Prenda Law: Brett Gibbs Confronts a Philosophical Conundrum
My prior coverage of the Prenda Law saga is here. It's reaching the point where I'm going to have to do some kind of index.
You may recall that on March 14, 2013, Judge Wright issued a new Order to Show Cause directed to Prenda Law's principals and putative clients, and ordered Brett Gibbs to serve it. Prenda-watchers recognized some of the dilemmas this presented: how does one serve "Alan Cooper of AF Holdings?" How would Gibbs serve the alleged client entities? How would he make contact with his former supervisors Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier, and John Steele?
Because Mr. Gibbs is now represented by competent and sensible counsel, the answer is: thoroughly and professionally. Mr. Gibbs' attorney Andrew Waxler filed a declaration today documenting his efforts to serve the Prenda Law cast of characters as Judge Wright ordered.
A few notes:
1. You may recall that an attorney appeared on March 11, 2013 representing Duffy, Steele, Hansmeier, and their paralegal. Waxler asked that attorney to accept service on their behalf. She said she was "unable to accept service." Normally, if you were trying to avoid a federal judge's wrath, you'd be a little more cooperative than that. The refusal suggests to me that (1) they are trying to preserve their frankly specious lack-of-personal-jurisdiction argument, and/or (2) Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, and the paralegal aren't cooperating with their counsel. You can stand on ceremony and insist on formal service, but all I can say is if Judge Wright were that mad at me, I'd want the proof of service to reflect that I happily accepted service to make things easier.
2. How do you serve "Alan Cooper" without making any concessions about "Alan Cooper"? Delicately:
Service on "Alan Cooper, of A F Holdings L L C . " The only "Alan Cooper" that we are aware of appeared in Court on March 11t h . I understand that he claims that he is not affiliated with A F Holdings. We further understand that Mr. Steele may contend otherwise. In any event, since we know of no other Alan Cooper than the person that appeared in Court, I reached an agreement with his attorney, Paul Godfread, that I can serve "Alan Cooper" via email only care of Mr. Godfread's email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. Pursuant to that agreement, we served Mr. Cooper c/o Mr. Godfread on March 15t h . Mr. Godfread did acknowledge receipt of the email when he wrote back with the following remarks: "Please note that I do not represent Alan Cooper of A F Holdings. I only represent Alan Cooper of Isle, M N . I do not accept service on behalf of Alan Cooper of A F Holdings. I not agree to accept service on behalf of Alan Cooper of A F Holdings. Please also note that the most recent order specifically does not order my client, Alan Cooper of Isle, M N to appear."
Note that (a) Gibbs, at least, understands that John Steele is insisting that Alan Cooper was voluntarily involved in this, (b) Cooper maintains that he isn't, and (3) Cooper's attorney reads the order (not unreasonably) as not requiring him to return, but only requiring the presence of whatever Alan Cooper admits to heading AF Holdings, if such a person exists.
3. Of Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier, Peter Hansmeier, Mark Lutz, John Steele, Angela Van Der Hemel, and all of the entities, only Paul Hansmeier and Van Der Hemel made any response to the service, and then only to confirm which addresses worked. Multiple formerly used email addresses failed.
We'll see what the Prenda Law principals do in response to this. April 2, 2013 looms.
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