Prenda Law Continues To Dismiss Lawsuits

My prior coverage of the Prenda Law saga is here.

Friday I reported that Prenda Law had dismissed multiple cases in the Northern District of Illinois — including one in which they had already secured a default against the defendant.

Today I can report dismissals in three other districts. On Thursday, AF Holdings, LLC dismissed a case in Northern District of Georgia. Today — Sunday — AF Holdings LLC dismissed cases in the Eastern District of Michigan and the Western District of Michigan. (The beauty of the CM/ECF system used by federal courts is that you can file documents around the clock.)

The "Notice of Allegations" that Paul Duffy filed in Illinois wasn't filed in any of these cases. Different counsel represented AF Holdings in Georgia and Michigan.

Some Prenda Law cases brought on behalf of AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 remain open. I'm watching them and will report any changes.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Mikhael says

    Law noob here, I'm wondering why these copyright trolls would dismiss their lawsuits en masse – would the current proceedings against them annul their cases, or something?

  2. LXT says

    Please note that IANAL. To my naive eye, it appears in all three of these cases that there never was an appearance filed by a defendant or his lawyer. Hence, is it also true no one can file for sanctions against the local lawyers in these dismissed cases?

  3. Anonymous says

    It's worth noting that all of the Prenda/Alpha Law Firm cases with Quad International (or Int'l) as plaintiffs are also being dismissed (most without prejudice). I wonder why… As far as I can tell, Quad International is a legitimate copyright holder that actually sells its works.

  4. That Anonymous Coward says

    I was trying to match material Quad was suing for with registrations and was having problems doing that.
    They also might have moved onto a new provider of anti-piracy service.

    @LXT – They really do not want a local counsel standing before a Federal Judge right now… it worked out so well with Gibbs.
    After seeing the court room rendition of 'Who's On First' in FL by 2 local counsels who wanted nothing to do with the cases and basically admitted he was just signing papers and getting a check… and Judge reminding him even if he knew nothing about it it was his name on the paper being pushed and it would be his ass in the sling.

    Do you think that Prenda would like to see any of their other long term local counsels telling stories to other Judges in an attempt to shovel all of the blame away from themselves?

  5. Anonymous says

    I'm actually surprised to see what is going on in Minnesota in the home of the Hansmeiers. First, the judges required all communications with the defendants be filed under seal, then there are mass dismissals. There really isn't an active case in Minnesota now, and of course, there was the questionable actions described in the Spencer Merkel affidavit that ultimately got dismissed and thus uninvestigated. I think there's a lot more going on in Minnesota, but very few eyes are on it, and now, all the cases are being closed abruptly.

  6. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Anonymous – Are you reminded of a sad scene in a movie where the hero finds out he is terminal and he lovingly puts all of his affairs in order before he goes to meet his maker?

  7. LXT says

    Oh clearly, Prenda Law now wants no one associated with them standing before a Federal judge. My question really was aimed to the question of how does one inform that District judge that Prenda was behind the suit and what has occurred in Calif. and Florida? Presumably S&H never filed paperwork indicating that they were senior lawyers overseeing the local work

  8. htom says

    IANAL and I'm curious. If I was sued like this, and the case was then dismissed by the plaintiff, can I recover my costs of representation from the plaintiff?

  9. Anonymous says

    @That Anonymous Coward, not really. I don't feel terminal, and I feel ready for a fight. I'm waiting for the libel cases to open this whole thing up. My feeling is that the truth will out. I have faith that Minnesota courts are fair enough to see the truth.

  10. Lounging Lizard says

    This may have been covered in a prior post, but does it seem that there may be a problem with the assignment itself apart from Alan Cooper? Hansmeier said that AF Holdings owned the exclusive distribution rights yet Pietz showed a news report announcing that the film was being distributed. Hansmeier's only response was to not believe everything you read on the internet. Makes me wonder whether the entire assignment may have been fraudulent, which would be yet another reason to dismiss as quickly as possible.

  11. Orville says

    Sounds like Prenda is formulating a defense of "we fixed the problem as soon as we found out about it".

    Just my opinion, as I am not a lawyer. Also my opinion – but I suspect the dismissals will not help, as I doubt they can adequately explain how they lacked the controls to keep the problem from occurring in the first place.

  12. That Anonymous Coward says

    @htom – some were requested to be dismissed without prejudice meaning they can still litigate them at a future date. IIRC in the past that rarely has slowed down the phone calls and emails. The option to recover costs might not be on the table for the defendants yet, but IANAL, YMMV, and if you laugh for more than 4 hours see a Dr.

    @Anonymous – I REALLY doubt they want their libel and defamation cases to move forward. When picking targets it is a poor choice to go after people who know exactly where the bodies are buried and how to lead the courts to the graves. :D Graveyard tour anyone?
    They are hoping they can still hand wave Mr. Coopers case away. This might get harder if someone were to file notices of the CA court actions before the Judge grants the dismissal's they have requested.
    And the filings under seal, is that the one where 3rd parties had to find and call the emergency clerks number as the doc's weren't filed under seal or have I confused it with another case?

    @Lounging Lizard – They claim that it doesn't matter if the Cooper name on the assignments was a fake, it only needed the signature of the person who held them before. Except for that whole we filed a document with the court that contains false information thing.

    @LXT – and not to mention they often 'forgot' to file notice of related cases in the in district.

  13. Lounging Lizard says

    @TAC – Sorry, I wasn't clear. I'm wondering whether the whole assignment is fake, not just the signature. Hansmeier claimed that AF Holdings (the name in the opening paragraph but not the name under Cooper's signature, which is AF Films) had the exclusive distribution rights but the film wasn't in distribution anywhere. Yet that doesn't explain how another party is distributing the film, according to the news article.

  14. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Lounging Lizard – If the assignment is fake its time to stick a fork in them. It was filed with the Copyright Office and I am guessing the Feds and their whole IP is super important kick would not let them ignore that.

    Copyright only requires that it be released/reviewed/something once. It doesn't say you have to keep it on the market. ie. I show my Indy film at Sundance and then I can file for the rights.

    AF Holding is merely holding the copyright and might have licensed a 3rd party to distribute the film for them, I mean its not like they were making money from the settlement funds.

  15. En Passant says

    That Anonymous Coward wrote Mar 17, 2013 @5:02 pm:

    @Anonymous – I REALLY doubt they want their libel and defamation cases to move forward. When picking targets it is a poor choice to go after people who know exactly where the bodies are buried and how to lead the courts to the graves.

    I haven't followed the cases, so I preface this with "if".

    If they have filed state defamation suits in jurisdictions with strong anti-SLAPP statutes like California's, they absolutely don't want those cases moving forward. In fact, if they have served defendants in such jurisdictions, they may be unable to stop the cases from moving forward.

    Once a defendant has been served, and files a special motion to strike[1] under the CA anti-SLAPP statute, courts don't just let the plaintiff dismiss and walk away. "Oops, sorry, no harm, no foul" won't cut the mustard.

    That's more or less the point of a strong anti-SLAPP statute — Plaintiff better not appear to be just filing a marginally non-frivolous suit in order to silence defendant by tying him up in court. That's jumping into the fire without even hitting the frying pan.[2]

    FN 1: "special motion to strike" doesn't mean that the court's bailiff gets ordered to bludgeon the plaintiff if the motion succeeds, but some plaintiffs might wish it did.

    FN 2: I never practiced civil, so I could be wrong. But I don't think so.

  16. That Anonymous Coward says

    @En Passant – 3 were filed. 2 in IL, 1 in FL.
    My understanding was all 3 were removed to Federal Court.
    Steele dismissed his in FL. There was speculation it had to do with an earlier agreement between him and the FL bar about him not playing lawyer there anymore.
    Mr. Cooper and his lawyer are represented by lawyers familiar with Prenda.
    FCT and DTD are represented by the EFF.
    Wordpress will not answer the overly broad subpoena and have multiple reasons why it was defective.
    Ken has the Popehat Signal on standby for the other 8 "named" Does, but they left the door open to add even more people to try and keep the terror fresh.

    I think they were a bit taken aback that the first response was not to run for cover, but to use every single contact 'we' have to focus as much attention as possible on what was happening. That many of us were more angry than fearful and this was not going to happen without a response… I think they fully grasp the power of the Streisand effect now.

  17. Joe Pullen says

    Are you reminded of a sad scene in a movie where the hero finds out he is terminal and he lovingly puts all of his affairs in order before he goes to meet his maker?

    I'm more reminded of that moment in sci-fi movies when the star explodes and starts a blackhole that sucks everything into it. Sorta like the drain in the bathtub after the stopper has been pulled out. Opps there goes Prenda down the drain.

  18. bilateralrope says

    I'm more reminded about the scenes in cop shows where the police show up looking for someone. The person sees the cops and decides to run.
    Even if they aren't a suspect for whatever crime the cops are investigating, running just convinces the cops that they are guilty of something.

  19. AlphaCentauri says

    I don't know how many cases would come under SLAPP. They weren't being sued to keep them quiet; they were being shaken down for a settlement to keep Prenda quiet. It wasn't a first amendment issue at that point.

    State courts may have laws with varying strength prohibiting frivolous lawsuits. IANAL, but I haven't heard of too many countersuits that were successful in my state unless the sued parties could prove the plaintiffs knew for a fact they were suing an entirely wrong person and went ahead anyway. The courts are there to make findings of facts in a case, and they expect the plaintiffs to be wrong sometimes. I guess they like to feel needed. And when the defendant wins, the legal system doesn't seem to consider the legal fees to be "damages."

  20. doeknob says

    @AlphaCentauri,

    The SLAPP comments were towards the Steele, Duffy, and Prenda defamation suits that were filed. The ones that the EFF decided to represent fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com.

  21. That Anonymous Coward says

    @AlphaCentauri – and that was the rub in the Mass Doe Copyright cases. Does rarely had a chance to challenge anything the trolls stated as fact, because they were not a party to the suit.
    And well that whole name and serve them thing became more of a suggestion than actually part of the rules.
    In the history of copyright trolling there are cases that sat on dockets for 6+ months living on extensions that kept getting granted when they had yet to name a single person out of a 3000 person case.
    The reason for the extension was always the ISPs are being slow, and we have so many names to deal with. You created a case with 3000 defendants and you thought you'd bang that out in a weekend?
    Meanwhile these Does are sitting waiting for the other shoe to drop… and waiting and waiting and waiting.

    To my knowledge no court has ever questioned how IP capture works, a few have decided that an IP isn't actually connected to a single person for life, but these are baby steps that really just ignored that these cases are designed to just get as many names as possible for "settlement talks" instead of an actual court case where the merits of the case could be argued.

  22. Anonymous says

    Wow, it looks like Tappan finally figured out what his own phone number and email address are.

    Why are these cases missing the notice of allegations? Would it be because these lawyers have not been called out by name in Wright's orders? Wasn't Tappan the one who was trying to argue he wasn't affiliated with Prenda, that Jonathan W. Tappan, PLLC., was the law firm handling the case, even while he was using Gibbs' Prenda Law phone number and email?

    Could it be that these dismissals were not directed by Prenda, but that reading the news from the last week made these guys so nervous they have abandoned ship on their own? Would they have the autonomy to do that or would dismissing a client's case without permission be a major violation of the law or professional rules?

    Maybe they just don't care after watching things develop last week?

  23. says

    They are already on the hook in one court. They did the same thing everywhere else so they are trying to shut it all down before the other actions can be added to the charges. Me thinks it may be too late. They are trying to put the money back after being caught robbing the bank. Doesn't work though, they still robbed the bank. Or perpetrated frauds on multiple courts if you want it spelled out. Judges don't like that.

  24. hank says

    Wasn't Tappan the one who was trying to argue he wasn't affiliated with Prenda, that Jonathan W. Tappan, PLLC., was the law firm handling the case, even while he was using Gibbs' Prenda Law phone number and email?

    Indeed: http://ia601607.us.archive.org/25/items/gov.uscourts.mied.274202/gov.uscourts.mied.274202.93.0.pdf

    Though he fixed the e-mail a few weeks back, it's still on the original complaint: http://ia601607.us.archive.org/25/items/gov.uscourts.mied.274202/gov.uscourts.mied.274202.1.0.pdf

  25. James Pollock says

    "Could it be that these dismissals were not directed by Prenda, but that reading the news from the last week made these guys so nervous they have abandoned ship on their own? Would they have the autonomy to do that or would dismissing a client's case without permission be a major violation of the law or professional rules?"

    If you look up ABA model rule 1.6 (confidentiality), you find that one of the few allowed reasons to break confidentiality is to prevent the client from committing an ongoing fraud. Since the Prenda principals have now hired competent counsel to represent them, they have to now worry about their lawyers maintaining their confidences, which they are required to do… unless disclosure is necessary to prevent an ongoing fraud.
    Voluntary dismissal without prejudice probably falls under the outer range of "tactical legal decisions the lawyer is allowed to make without obtaining consent of the client", but voluntary dismissal with prejudice almost definitely is not. This is covered under model rules 1.2 and 1.4. That said, I probably would not take such an action on my own if I were local counsel… (you're supposed to investigate to determine the validity of the claims made BEFORE filing.)

  26. AlphaCentauri says

    If your client is "Allen Cooper," and you've just discovered he doesn't exist, a phone call to confirm that might absolve you from any ethical responsibility to him, I should think. But IANAL.

  27. En Passant says

    @That Anonymous Coward on Mar 17, 2013 @7:25 pm
    @AlphaCentauri on Mar 17, 2013 @9:06 pm
    @doeknob on Mar 17, 2013 @9:18 pm

    Thanks for the info on the defamation sideshow. IL's anti-SLAPP statute is considerably different from CA's, and it looks like FL is moot. So, there's lots less to see in any of it than I had anticipated.

    But the main debacle is interesting enough.

  28. Alan says

    Since no one has answered these questions- IAAL although not licensed to practice in CA and not expert in copyright matters.

    @Mikhael: The cases are probably meritless and probably filed solely for intimidation. Prenda should know this. Given that Judge Wright and probably a few others are paying very close attention to Prenda, it behooves them to start behaving more cautiously. Also, they may be exposed to SLAPP fees depending on the jurisdiction.

    @htom: Generally not in America- in fact this is known as the "American rule" as opposed to the "English rule" where losers pay. However, there are exceptions. There are laws in many jurisdictions where losing plaintiffs must pay winning defendants if the suit was not meritorious, and judges may require payment of some or all fees by losers if conduct during litigation has been execrable even by attorney standards. There are also certain subject areas of law where losing defendants must pay winning plaintiff's fees and costs, even if the defendant did nothing wrong besides lose the suit. Typically these are the types of suits that feature low money damages, but we as a society feel it is important that plaintiffs not be denied access to courts for financial reasons. Common examples are civil rights and consumer rights.

  29. EvanMinn says

    I was talking about the Prenda Law case with some people this weekend and they asked what I thought was going to happen next.

    I said I thought they were going to start turning on each other. Low-level people like Lutz, Gibbs and Van Den Hemel will probably see their best defense is to blame Steele, Duffy and Hansmeier.

    Hansmeier has tried to keep is name off documents. He will deny Gibbs allegation that Hansmeier gave him instructions. Unless it can be proved he is part of the trust that owned AF Holdings, then he is mostly only on the hook for is deposition as corporate representative of AF Holdings.

    Steele and Duffy have their names all over things so it is tougher for them.

    These dismissals could be Duffy preparing to say he was duped by Steele and its all his fault if this was fraud. He dismissed cases when the allegations were raised because he is a good person who would never be involved in such a thing if it weren't for Steele tricking him.

    Or it could just be limiting the amount of damage that can be done when they are unable to turn up a real Alan Cooper other than the caretaker from Minnesota.

  30. Untied says

    Anyone have thoughts about whether Prenda will start backing off in other cases, such as the LW Systems, LLC (LiveWire) v. Christopher Hubbard lawsuit?

  31. doorhinge says

    LW Systems, LLC (LiveWire) v. Christopher Hubbard is not getting as much attention as it should. I highly doubt they will dismiss this case because it is filed in one of the corrupt circuit courts nation wide, as in troll friendly. The judges and whoever else from this court that needs to be notified should be ASAP as names will start getting released very soon

  32. Anonymous says

    How in the world do they find local counsel like Tappan willing to go along with instructions like "here use our email and phone number, but if anyone drops our name you gotta pretend you don't work for us?"

    I can understand the principles participating in the deception because they are the beneficiaries, even Gibbs who I believe was effectively part of the inner circle and coordinating their national strategy, not some hapless peon.

    But what's in it for a guy like Tappan? What is wrong with him, or what is he being offered to put his career on the line for them. He hasn't been at this for long, I believe he came on late last year, so by the time he started there was plenty of info out there about Prenda's shadiness, and coupled suspicious demands like he pretend he's not working for them, why take the risk?

  33. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Anonymous – As to Tappan the answer could be the same answer other local counsel's have had… MONEY. You mean I file some docs, and I don't have to do anything else? And I get HOW MUCH?

    Had they been paying attention they might have learned that sometimes paper they never saw gets filed with their name on it. That things are filed using their ECF info that they never really saw. And when things start to get shaky they then notice they are the first line against a courts wrath…
    Whats worse – my client is sleazy and did things without my knowledge in my name or I was dumb enough to give them to tools to do so in the first place? Pretty sure by that point your just screwed.

    Actually I thought the defamation lawsuits from Prenda et al. would have been fun. I'm fond of my position as TAC, anonymous commenter helping people targeted by trolls and mocking them at every misstep. But to sink one of the largest troll ships, turn it into a spectacle that could not be ignored by the press, and watch as ripples hit every other operation out there… might be worth it.

    Besides then I would have been hoping to meet Kashmir Hill in person and asked her to be my secret girlfriend. (If your not laughing – you might have missed the whole TAC is gay portion of the biography.)

    And here you all thought I was just some guy with a trendy avatar. I have hopes and dreams… most of them are crushing people abusing copyright laws and causing reform… if your gonna dream, dream big.

  34. Dr. Wu says

    Bah! Cowards. They shouldn't be dismissing these cases, they should be offering a 50%-off pre-disbarment sale. "Prenda & Co…Everything must go! Prices so low you'll barely realize you're being extorted! Guys named Alan Cooper can take an additional 25% off!"

  35. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Dr. Wu – its funny… except where I'm pretty sure even as the circus was getting ready to ignore Judge Wright the first time out, they were still sending letters and making calls. But sometimes I get confused, but it sounds right.

  36. Concerned Victim says

    Does this mean that the Spencer Merkel vs. Guava LLC case was thrown out as well? I been trying to find new information on this particular case but most of what I have read is on other cases.

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