Remember how John Steele was ridiculed by Judge Shadur after his two troll cases in a row were assigned to a judge who once said that this divorce-lawyer-turned-copyright-hound “abused the litigation system in more than one way”?
It seems that attorney John Steele (“Steele”) might be well advised to stay away from Las Vegas or other casinos, because his current filing on behalf of plaintiff Boy Racer, Inc. has—despite odds in the range of 25 to 1—been assigned at random to the calendar of this District Court, which had previously been the recipient of another random assignment of a Steele-filed action (that one being CP Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-300, No. 10 C 6255). This Court had ended up dismissing the CP Productions action for the reasons stated in its February 7, 2011 memorandum order and its February 24, 2011 memorandum opinion and order, which (among other reasons) rejected attorney Steele’s effort to shoot first and identify his targets later.
Now we witness how Paul Duffy, Steele’s apprentice, follows in his master’s steps. Duffy was no luckier with his DC cases than Steele was in Chicago. His debut lawsuit was assigned to judge Bates, who (unlike many other judges) paid attention to anonymous motions and strongly suspected that the court was used as a front end for a brazen scam, so he ordered Does to go forward and speak out their frustrations under seal, protecting them from premature harassment. Subpoenas to ISPs were stayed.
In his next two cases Duffy was even less fortunate: the first one was assigned to judge Robert Wilkins, known for his strong opposition to “fishing expeditions” — lumping together defendants from many jurisdictions. So what did Paul Duffy do? He simply dismissed the entire suit immediately after learning to which judge this case was assigned: the case was filed on 11/15, dismissed on 11/18. The second one was assigned to… judge Wilkins again. I was curiously watching… And what do you think? This case was dismissed on Friday: this time it took 9 days: a record! Surprised? I’m not.
I’m not a specialist in legal ethics and court rules, but from the common sense perspective, the mechanism of randomly assigning judges to cases makes a lot of sense as a safeguard against tendentiousness. If “shopping” for judges is not a sanctionable conduct, I would be disappointed. As Mike Masnick wrote a couple of months ago,
With so many lawyers jumping into the copyright trolling game lately, using the same basic blueprint (if only they’d sue each other for infringement!), it would be nice if we could get a higher court to issue a bright line rule that said such a joining of totally unrelated parties is totally improper. That could cut off this whole shakedown game quickly. But until we get that, these copyright trolling operations will just continue forum shopping, hoping to find a judge who isn’t hip to how they’re just using the judicial system as a way to force people into paying money.
By the way, anyone still believes that these scumbags are “fighting piracy”?
DieTrollDie reports that at least one of these lawsuits reemerged in Texas by Prenda’s goon Douglas McIntyre: it’s slightly different, more sleaziness is added (trying to present it as a lawsuit against a single Doe but listing pages and pages of co-conspirators), but the IP addresses are reused.
Comcast notices blatant judge shopping and refuses to hand out customers’ info. Now Sleele emerges from under the bridge trying to compel Comcast to betray its customers.
Rob Cashman posts news and insight regarding this drama.
Judge Wilkins rules: denies Prenda’s motion to compel, only allowing Prenda to get location (state and city) of each accused subscriber: Pyrrhic victory: this information is openly available via geolocation tools.
Note Judge Wilkins’s awareness about all Prenda’s deeds: he even mentions a counter-suit (Abrahams v. Hard Drive Productions, Inc., No. 3:12-1006) and extortion letters. We’ve been watching each Prenda’s step, and trolls did not like it, but when a federal judge hints that he watches too, it should send some shivers down scumbags’ spines.
Raul adds a few initial impressions:
- The judge has given to the ISPs a roadmap should they elect to contest Prenda’s other pending subpoenas and succeed.
- The judge has cleverly pointed to a “new” ground for Does to move to quash: abuse of Rule 45.
- The judge has shoved Prenda’s abusive subpoena practices up its collective ass.
- The judge has pointed out that Prenda’s legal theory of civil conspiracy (“borrowed” from Randazza) is bullshit and is preempted by the Copyright Act and it’s venue provision. This ought to be useful for any Doe caught up in just about any Prenda lawsuit (LMC, CP Productions, Sunlust, etc.).
I am sure I missed a few thing but those are the highlights. What the judge did not mention is how Rule 41 will now come into play, DTD did a post about this in May. Basically if you are named in two voluntarily dismissed lawsuits, it operates as an adjudication in your favor meaning trolls cannot sue you a third time. Prenda is now in a Catch-22 position as it will have to dismiss Millenium II Does if they do not reside in TX, but if they do that, Rule 41 bars a third lawsuit.