying.
All in all, there seems to be a decent chance that Richard Liebowitz will no longer be practicing law.