Copyright trolls are intrinsically sloppy. The grief-monetizing business maximizes its profits by maintaining a high, barely manageable volume of lawsuits while cutting a lot of corners. Errors are inevitable, and I usually don’t miss an opportunity to mock trolls on Twitter when I become aware of such bloopers.
Yet the amount of errors in four Guardaley cases assigned to a Washington Judge Richard A. Jones (Criminal Productions, Inc. v Wrongly Joined Does, WAWD 16-cv-00729; 16-cv-01177; 16-cv-01272; 16-cv-01352) was excessive even by low-as-in-“bottom” troll standards, which prompted a brief blog post rather than a tweet.
All four cases were filed by a veteran copyright troll, David A. Lowe of Lowe Graham Jones, PLLC. Yes, that troll who drops defendants every time he receives a letter threatening to expose massive frauds (like this one).
Today Judge Jones, likely flabbergasted by troll’s ineptitude, struck 16 filings in those four cases because of the following problems:
- As if it wasn’t fair to be a single point of his firm’s embarrassment, Lowe drags his colleague Timothy Billick into the mess… Yet Mr. Billick fails to file his appearance in violation of local rules;
- In four filings, the troll misidentified the party to whom the motion itself pertains;
- Two of the pending motions in 16-cv-1352 requested default judgment against parties who are defendants in a different case, but not this one;
- One of the exhibits submitted in support of Plaintiff’s motion for default contains a Civil Service Status Report that pertains to a different defendant.
The order concludes with a harsh paragraph:
The Court will not tolerate further filings that contain errors of this magnitude and frequency. The Court will consider denying any future motion that contains the same or similar errors. The Court also notes that counsel for Plaintiff is seeking attorneys’ fees for the work they have performed in these cases. In the event that default judgment is appropriate and counsel are eligible for an award of attorneys’ fees, the Court will keep in mind the subpar work that counsel have performed in calculating what (if any) amount of fees is appropriate.
Today Judge Jones issued his order granting default judgments against 16 people: $750 minimum statutory damages plus attorney’s fees (around 1,500) per defendant. In this order, the judge did mention his earlier disappointment in the quality of the troll’s lawyering:
The Court, however, finds that the number of billing hours requested by Plaintiff is unreasonable. Plaintiff has filed dozens of pleadings and motions in numerous BitTorrent matters. These pleadings and motions are essentially cut-and-paste jobs. Having reviewed these filings, the Court discerns minimal differences aside from the name of the particular defendant against whom relief is sought. For instance, the supporting documentation submitted in support of each motion contains the same set of financial reports, photocopies of Tweets criticizing this Court’s previous rulings by users such as @Raul15340965 and @DieTrollDie, and copies of decisions from other courts. See, e.g., Dkt.# 63-1. Despite the duplicative nature of these filings, Plaintiff states that it collectively took him, his associate, and legal assistant approximately seven hours to litigate against each of the sixteen Defendants. While that may be, the Court finds that the minimally complex and highly redundant nature of these cases warrants far fewer hours of compensation.
In addition, notwithstanding the cut-and-paste nature of this motions practice, Plaintiff’s work has been sloppy. The Court expressed its dissatisfaction with Plaintiff’s performance when it struck numerous filings that failed to comply with the Local Civil Rules, misidentified defendants, and contained other significant errors. Dkt. # 87. In striking these filings, the Court noted that it would consider Plaintiff’s subpar work in calculating attorneys’ fees. Id. at 2. Although counsel has since reduced the number of attorney billing hours requested, this reduction is not sufficient to account for the concerns noted above.
Given these errors, as well as the extreme similarities between the filings in these cases and those filed previously by counsel of record, the Court, through the exercise of its discretion in matters concerning attorneys’ fees, reduces by ten percent (10%) the number of attorney billing hours that Plaintiff requests. The Court approves the number of hours billed for legal assistant support.
While the 10% reduction is symbolic and doesn’t even raise to the level of a slap on the wrist, two hours per a defaulting defendant look more reasonable than initially claimed seven, and each total penalty is far less than a typical settlement offer.
Generally, ignoring lawsuits is not advisable: we witnessed six-figure default judgments. However, in certain districts this strategy became a somewhat reasonable option for risky people, and it will continue to be an option – as long as the tendency of awarding statutory minimums and reducing attorney’s fees is not reversed.