Prenda’s John Steele has been disbarred

It is rather a minor news because it was totally expected. Also, this development is pale in comparison to the criminal action against John Steele and Paul Hansmeier — the masterminds behind one of the most egregious abuses of the copyright law. Nonetheless, since this blog published more than 150 stories about Prenda (likely helping to accelerate the inevitable), to me it is a milestone worth marking.

According to Cook County Record,

On May 19, the Illinois Supreme Court announced its action against Steele, as well as six others who were disbarred by the court in attorney disciplinary orders handed down May 18. The court also suspended nine other attorneys and censured or reprimanded six more.


In announcing Steele’s disbarment, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission – the state body which oversees attorney discipline matters in Illinois – said Steele, who had been licensed in Illinois since 2007, was disbarred “on consent.”

The disbarment took place exactly 21 month after the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois filed its ethics complaint against Steele.

When Prenda went down in flames, both John Steele and his partner in crime Paul Hansmeier¹ (whose license was eventually suspended on 9/12/2016) switched to ADA trolling. After soliciting several folks with disabilities to be plaintiffs, John Steele (with help from his buddy, a fugitive Mark Lutz) attempted to extort 29 Northern Illinois businesses. Note that 21 of the lawsuits were initiated after the IARDC complaint. All those cases are closed now for various reasons, and I don’t know exactly how many victims paid up.


A mandatory cliché: the wheels of justice are slow, but they do grind. The next cog to move is named “Sentencing.”

(This is not the original PDF, I printed it from a not directly linkable IARDC page: search for “Steele, John,” find “John Lawrence Steele,” then click on “Rules and Decisions”)



¹ Frustratingly, the license suspension didn’t curb the ADA shakedown in Minnesota: Paul Hansmeier’s wife Padraigin Browne is “in charge” of the scam today.

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13 responses to ‘Prenda’s John Steele has been disbarred

  1. What I don’t like about this is it is by “consent” as if Steele was doing the Illinois State Bar a favor by consenting to be dis-barred. Steele should have been Disbarred long long before he consented to it, and that is a major failure of the Illinois State Bar in policing their own members.

    The other thing that makes me wonder is why has the terms of Steele’s disbarment not been publicized? We have no idea how long Steele has been disbarred for and when and if he can apply to be reinstated or if he has no hope in hell of ever getting his License to practice back.

    I am more than a little suspicious of the Illinois State Bar leaving out these details, When Hans was disbarred in MN they announced the term of Hans suspension and when he could apply to be re-instated, but with Steele these details are absent from publication or the announcement.

  2. How can I find out when sentencing occurs for his admission of guilt? It might happen in MN and I am close. I would be interested in sitting in on the hearing if it is public.

  3. Coincidental that this post would come today and I had just looked up the status of the criminal case yesterday. The court gave Steele the okay to move to Arizona, and there has been no sentencing date set, at least as of now.

  4. The end is in sight. PACER reports Hansmeier has entered a “change of plea.” According to Dan Browning who did a lot of the “on the ground” reporting, there is a new hearing set for 7/25 at 9:30 am.

    As soon as we see the plea agreement, we will have a very good idea of the time Hansmeier is facing. This also almost certainly removes the barrier to Steele being sentenced (the possibility that he would be needed in the Hansmeier trial.)

  5. As a quick review, John Steele’s plea agreement resulted in an offense level of 30 and a criminal history category of I. That works out to a guideline sentence of 97-121. My complete guess is that he will end up at the upper end of the guideline with a sentence of approximately 120 months or 10 years.

    Lets assume that Hansmeier ends up very well as the result of the agreement with basically the same deal as Steele, but leaving off the “acceptance of responsibility” downward adjustment. That means an offense level of 33. That is a conservative (low) estimate of what he might get: that would be a guideline sentence of 135-168 months. I will almost guarantee that he is going to be at the upward end of the sentencing guideline range and there is a very good change the Judge gives a sentence above the guidelines.

    Also remember that the Judge can consider almost anything at sentencing, which means his “ADA” work and possible bankruptcy fraud can come in and be considered (as long as it does not increase/break the statutory maximum sentence.) So a very early, complete guess is that he is looking at at least 14 years. (Generally, the defendant gives up his right to an appeal as part of the plea agreement. The only thing that is not given up is an “ineffective assistance of counsel claim”, and the defendant usually gets the right to appeal the sentence if the judge goes above the “guideline range.” The prosecutor also usually reserves the right to appeal if the judge goes below the guidelines.)

    Unless of course he manages to give the US Attorney someone else. The problem is that I don’t think there is anyone in Minnesota they want more than him.

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