A quick update on my unauthorized practice of law report to The State Bar of California -- today I received this postcard:
We have received your complaint against a non-California attorney and have assigned it the number shown below. We will contact you when our evaluation of your matter is complete. Thank you for your patience. OFFICE OF CHIEF TRIAL COUNSEL/INTAKE Inquiry # 14-27528
The State Bar of California Office of the Chief Trial Counsel, Intake Unit 845 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90017-2515 Attn: UPL Project
To the State Bar of California UPL Project:
This message is to alert you about the possible unlawful practice of law by an unlicensed individual in California.
Marta Thoma Hall (whose business address is Velodyne Corporate Headquarters, 345 Digital Drive, Morgan Hill, CA 95037) held herself out to be an attorney representing Velodyne Inc., operated a phone "legal prosecution" agency, provided legal counsel to Velodyne Inc., and delivered legal advice -- all without being a member of the California Bar or the bar of any other jurisdiction.
Hall's actions are encapsulated in email messages she sent to at least three vendors on Amazon.com and Ebay.com: "20YearsUSAF" at Amazon.com and Ebay.com; "CCYL" on Amazon.com; and "Barbara's Bag of Holding" on Amazon.com. These actions are documented on Amazon.com at [URL for Amazon Seller Central discussion appears here]
Hall's email messages purpurted to be a notice of "legal prosecution" from an apprently fictitious law firm representing Velodyne, and in that fictitious role advises and counsels recipients misleadingly on their legal rights and responsibilities. The email message sent by Hall to "20YearsUSAF" reads:
[text of first letter from Hall to 20YearsUSAF appears here]
The crime here, I believe, is unauthorized practice of law, which in California I think is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. With language in the Sock and Bruster letter like "our engagement representing Velodyne", "notice of legal prosecution", and "Legal Prosecution ... Agency" -- as well as statements purporting to interpret the law -- I'd wager there's a pretty clear case to be made.
To me, this looks like another deliberate use of Streisanding to get publicity for everyone involved. So Francesa is an opinionated jerk who takes a ridiculous stand and then hammers away at anyone who disagrees: That's exactly what sports jocks are supposed to do -- haven't you ever listened to sports radio? This story helps Francesa's professional reputation, and it's no skin off his nose if the parodists get publicity too; actually it's even better for him if they do. If I were his PR advisor, I would have suggested he handle this exactly the way he's doing.
Is it Senator Wyden who misspelled "misled" in the headline, or is it the headline writer? Of course your spell-checker won't catch this because "mislead" is a real word too -- just not the right one here.
I agree with those other commenters who point out that this smells like an opponent's using the Streisand Effect, rather than the congresswoman or her supporters. Either way, though, it's nice to see our political class getting increasingly internet-savvy.
I agree that this lawsuit seems pretty stupid. However, I have to empathize with Johnny Monsarrat. Most of us have youthful indiscretions we'd prefer not to air in public. Surely Johnny Monsarrat's arrest and being accused of harassment fit this category. I hope he can find a different way to clear the air that's better than ill-advised legal action.
Restaurants use their own birthday songs, movies rarely include "Happy Birthday", and even kid-oriented radio stations don't play recordings of this song. Are people paying to download it? Where are the royalties coming from?
I don't think it's fair to say these attorneys practice law by boilerplate. Indeed (as Mr. Masnick indicates in his original post), the documents these attorneys have produced do not sound at all like standard legalese -- they seem casual and unique. I don't think I've ever heard of defendants' colleagues referred to as "minions" in a complaint before, for example.
Thinking about whether intellectual property is unethical, you probably already considered this: In most of the world, recognition that government-granted economic privileges aren't based on morality seems to be the basis for distinguishing between "moral rights" of authorship (like the right of an author to be correctly credited for his or her work) and "economic rights". But of course most moral rights aren't recognized in the U.S.
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