A law firm known for
threatening to sue thousandsof Americans for illegally downloading pornos has
voluntarily dissolvedfollowing a judge’s scathing ruling accusing its lawyers of “
moral turpitude,” reports Amanda Bronstad at National Law Journal.
Prenda Law‘s implosion is not entirely surprising. Two of the firm’s four lawyers have turned against each other in court, according to The National Law Journal, and Prenda has had an onslaught of bad press recently.
Prenda’s most famous lawyer, John Steele, gave a somewhat tongue-in-cheek interview in Forbes defending the firm’s business model back in October. That model involves sending letters threatening to sue people for copyright infringement over allegedly illegal porn downloads.
These potentially innocent people can make the suits go away for just a few thousand dollars. Otherwise they have to go to trial, are publicly outed as porn fans, and may have to pay even more money.
“I’m considered the original copyright troll,” Steele told Forbes’ Kashmir Hill. “At least my wife loves me. When I read about myself on the Internet, I think, ‘Who is this jerk?'”
Things got a little more serious for Prenda in May, when Judge Otis Wright accused its lawyers of being total shysters. The judge ordered the lawyers — Steele as well as Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and Brett Gibbs — to pay $US81,300 in legal fees and penalties in a case they filed against an alleged illegal downloader on behalf of a porn copyright holder called Ingenuity 13.
Wright also told each of the lawyer’s bar associations they’d engaged in “moral turpitude” by coercing people into settling lawsuits to avoid a public shaming, what he called a “porn trolling collective.”
After Wright denounced the firm, Gibbs filed a motion to have his name withdrawn as the lawyer for Ingenuity 13, The National Law Journal reported. That prompted Steele to file a complaint with the California Bar accusing his colleague of lying about being involved in the case.
“Attorney Gibbs acted inappropriately in a case in front of Judge Wright and filed pleadings that insulted the court,” Steele reportedly wrote in the complaint. “When he was forced to answer for his misconduct, he lied and blamed others who had no relation to the case.”
Wright wasn’t the only judge insulted by Prenda’s way of doing business. In July, Judge Edward Chen ruled that Prenda filed a case against another alleged illegal downloader “without proof” or standing, Ars Technica reported.
“There’s a serious question raised about the whole business model here… [about whether] this is a business model to generate income through coerced settlements,” Chen ruled.
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