For more than four years, we've chronicled the sleazy story of Prenda Law, a copyright troll whose extortion racket included genuinely bizarre acts of identity theft, even weirder random homophobic dog-whistles, and uploading their own porn movies to entrap new victims, and, naturally, an FBI investigation into the firm's partners' illegal conduct.
Now, Paul Hansmeier, one of Prenda's masterminds, has lost his license to practice law, after "voluntarily stipulating" to its suspension in an investigation into his professional conduct -- a plea bargain that forestalled a judgment by the Minnesota court hearing the case brought against him by the state's Office of Lawyer Professional Responsibility.
Hansmeier had recently branched out from copyright trolling to ADA trolling -- sending bogus threats under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a racket that, if anything, is even more despicable than pornographic copyright trolling (!), as it discredits the good work that real civil rights lawyers do to protect the rights of disabled people.
At this point it is important to point out that the words “suspension” and “disbarment” as used in attorney discipline do not have their usual meanings. In professional sports, if an athlete is suspended, a time frame is given and when that time period is over, he is automatically reinstated. The public also generally believes that if a lawyer is “disbarred” (or more technically, his admission to the bar of a court is “annulled”), that such an action is permanent. In reality, in almost every jurisdiction, if an attorney is “disbarred” he has the right to petition for reinstatement at some point in the future. (While such petitions are sometimes granted, they are very rare.) In MN, if an attorney is suspended for 90 days or more, then he must still petition the MN Supreme Court for reinstatement, and such reinstatements are far from automatic.
Many readers of this site may think that Hansmeier has slithered his way through his lawyer discipline process since he was “only suspended” rather than “disbarred.” However, in terms of practical consequences, there is little difference between the two. If he was disbarred, he could still petition for reinstatement at some point in the future, and there are not dramatically better odds of being reinstated after being disbarred as opposed to a significant suspension.
Prenda’s Hansmeier stipulates to suspension of his law license [Fight Copyright Trolls]
(Image: Prenda Law and apparent related entities (as adopted by court in Ingenuity 13 v. Doe), Wikimedia Commons)