Notorious porno copyright trolls Prenda Law have a very bad day in court

Today marked the long-awaited courtroom showdown of notorious copyright porno trolls Prenda Law (previous posts) and United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, the judge who figured out that Prenda was running something that looked a blackmail racket that involved systematic fraud against courts around the country. After stalling and fum-fuhing, Prenda's lawyers and principals were dragged before Judge Wright, where they sat for a hearing that ran for 12 whole minutes before Wright furiously banished them from his courtroom. Ken "Popehat" White was there, and sent tantalizing tweets about the total trainwreck he'd witnessed, which he has now had a chance to write up in full.

In a nutshell, the Prendateers showed up and took the Fifth, refusing to speak. Their lawyer tried to enter some argument into the record, but the judge didn't allow it. Prenda had filed no briefs, and had been called to answer basic, factual questions about lawsuits. Wright wasn't happy about it. Ken has written up a list of likely consequences Prenda will now face. It's not pretty. At very least, the firm and its activities are at an end. At most (though not likely), this could end in prison for the principals here.

Judge Wright grew steadily and visibly more outraged. "I want to know if some of my conjecture is accurate — and the only way to know is to have the principals here and ask them questions. This is an opportunity for them to protect themselves," he said. But Steele's lawyer confirmed his client would exercise his right to remain silent. Attorneys for Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and Angela Van Den Hemel confirmed their clients, too, would invoke their rights to remain silent. Judge Wright did not — unless I missed it — confirm whether Peter Hansmeier or Mark Lutz would answer questions.

An Opportunity To Be Heard

Heather Rosing, appearing for Paul Duffy, Angela Van Den Hemel, and Prenda Law, rose and asked Judge Wright for an opportunity to present "about a half hour" of argument on the points in his Order to Show Cause. Look: when you are a lawyer, representing a client, you have to stand up. You have to hold your ground even in the face of a furious federal judge. When a judge is yelling at you, however unsettling it is, you have to hold fast and remember you are there to represent the interests of your client against the terrible power of the court. Heather Rosing stood up, and has my admiration, whatever I think of her clients.

Judge Wright was uninterested in hearing legal argument, as opposed to testimony or evidence. "My clients have a right to a reasonable opportunity to be heard," Ms. Rosing protested. "Excuse me?" thundered Judge Wright, probably thinking — not unreasonably — that Ms. Rosing's clients could have filed briefs in advance to address any legal arguments they had, and that Ms. Rosing's clients have been evading questions for months. Judge Wright began to count off the questions he wanted answered. "I'm looking for facts," he said. He wanted to know who directs Prenda Law's litigation efforts, who makes its decisions, whether there is another Alan Cooper, and what happens with the money Prenda Law makes from settlements. Ms. Rosing answered (wisely, and properly) that she could not personally testify to those things. Why, Judge Wright demanded, did Prenda Law conceal its attorneys' financial interest in the cases? "There's no evidence that they have an interest," Ms. Rosing protested. "Excuse me?" Judge Wright boomed even louder. Were there windows, they would have rattled. "Have you read Paul Hansmeier's deposition?" he demanded, referring to the bizarre deposition in which Paul Hansmeier failed to explain Prenda Law's shadowy owners or flow of funds. "I have," Ms. Rosing said, but stood her ground.

Prenda Law's Attorneys Take The Fifth Rather Than Answer Judge Wright's Questions

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  1. OHAI Cory…
    Pretendateers, I’m so sad I missed coining that term.

    Hopefully we will be hearing more about Pretenda as they have lit the fuse on their destruction. 

    Sadly there are other trolls out there doing very similar things, hopefully this will be a wakeup call to Judges across the country that these mass doe copyright suits need to be questioned.

    1. It is a pity that resources are apparently slim and/or so-allocated that there are many more scammers than there are scammers facing serious risks of justice.

      It is great fun to watch the ones who got unlucky enough to stumble upon the justice they deserve, though… Going from ‘running petty shakedown racket that overworked and apathetic state bar is unlikely to ever notice’ to ‘OMG-just pissed off a 20th level federal judge who shows no signs of letting go until he is satisfied’ must be quite the psychological experience.

      1. Don’t bet on it.  The other trolls are sure to be thinking they are smarter than that and would never make those mistakes.  Its that kind of thinking that will be their downfall.
        The premier copyright troll just got slammed, the others should be very scared as courts should be looking much closer at the claims, the filings, and making sure all of the I’s are dotted and all of the T’s crossed.

  2. Wow.  If you go to Prenda’s Sample Cases section, they list all their suits by name.  Presumably this is all indexed by Google’s bots. So, they have a wall of shame associating each person being sued with a pornographic movie title. 

    Hope none of the defendants was interviewing, or doesn’t ever have to interview, for a new job…

    1. At least now the terminology was changed from calling them pirates to just accused.  Someone pointed out it was in bad form for a lawyer to declare someone guilty before any hearings.

  3. Perhaps their factual answers have been copyrighted, and they felt unable to reproduce them legally.

    Where the heck was Court TV? I’d have paid good money to see Judge Otis in full flow. And then looked forward to a Prenda suit for infringing copyright on their non answers.”We have copyright on the Fifth Amendment!”

  4. You are having a very bad case. You will not go to court today.

    …Maybe ever.

  5. IMO, the Prendateers won this round.  Call me naive, but I think a victory for the good guys on this would involve a bailiff taking the Prendateers away for contempt of court, not just a Judge yelling at them.  

    1. Except that Wright isn’t done with them yet.  Pissing off a federal judge is a bad idea.  Pissing off a former Marine is a bad idea.

      Pissing off a federal judge who is a former Marine is the seventh level of bad ideas.

    2. The Judge cleared his calendar for this hearing.
      He expected they were going to show up and offer anything rather than decide they would answer every question with the 5th.
      Considering they are facing contempt charges, sanctions, and much unpleasantness one would have hoped they would have at least listened to the questions before declaring they would take the 5th on every topic the Judge wanted to cover.  He gave them more than one chance to attempt to explain some serious issues as misunderstandings and they flipped him off not once but twice.
      They will be back on the 18th, in the meantime I expect that letters have been sent to state bars, USA’s, IRS, and a bunch of other acronyms with the Judge’s suspicions and other evidence that has come to light. 
      On the 18th, expect it to be very lively especially if they decide they don’t need to show up again.

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