Posts Tagged ‘Peter Hansmeier’

By Mysterious Anonymous

Since I made it to the Spring Street Courthouse again to see Friday’s performance, SJD asked me to write up my impressions as a community representative. I had a super-busy weekend so I didn’t think there would be anything left to say by the time I found time, but I came up with an editorial angle that might be more entertaining to people who have come to read this site not because they have read about John Steele on Techdirt and Ars Technica, but because they were actually threatened by Steele | Hansmeier, Prenda or one of their other guises.

I had seen John Steele previously at the April 2 hearing where he plead the 5th, but I had never actually seen him perform, and the take-home lesson from last Friday’s hearing is…

John Steele is an idiot.

I had assumed Wright was simply calling Steele’s bluff by scheduling a hearing on Steele’s motion for reconsideration. Surely, given Steele’s history of trying to avoid Wright’s courtroom, Steele was bound to no-show even with his own motion scheduled for a hearing, giving Wright justification to deny the motion by default. But Wright’s plan was far more devious than that. After briefly chewing Steele out for filing documents that have nothing to do with anything, Wright had Steele staring at his own request to substitute counsel (or in Steele’s case go pro se) that had an incorrect mailing address… When Steele was there to complain about not being served by mail…

Unhappy troll

Things went all downhill. Steele basically couldn’t put a sentence or an argument together. As covered in detail elsewhere, Wright had gone over Steele’s filings in meticulous detail, found the inconsistencies, and grilled Steele with pointed and specific questions. Steele was desperate, pathetic, grasping for straws. He could barely answer any of Wright’s questions and never had a straight, specific answer, it was always an appeal to emotion, or his rights, or a wild conspiracy to deny Steele said rights. Wright repeatedly asked him to make an argument, explain a problem, and/or state some facts to back up anything he was saying, and Steele just couldn’t do it. He did manage to keep talking, we all know Steele can’t keep his mouth shut, and that is true no matter how deep of a hole he digs himself. Steele’s mouth kept running but the garbage coming out became less and less intelligible. It sounded like “blah blah blah MY RIGHTS blahbaddy blah 5TH AMENDMENT blah blah blah PATTERN OF FRAUD blah.”

The incoherence, paranoia, ego. Unbelievable. John Steele is so full of shit that I won’t even try to describe how full of shit he is. If you had tried to explain to me that a person could be that full of shit before I saw John Steele performing in Los Angeles, I would not have believed it was possible.

For those who have been intimidated and scared by Steele in the past: There is no evil genius here. There is no master plan, no craft, no clever, no intelligence. Just a bully who got lucky a few times bluffing laypeople with no understanding of the law. Now that he must practice his profession against real opponents he is a complete and utter failure. Such a failure that Wright joked about the Ninth Circuit having a reserved parking space for him. Such a failure that many attendees were wearing government ID badges. Investigators from the DOJ and IRS? Maybe. We can hope. But they looked a bit young to be seasoned investigators, so I think it is likely that John Steele has become a celebrity in the courthouse, and anyone who could slip away from work was there to watch him make a fool of himself.

John Steele has become the Court Jester of the Central District of California.

He brings shame to the University of Minnesota for having such low standards it awarded him a JD.

He brings shame to the state bar exam preparers of Illinois that created an exam so weak that John Steele could pass it.

He brings shame to every lawyer in every state where Prenda has filed cases, for having such collectively low standards and ethics that they call this scum their peer.

I would like everyone who has been threatened by Steele, intimidated by Steele, harassed by Steele, who has lost sleep because of Steele to know that John Steele was very, very unhappy on Friday. John Steele was mad. John Steele was worried. John Steele wore a deeply concerned and unhappy face that I wish all of you could have seen (I had to work to suppress the urge to break courtroom protocol and try to sneak a picture of Unhappy John Steele; it would have made great memes). I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, and like many other attendees could not keep from chortling and snorting with derision, glee and surprise at the contemptible foolishness of John Steele.

John Steele is struggling to deal with all the trouble John Steele has made for himself and behaved like he’s coming apart at the seams. His final words in the courtroom, a bellowed “It’s called cutting and pasting!” are a suitably pathetic example of how ridiculous this sad excuse for a man has become.

Everyone who has worked with or for Prenda should read this, and read everything else about Friday and their current state of affairs, and be scared. Very, very scared. Because their mastermind is a clueless buffoon of little ability who went all in with an empty hand and had his bluff called.

Update

SJD, 7/16/2013

On 7/9/2013 John Steele filed an apoplectic reply to Ranallo/Pietz/Heller response. The caveat is that, as a manual filing, it was stamped only on Friday (right before the hearing), and appeared on Pacer only today.

You’ve read the story above, now read Steele’s BS through the glasses of Friday’s event: it is entertaining.

 

Another [fantastic] update

SJD, 7/18/2013
Judge Wright issued an order on Steele’s motion for reconsideration, denying it and referring a purported attorney John Steele to Pro Se Clinic! This is probably the second-best (after the “Star Trek order”) by Wright in this case:

Based on these findings, the Court finds Steele’s Motion meritless and frivolous. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider whether sanctions should be awarded to Pietz and Ranallo for the expense of defending this Motion, one where Steele sought sanctions against them for their failure to serve.

Pietz and Ranallo are hereby directed to file a regularly noticed motion for Rule 11 sanctions against Steele in connection with his filing of this Motion. A hearing should be noticed for the motion no later than August 26, 2013. The Court hereby reminds Steele that failure to timely oppose the motion may result in the automatic imposition of the requested sanctions. L.R. 7-12.

Steele’s Motion for Reconsideration is hereby DENIED. Steele is advised that the Federal Pro Se Clinic is located in the United States Courthouse at 312 N. Spring Street, Room G-19, Main Street Floor, Los Angeles, California 90012. The clinic is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Federal Pro Se Clinic offers free, on-site information and guidance to individuals who are representing themselves in federal civil actions. Steele is encouraged to visit the clinic for advice concerning his case.

 

As you know from the previous posts here and a never-ending Popehat thread, after four clowns (Steele, Paul and Peter Hansmeiers, Mark Lutz) unwisely submitted frivolous motions claiming that they were not properly served by the opposition in the “Star Trek” case (and demanding sanctions against Pietz and Ranallo), Judge Wright set a hearing on these motions to this Friday, July 12. In the meantime, Pietz and Ranallo have lawyered up and delivered a sledgehammer response.

It was not unexpected that Steele would ask the Court to appear telephonically, and he did ask to appear by phone without specifying the phone (no email was provided either — only a Regus virtual office address):

 

Equally not unexpectedly, this motion was denied almost immediately:

 

Note that according to the order, the clerk did not advise Steele to file this motion while he claimed just the opposite.


If I close my eyes, there will be
no Wright, no Pietz, no Ranallo…

Now, we are all used to Steele’s lies, nothing is surprising anymore, except maybe the fact that John chose the most self-destructing path to go. Maybe he still thinks it’s a poker game and there is a room for bluff? But is he the only one who doesn’t see that mirrors are everywhere, and everyone knows that his cards are crap?

Claiming that he was not aware of the hearing prior to Monday? Bullshit: I know, John, you check our blogs and Twitter a couple of times a day and learn the news in real time. Who will believe you? This is the most important case in your life: many things, including your freedom, are at stake. While I called you derogatory names, I always thought that your IQ is above average, but seeing your latest actions, I have started to doubt it.

Now, a poll:

 

Media coverage
  • ArsTechnica: Prenda’s motion to reduce $238,000 appeal bond falls flat by Joe Mullin. I liked one reader comment in particular. AaronLeeR wrote:

    “[S]everal of the pro se persons in this matter are of limited income and cannot afford the extreme financial hardship associated with missing work and flying across the country on 3 days notice.”

    Financial hardships didn’t seem to be a concern when they were extorting people for cash. What goes around….

  • Yesterday I mentioned four motions from the Prenda gang claiming that Steele/Hansmeiers/Lutz were not served by Pietz/Ranallo with the copies of the documents from “The Star Trek” case. The most serious is John Steele’s motion — as it exhibits Pietz’s email purportedly admitting the wrongdoing¹. Today, obviously heeding the legal wisdom that “an attorney who represents himself has a fool for a client,” Morgan Pietz replied via newly hired law firm Heller and Edwards.

    One might imagine that after being severely sanctioned by this court for what amounts to no less than a criminal enterprise which exploited an unknowing court system in order to extort an innocent citizenry, John Steele and his cohorts would think twice before tiling frivolous and procedurally defective motions. One might imagine [...]

    The main points of the reply are:

    • The motion is improper because it is a “motion for reconsideration,” and any reconsideration request must be based on new evidence. No new evidence was presented, according to Pietz/Heller.
    • It is no one’s fault but Steele’s that he has not been receiving document copies: John failed to maintain updated contact information with the court, a strict duty.
    • Steele’s exhibit (Morgan’s email to the Prenda parties, johnlsteele@gmail.com in particular) is forged. Pietz does not deny sending this email. But… it bounced. I tested it and Google said that no such user exists. At the same time, on the page 5 of his motion Steele claims under penalty of perjury that it is “a true and correct copy of an email I received from Morgan E. Pietz.” Heller concludes that the exhibit is doctored (that Steele obtained a copy from one of the CC recipients and “fixed” it to look like he himself received it). If so, I praise a great idea to present a forged document to Judge Wright. Smart!
    • Steele actively participated in the discussion (with Prenda’s attorney Philip Vineyard) about the recent case developments. So, despite not being served with copies by Pietz, John was perfectly aware about the case progress (it would be insane not to follow the most important lawsuit of his life):

      In view of all this evidence, it seems that Steele was just about as “shocked” about the bond issue before this Court as Captain Renault was to find that gambling was going on at Rick’s Café Americain. (See Cap’t. Renault, Casablanca, Warner Bros. (1942)).

    Expectedly, the movants request sanctions:

    Although already sanctioned by this court, it is clear that neither Steele nor his contingent have learned their lesson. As frivolous as Steele’s motion is, Pietz and Ranallo were compelled to retain outside counsel to defend it. Pietz and Ranallo should be compensated for having to respond to this baseless motion through the court’s issuance, on its own initiative, of an OSC re: Sanctions or, alternatively, through the court’s setting of a hearing date for Pietz and Ranallo to have their Rule 11 sanctions motion heard.

    It must be said: finally, enough is enough!

     

     

    Spoliation of evidence?

    Was Steele’s exhibit “A” doctored or not can be debated (and I’m skeptical that it was forgery: fraud/deception — yes, forgery/doctoring — not likely), but there is an elephant in the room that was initially unnoticed: the very fact that Steele has deleted his email account. A comment by Mysterious Anonymous explains it better than I would:

    John Steele deleted his Gmail account?

    One that has been used extensively in the course of his litigation activities at Steele | Hansmeier and Prenda Law, Inc., in perhaps hundreds of cases in dozens of federal district courts across the USA?

    One that was used to register domain names for Prenda and their supposed clients?

    One that was associated with the Alan Cooper ID theft?

    After he was referred to the USAO and IRS-CI for criminal investigation?

    After he was referred to state Bar associations for investigation?

    Holy shit! Can you say

    SPOLIATION

    OF

    EVIDENCE

    ???

    Wow.

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

    What was in there that Steele is suddenly so desperate to hide?

    I’m surprised Heller didn’t raise the issue, seems like a huge oversight. Even though it may not be strictly relevant to the 08333 case and their response, it is surely useful as another demonstration of Prenda’s bad faith and lack of ethics. Surely attorneys operate under record retention requirements that do not include “I can delete all my f%^&king email whenever I want because I am in a panic trying to avoid service and destroy evidence!”

    All the histrionics about the guy with CCleaner installed and Steele wipes his f%^&king email account?

    This isn’t going to end well. If Nick and Morgan don’t take him to task for it, every other defendant with a counterclaim will have a field day, as will the guys driving the party vans.

    Media coverage

     


    ¹ I think (and I wonder if anyone disagrees) that Pietz’s email is nothing but an example of the professional courtesy.

    We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Congratulations to everyone involved, especially Morgan and Nick.

    Media coverage

    The transcript of the pivotal hearing in Ingenuity13 LLC v. John Doe (CACD 12-cv-08333) is now available as an exhibit to Blair Chintella’s motion for sanctions, which deserves a separate post (and is a must-read).

    Enjoy.

     

    Big thanks to Michael Stone for recapping.

    Update

    I said above that Chintella’s motion deserves a separate post, and intended to write about it, but Popehat beat me on that (Prenda Law: Let The Other Shoes Hit The Floor).

    Ken White uploaded all the exhibits to this motion, as well as to another post-April 2 masterpiece — Jason Sweet’s motion for attorney fees in a dismissed (in panic) Lighspeed v. Smith et al. (ILSD 12-cv-00889) I want to point to one particular exhibit: a 1/25/2013 transcript of the hearing in the Hennepin County Court (Minnesota) — a hearing that has two major events associated with it: Spencer Merkel’s affidavit (ohai, Adam Urbanczyk!) and the “Love in the Elevator” serving of John Steele.


    If the last Prenda hearing was a tornado, this one was an earthquake.
    Abrupt, powerful, and leaving unclear casualties.

    Adam Steinbaugh

     

    Basically, the title says it all. I was not there (looking back — fortunately: the travel would be too expensive given the length of the show). I could filter the bits of information from the Twitter feed, but it does not make much sense: Ken White‘s analysis is by far the most read-worthy:

    However well grounded in the individual rights of Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy, the invocation eviscerates their credibility as lawyers and the credibility of Prenda Law as an enterprise in every court across the country. I expect that defense attorneys will file notice of if in every state and federal case Prenda Law has brought, through whatever guise or cutout. The message will be stark: the attorneys directing this litigation just took the Fifth rather than answer another judge’s questions about their conduct in this litigation campaign. I expect federal and state judges across the country will take notice and begin their own inquiries.

    The consequences for the individuals behind Prenda Law may arrive slowly — particularly by the standards of Twitter and anxious blogs. But they will come — and they may come from many directions at once.

    Prenda Law may still be standing. But it’s dead.

    I want to make sure that one particular tidbit is not lost: according to an earlier Dark Moe’s tweet, “IRS Agent from L.A. Anti-Money Laundering Unit will be in the audience.”

    As in the case of the previous hearing, I’ll try to collect links to all the stories about this short, but “an extinction-level event for Prenda.” Needless to say, this post will be updated as I become aware of new coverage.

    Transcript
    Featured comment by a witness

    Anonymous wrote:

    Well there wasn’t really enough drama to do a full narrative writeup. Popehat and Ars have it covered, and Ken’s background provides more insight than I can given there were no new revelations.

    But there are a few things I thought were interesting that I don’t think were highlighted in the other coverage:

    Steele now has his own attorneys.
    Paul Hansmeier has his own attorneys.
    Duffy, Van Den Hemel, and Prenda are still represented by Rosing.

    Peter Hansmeier and Lutz did not have representation.

    Hansmeier and Steele were sitting next to each other and chatting, so they still appear to be buddies.

    Duffy entered separately, looked beet red.

    Peter Hansmeier looked like he was about to cry at one point.

    Paul Hansmeier looks like he has been eating all the settlement money, or maybe he is a stress eater and the last month or so has been particularly rough.

    Lutz looks much older than I expected, maybe 40′s. I assumed from his being such a fool, and the antics like showing up to court in flip-flops, that he would look like a 20-something college dropout. He decided to wear a suit this time and looked like someone I would take seriously if I didn’t know better.

    I believe Van Den Hemel entered and sat with Lutz, Steele and the Hansmeiers, but not sure if I caught it all, I didn’t know who she was or that she was there yet.

    So it looks like factional lines are being drawn.

    Nobody took credit for being Alan Cooper, Wright made a particular point of asking if there was an Alan Cooper; I’m sure this is key to whatever he has in mind.

    Gibbs was present but basically ignored, the only acknowledgment of him or his lawyer I recall was when Wright thanked Waxler for successfully serving the rest.

    Pietz and Ranallo were present and armed to the teeth with boxes of stuff, but I think they only spoke to identify themselves when the hearing began.

    Except for Rosing, who seemed like she is at least trying to do her job and put up some fight, the other guys’ attorneys got steamrolled by Wright, they barely even tried. They literally ended up hunched over the table, arms splayed out, mouths hanging open looking like “WTF is happening to us?’

    I wanted to get pics of the crew, especially Lutz since he has been the Prenda Mystery Man, but no electronics in the courtroom and they didn’t leave with the crowd, probably slithered out the side doors long after everyone else left.

    I will also predict that, with Prenda simply pleading the 5th regarding everything they do, the defamation suit counterclaims will be disastrous for them. Not sure what they can do at this point if they simply won’t answer questions or produce discovery, but at the rate they are going they may be forced to let them go to default judgements.

    By the same token, it seems like anyone involved in a Prenda case that hasn’t been dismissed yet has a golden opportunity. Get a counterclaim in, and if they are are simply unwilling to speak about any of their cases, how will they defend it?

    A bit anticlimactic, a lot less theater than last time, but it looks like they are seriously screwed.

    Featured cartoon

    JohnGenryLawyer created a splendid cartoon relevant to the theme of this post. To those who started following Prenda cases only recently: text on the left is from the April 2 hearing transcript, which is embedded above; text on the right is from another famous transcript — of the hearing that took place in Judge Scriven’s courtroom in Tampa in November.

    Media coverage

    Graham Syfert (a Jacksonville attorney, who does not need an introduction) posted an interesting investigative piece today. I found it extremely important and encourage everyone to read it. But before you start, I want to point out to one coincidence that Graham did not mention (probably he did not know): a person who we strongly believe was John Steele had been commenting on this blog via Mullvad VPN (links at the bottom). Although it does not prove anything per se — a single exit IP address is shared by many VPN users — the fact that Mullvad VPN was allegedly used to seed certain pornographic movies is interesting.

    sharkmp4: The Prenda Law Honeypot

    By Graham Syfert

    Many know of the problems encountered by Prenda Law in the case of Sunlust v. Nguyen, a copyright infringement case that resulted in the Sunlust v. Nguyen hearing transcript. Many also know of the cases of Steele, Prenda, and Duffy v. Paul Godfread, Alan Cooper, and The Internet.

    And everyone who is reading this probably knows that there has been a problem in California, where a federal judge is quite concerned regarding the client and firm merging together in cases titled in the Plaintiff’s name of AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13.

    Recently, the question came to be asked: Has anyone ever seen these movies they’re suing on available anywhere but bittorrent? I do not have any current AF Holdings or Ingenuity 13 cases, I have never looked at the works, or even focused on Ingenuity 13 any more than hunting Alan Cooper or Salt Marsh. But I decided to try and help. Oh, and I guess the Prenda Law client VPR Internationale, also comes into play. Probably others.

    Knowing that Steele likes to sue the internet, for making false statements, I will simply present the facts.

    Continue reading on the Graham Syfert’s blog…

    Comments from Mullvad VPN addresses — (strongly suspected) made by John Steele
    Media coverage
    Although an epic hearing on 3/11/2013 was already devastating for Prenda, Judge Otis Wright apparently did not finish his job then: he has ordered a new hearing on 3/29/2013 4/2/2013¹, admonishing the alleged fraudsters for the failure to appear on March 11. Although they have enough time for weaselry — I’m sure that Steele & Co. will do everything possible not to be put under oath in front of Wright — it will be a very-very bad idea not to come to LA on March 29 April 2. Very bad idea. The countdown timer on the left has been reset.

    Media coverage

     


    ¹Update: the hearing has been moved to 4/2/2013 for purely administrative reasons, I guess.

    Yesterday I wrote that I would not be coming up with a story about yesterday’s eventful day. I provided a couple of links to eloquent, well thought pieces, especially by Megan Geuss (ArsTechnica) and Ken “Popehat” White. Yet this morning an anonymous commenter, who attended the hearings, shared his own story, which belongs to a post, not a comment. Even though we will eventually obtain and publish the transcript, personal perspectives of attendees are invaluable: only facts can be redundant, not impressions.

    By Anonymous

    No.

    Gibbs did not have Wright wrapped around his finger. Believe me nobody who’s touched Prenda or their shells (that are “not even shells” in Wright’s words) should feel safe.

    The tone of the hearing was set when Wright opened by calling out Prenda’s attorney:

        “ARE THEY HERE!?”

        “No.”

        “HAVE A SEAT!”


    Federal Judge Otis D. Wright

    That was basically all he wanted to hear, although there was a brief exchange that established they were supposedly available by phone (whether that would be a domestic or international call was not established). She took a dressing down for the last minute filing tricks, but the bottom line is Wright did not dignify their gamesmanship by letting their attorney make excuses, he did not waste time grinding through their objections, he said they had been given an opportunity to explain themselves, and since they chose not take that opportunity, he moved on. I can only imagine what she is thinking after sitting through that hearing, because I’m sure they didn’t fill her in on the backstory.

    The next order of business was calling out Hansmeier’s deposition. The judge dismissively tossed a copy on the desk in front of him (seriously) and said he spent the weekend reading it and it was the most revealing document thus far. Wright was extremely upset with that deposition. Extremely.

    “Someone has an awful lot to hide.”

    Hansmeier is probably in trouble.

    The rest is incomplete and not very chronological, just salient points:

    Wright used the phrase “the lawyers have a pecuniary interest.”

    He noted that none of these companies file tax returns.

    The fact that LiveWire has no office, just a P.O. box in DC, came up. Gibbs’ lawyer started to make an attempt to make this sound legit, but then he said something about it being a “cloud office,” there were derisive snorts, and he just kind of gave up.

    Wright took several specific shots at Prenda’s credibility. The word “lie” was used. And “fraud.” A few times when Gibbs was trying to pass blame to avoid giving a straight answer, Wright admonished him for doing “all the stuff that you do” to redirect responsibility. Expect a defamation suit against Judge Wright to be forthcoming…

    Alan Cooper of Minnesota was there. He confirmed the bits we’ve heard, that Steele bragged about his copyright litigation plans, Steele’s goal was $10,000/day for sending letters, told Cooper not to answer any calls related to Steele’s companies. Denied knowledge of all of Steele’s uses of the name “Alan Cooper.” Basically, it confirmed what we had already heard and read in his letter, but no doubt putting this on the record, under oath, in front of this judge was very damaging to Prenda. Gibbs’s attorneys appeared to begin to counter Cooper’s testimony by asking Cooper if he had called Steele and left a voicemail asking “how are my porn companies doing?” Cooper simply said “no” and they gave up. This must have been a reference to the “iPhone record function” Steele was blabbering about on Twitter, but if there is anything there, Gibbs’s attorneys did not think it was worth pursuing. By that point Steele’s credibility had been shredded, and Pietz had played several voicemails of Steele threatening Cooper with more litigation, so I assume that if a recording (of someone) exists Gibbs’s attorneys do not have a copy and decided not to gamble on Steele’s word.

    During the break Mitch Stoltz told us EFF took care of Cooper’s travel arrangements, so those guys deserve all our thanks and if you wanted to find a way to help with Cooper’s travel arrangements, make a donation to the EFF.

    A new revelation that came out while Gibbs was under oath is that he was briefly a W2 employee of one or more of the shells, I think it was LiveWire and/or AF Holdings, but it’s so convoluted with the “mergers” and everyone owning everyone that it was hard to keep straight. That contradicted his prior statements that he had only ever been a 1099 employee. Of course he was never paid while he was on the payroll, and it was strange, he sounded like he was bewildered by the fact he had been an employee, like maybe they did that without telling him first too? Since he was under oath at the time he was perhaps less likely to be BS’ing at that point, but that was the story regarding his surprise “in-house counsel” job.

    Wright dug into Gibbs quite a bit for pathologically failing to file notices of related cases, and Gibbs’ persistent confusion of “joinder” vs. “related” for filing purposes. He did a bit of digging into Gibbs weak and apparently inaccurate justification of his “investigation” of the properties. Wright said he had used Google Earth himself to take a look, so Gibbs ended up claiming that when he looked at maps of those addresses, the maps he saw had a different angle that totally gave the impression the house was surrounded by emptiness. It was not convincing.

    For the juicier issues of Prenda’s decision-making process, Gibbs pretty much just passed the blame on to “senior members” with lots of “decisions were made” type responses. After all our speculation that Duffy is a nominal figurehead, it was very interesting to hear Gibbs talk about who gave his marching orders. It sounded like he basically never talked to Duffy, maybe once or twice was the impression I got. Even after the firm supposedly changed ownership and Duffy took over, whenever Wright asked who was giving instructions and making decisions, it was always Steele and Hansmeier. No matter where we were in the timeline or who was supposed to be the owner of what, whenever Gibbs was asked who gave him orders it was “Paul and John,” and according to my notes the order Gibbs spoke was “Paul and John,” which may be revealing: certainly Hansmeier has more direct involvement than I had believed to be the case. As they got to the newer entities, Lutz’s name was sprinkled in here and there, almost as if they were still in the process of reconstructing the story to shift more responsibility (read: blame) to Lutz. In any case, it was enough to make me wonder if Duffy is even a real person, or if he has had his identity misused too or what, because he doesn’t seem to do anything, so it doesn’t make sense that he would put his name on this powder keg of risk (unless of course he is getting fat checks, which may well be).

    I will grant that Gibbs did a somewhat successful job of looking duped and misled. He was even asked directly if he felt duped by Wright, and after a surprisingly long pause said “in a way.” Not that I believe this could be true after two years of working with Paul and John, but I think he pulled it off. There were one or two points that even made me feel a bit of sympathy for him. For example, according to Gibbs’s testimony, many of the recent dunning letters bearing his signature that have been sent out for cases in other states used a stamp of his signature without his permission. He claims this began after he had decided to get out and sever ties with the firm, and that he told Lutz and Steele to stop (of course he didn’t notify any courts or authorities…). It sounded like a possible carefully constructed CYA, but given Steele’s vindictiveness it may well be that Gibbs is a “victim” in the sense that Steele has been attempting to set Gibbs up for even more trouble. Gibbs deserves every bit of trouble he may get, but I don’t want Steele to be allowed to weasel out of his own share of responsibility by using Gibbs’s name instead of his own. I can also believe that Gibbs did not know about the Alan Cooper and other possible forgery issues.

    For the most part, the specific issues for which Gibbs was present became a sideshow. His attorneys kept returning to them, because that appeared to be all they were prepared for. My guess is they have absolutely no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes, but if they do know they have not had time to prepare excuses for the past two years of shenanigans, and they were overwhelmed. They had canned responses to the points on the OSC, but Wright was far more interested in digging into Prenda’s overall pattern of behavior and business model. Gibbs’s attorneys were unprepared to field those questions, and they occasionally offered up some objection that Wright’s line of inquiry wasn’t relevant to the OSC, but Wright rebuffed them by stating his concern was now patterns of practice and fraud upon the court. The last words from Gibbs’ counsel were an obviously prepared statement that seemed awkwardly out of place given the turn the hearing had taken; I believe they expected to show up, run through a prepared script, and call it a day. They are probably wondering what the hell happened.

    What struck me as ominous for Gibbs and especially the rest of Prenda is that Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo appeared well prepared to go into greater depth to establish that Gibbs was working in more than an “of counsel” role, to argue the jurisdictional issues of the other Prenda guys, etc. But Wright really wasn’t interested in hearing more. But I don’t mean he didn’t find it relevant or convincing, more like he had made up his mind that this circus has gone on long enough. I would sum up his attitude at this point as “Why bother? I don’t need to hear this.” It was as if Wright was satisfied that he had more than enough for… Whatever comes next… And when he got to that point he was just done.

    To me, the absolute standout moment of the day was when Gibbs stepped down from the witness box and Wright said “Good luck to you.” You had to be there to appreciate the menace in his voice.
    For now, we can only guess what Gibbs might need that luck for.

    Personally, I think Lady Justice is practicing her dropkicks.

    Update

    Here are another hearing attendee’s observations:

    By jw

    Since you ask for more impressions/observations, here are some from my own non-legal-expert perspective:

    • Many have noted the judge did not seem amused. While that is generally accurate with respect to Prenda’s (allegedly) fraudulent, deceptive, evasive practices, there were times at which the judge stifled laughter in apparent amusement. In particular: when he had to correct Waxler for saying the client “retains” attorneys; when Pietz corrected his use of the word “porno” with “adult entertainment.”
    • There was a nice moment in which, just before breaking for a 10-minute recess, the judge almost tenderly said “I hate to stop you [to Pietz]. But, since I care more about her [referring to the court reporter] than this case, and she has been going non stop since this started, we are going to break for 10 minutes.”
    • At one point, the judge asked Gibbs, under oath, if he understood his question, and then added, “Because I can hear you now… ’compound!’…”, making a joke about Gibbs’ extensive objections in the ~300 page deposition of Feb 19.
    • I was careful to observe Heather Rosing (attorney for Steele, Hansmeier, van den Hemel, and Duffy) throughout the hearing, since she got shot down so harshly by Wright at its opening. She was quite active throughout, talking animatedly to two other gentlemen who accompanied her there, and taking copious notes. She also at some point, spoke with Gibbs’s attorneys in an effort to apparently join forces to get them to contact her clients by phone. Though a phone appearance never happened, it seemed for a bit like they were trying to make it a real possibility. For what it’s worth, and this is only my impression, Rosing seemed a bit stunned by the revelations offered at the hearing, as if she hadn’t had the full story when she filed that ex parte motion… I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if she withdrew after yesterday’s revelations.
    • All the talk about popcorn, one might think there would have been a carnival atmosphere to the hearing. But it was really intense, people were quite glued to the proceedings, and very quiet. And, based on Wright’s demeanor and his strict no-food policy, it would have been terrifying to try to eat popcorn in there! I was even a bit scared to take a sip of my water in the room.
    • I have never been to a hearing before, so maybe court clerks are always awesome. But I have to say, I was really impressed by the court clerk running the show. She was a well-dressed, petite woman who was extremely attentive and obviously very on top of things in the room — keeping track of all the exhibits, etc. Wright’s two clerks (sitting behind the defense’s table… I think that’s who they were), were also interesting to watch. At one point, one of them, dressed very nicely in a purple tie and grey suit, handed Pietz his own flow chart Prenda diagram to use on the overhead “document reader” thingie when Pietz was having difficulty with the display from his iPad.
    • There were a bunch of reporters in the room. I noticed one young woman from the LA Times, who said at the very end of the hearing “I have a lot of reading to do.”
    • Wright clearly likes and respects all of the people that work for him, and vice versa.
    • Gibbs’s attorneys were making fun of Morgan (to themselves — I was just sitting behind them, watching closely) as he brought forward more and more evidence showing that Wright probably has jurisdiction over Steele and Hansmeier. It seemed like they were just saying it was overkill. The judge, however, seemed to appreciate Pietz’s efforts. At the end of the jurisdictional stuff, the judge said it was time for Plaintiff to go, and noted that they obviously would have no objection to the evidence Pietz brought forward to support Wright’s jurisdiction over Steele and Hansmeier, “Otherwise, he’s in [looking directly at Gibbs].”
    • I thought it was noteworthy that during Pietz’s questioning of Gibbs, Gibbs admitted that Steele and probably Hansmeier have his email passwords, and also his ECF password, allowing them to send emails as Gibbs, read all emails Gibbs receives (attorney-client privilege??) and submit things to the court as Gibbs. Apparently Gibbs also received emails to other attorneys (I can’t remember their names, one in Nevada…) and then was supposed to forward them on to the actual attorneys. When all this was being revealed, Judge Wright sat back in his chair and frowned.
    Update 2

    3/13/2013

    Transcripts of the voicemails John Steele left on the Alan Cooper’s phone are available. As Dark Moe tweeted after the hearing,

    …and another thing: The voicemail messages from Steele bothered me. Cooper did nothing to deserve being threatened with a lawsuit.

    It’s sickening. Wish you could have heard the messages. My lawyer was moved over it. Couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

    Before reading the following, make sure you allocated enough time to have a shower afterwards.