Adam Urbanczyk and his involvement in a “Titanic of shakedown cases”
As one defense attorney nicely put it, while we have been covering copyright trolling cases involving a couple of dozens John Does, those cases are like canoes compared to a huge vessel, which is LW Systems LLC v. Christopher Hubbard (St Clair County, IL: 13-L-15) — a Titanic that have been covered by mist since January, and was not really noticed by the public. Indeed, the “agreed order” (embedded below) allows subpoenaing virtually any ISP for any IP address. This type of a carte blanche discovery would be most definitely not allowed in a federal court — one of the reasons why Prenda goes to great lengths to keep its farcical lawsuits in county courts, in particular, in cronyism-plagued St. Clair county court.
Attorney Morgan Pietz has blogged about this lawsuit, DieTrollDie has blogged about it, I featured it in my “double-barrel” post (1, 2), yet the abuse of the legal system is so grave here that we must continue shedding light and attracting public attention.
Formally, the plaintiff is “LW Holdings,” a UPS-mailbox-based multi-national conglomerate, but due to recent happenings in Judge Wright’s courtroom and other revelations, everyone refers to Duffy, Steele, Hansmeier, Lutz, AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, Guava, LW Systems/Holdings collectively as “Prenda,” and so will I.
This case is strongly suspected to be a collusive one, i.e. a mockery of justice where plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys are not adversaries: they simply play their parts in accordance with the scenario that was predetermined from the very beginning. Match fixing in organized sports is a good analogy. The actual goal of such lawsuit has nothing to do with delivering justice: this process is only a background for the procurement of a discovery order, which allows subpoenaing ISPs for subscriber information, and subsequently sending nasty letters (like the one embedded below), as well as making harassing calls to wrestle purported “infringers” and “hackers” into paying a couple of grands to make this nuisance (which for some people is more — a nightmare) go away.
This lawsuit is strikingly similar to a bunch of other Prenda’s cases that are suspected of fixing. All of them have a single mysterious defendant and include an “agreed order” allowing unmasking hundreds and thousands of ISP subscribers — in the very beginning of the process:
- Guava LLC v. Skylar Case: the first one of this type. Cook County court, Illinois. Paul Duffy and Adam Urbanczyk signed the agreed order on 7/30/2012. Later there was a discovery theater in front of the judge who suspected the foul play. This performance was ended in a predictable way — with voluntarily dismissing the case in early March 2013 and hoping that time will cover the apparently unethical (and maybe illegal) shakedown campaign. I wrote a post about this case while it was alive.
- Arte de Oaxaca v. Stacey Mullen: very similar to the previous one, also Cook County court, the agreed order was signed on 8/14/2012 — two business days after the complaint was filed. Defense attorney appearance was not even filed then, and the Answer to he complaint was filed only in 3 months! This case was also voluntarily dismissed on 3/13/2013.
- Guava LLC v. Spenser Merkel: a case in Hennepin County court, Minnesota, but boringly similar to the first two. Since Adam Urbanczyk is not licensed in Minnesota, another defense attorney was involved. This is the only case where collusion was proven. The defendant came forward and filed a damning affidavit, confirming what everyone knew but couldn’t prove. The defense attorney involved in this case, Trina Morrison, is not really culpable, as she learned about the collusion only after she started representing Merkel. Working pro bono, the young attorney thought it would be a nice court experience, but she got much more than she bargained for. While I respect her right to forget this ordeal, I hope she will tell her story herself one day. This case was dismissed, obviously, after the revelations. The transcript of the hearing in front of Judge Tanya Bransford is worth reading: Prenda lawyers’ douchebaggery have been blossomed at full throttle during that hearing.
- AF Holdings v. Matthew Ciccone: this is the only federal case (MIED 12-cv-14442), and as such, it attracted much more attention than its state court cousins. A number of bright attorneys verbosely explained to the judge the “merits” of this case. Read the filings of John Hermann, Eric Grimm and others. AF Holdings was represented by Prenda’s local Jonathan Tappan, although I don’t believe he wrote a single pleading; according to the metadata, a freelance legal writer Nadia Wood, who have been shadow writing for Prenda for a while, authored the complaint. The “defendant” was represented by an attorney Bernard Fuhs from a big law firm Butzel Long. I don’t know much about him, but I think it would be a good idea to send a mass email linking to this post to his numerous colleagues: maybe some internal investigation will be conducted. This case was dismissed on 3/25/2013
- And, finally, LW Systems LLC v. Christopher Hubbard: a “Titanic of shakedown cases” I started this post with. It’s time to look at the agreed order, which is so shameful/shameless that Adam Urbanczyk was shy to list it on his site. This is quite a statement: Adam is a super-accurate guy. All the other filings from this case are listed and linked. In my opinion, if any member of the Board of Bar Overseers reads this document, he/she should immediately start an investigation.
While Prenda is dead, it is still running around as a headless chicken
Prenda Law may still be standing. But it’s dead.
Yet, I’m afraid that the power of greed is widely underestimated. Harassing calls have been placed by Mark Lutz throughout April, and yesterday people started receiving a new batch of threatening letters, this time on the “Paul Duffy law Group” letterhead.
Same old bullshit that is not worth debunking, but there is a couple of points I want to make.
It is funny that they added the following line:
Your friends, family members and blog sites are not reliable sources of legal advice.
Blog sites? Which blog sites? Maybe it makes sense to google for some answers? Laughable. Imagine an attorney for a deceased Nigerian prince, who, after bringing you the jolly news about millions that the prince left to you in his will, kindly warns you not to search the web for “Nigerian scam.”
This one is, frankly, nauseous. Remember that we are dealing with hardcore pornography here (emphasis is mine):
What if I do fight your client?
Certainly, you are entitled to hire an attorney and fight the case all the way through trial. Our firm is famous for pursuing these cases and this matter will be followed closely in the national media. Your name will be forever associated with the outcome of the matter, particularly if you prevail.
The letter is dated 4/18/2013, while as of 4/12/2013 Duffy Law Group was involuntarily dissolved:
There are rumors that a lien was put on the firm due to Duffy’s large debts. It is not a secret that Paul is/was a defendant in many lawsuits (examples here, here and here) filed by his creditors. If he is not a patsy, but really a head of the “leading law firm,” which extracted settlements from tens of thousands and made millions, how is it possible at all? But it is a topic for another investigation…
In any case, claiming to represent a law firm that was dissolved involuntarily, should (and will) draw attention of disciplinary bodies.
Here’s how a business attorney describes the consequences of conducting business under the name of a dissolved LLC:
As a general principle, if the secretary of state, state attorney general proceeded, or judicial action resulted in an involuntary dissolution this has the same legal effect as a voluntary dissolution. That means that this entity cannot do business under that entity. If it does so, the members may be liable for administrative actions by the state and for possible civil claims for fraud, among others.
Adam Urbanczyk is not listed on the EFF Subpoena Defense Resources page anymore
Adam Urbanczyk was previously listed on the EFF Subpoena Defense Resources page, and that fact made my blood boil every time I browsed that page. The page is one of the first resources troll victims find after starting their online research. And many called Adam only to be pressured to settle. Multiply the insistence that “Steele will get you earlier or later” by the alleged collusion, and you will understand why I’m so glad that Urbanczyk’s name is not on that page anymore.
Note that many statements in this post are my opinion only: I don’t have a ”beyond the reasonable doubt” proof that Adam Urbanczyk is “in bed with Prenda” (in Judge Tailor’s words): I gave a lot of pointers, yet do your own research, analyze the facts, and make your own conclusions. In the meantime, given that nothing bad had happened to Spenser Merkel since he found the courage to come forward, I want to conclude this post with a plea:
Skylar Case, Stacey Mullen, Matthew Ciccone, Christopher Hubbard:
Do the right thing, come forward and tell your true stories. Yes, it is true that you were instrumental in sufferings of your fellow citizens, but people tend to forgive, especially in the present situation, when your testimony will inevitably help to bring the real villains to justice. Moreover, if investigators learn the facts without your cooperation, things may turn sour for you. Think about it.
- ArsTechnica: Prenda’s last stand: threats sprawl from a Minnesota hacking lawsuit by Joe Mullin.
- TechDirt: Thought Prenda Was Dead? No, It’s Up To Its Old Tricks… And More by Mike Masnick.