Alan Cooper Strikes Back, Files Counterclaim Against Prenda Law and Paul Duffy

Law

Prior coverage of Prenda Law is collected here.

Can things get worse for Prenda Law even before the next hearing before Judge Wright?

Yes. Yes they can.

Prenda Law's three censorious defamation suits inspired me to start writing about their shenanigans. Though John Steele dismissed the one he filed in his own name in Florida, two cases remain in federal court in Illinois: one filed by Prenda Law in the Southern District of Illinois, and one filed by Paul Duffy in the Northern District of Illinois. Jordan Rushie posted them here.

As you may recall, among others Prenda's defamation lawsuits target Alan Cooper — nominally an executive of Prenda's clients, but according to him, a victim of identity theft — and Cooper's lawyer, Paul Godfread. Though the suits are very vague, they seem to attack Cooper and Godfread for asserting (both in public and in court) that Prenda has stolen Cooper's identity.

Yesterday, March 21, Cooper and Godfread struck back. They filed answers and counterclaims in both Illinois federal suits.

The answer and counterclaims in the Duffy case are here. The Prenda answer and counterclaims are here. The exhibits to both appear to be identical. Here they are: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I.

Here are some things to notice about the answers and counterclaims.

Federal Practice Requires Specificity: In most states, you can file an answer that just says, in so many words, "y'all is full of shit." In federal court you have to file an answer that admits or denies each and every allegation in the complaint specifically. The answer portions of the answers and counterclaims do so.

Affirmative Defenses: Affirmative defenses are legal defenses asserted in the answer to give the court and the plaintiff notice that the defense will be asserting them. Usually they are formulaic, and it's sadly common practice just to cut and paste every defense you ever heard of to preserve it, whether or not it has any connection to the case at hand. Cooper's and Goodfread's affirmative defenses are fairly tight, and are focused on their allegations about Prenda's actions. For example:

Tenth Affirmative Defense
Unclean Hands
10. Plaintiff is involved in copyright litigation in numerous jurisdictions nationwide on behalf of plaintiffs AF Holdings, LLC and Ingenuity 13, LLC. In these cases, Plaintiff has filed or caused to be filed documents identifying “Alan Cooper” as CEO of AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13. Defendant Cooper denies having ever been CEO of either entity, and denies signing any documents, and specifically any copyright assignment documents, on behalf of them. Defendant Cooper filed suit against Plaintiff, Paul Duffy, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier for misappropriating his identity. See Minnesota Complaint. This case was filed in response to Defendant Cooper’s lawsuit against Plaintiff in Minnesota.

Who Are Cooper and Godfread Suing, Anyway? My main criticism of the counterclaims is that they are rather vague as to who is suing whom. Ideally each counterclaim would say something like "By Defendant and Counterclaimant Alan Cooper Against Prenda Law, Paul, Duffy, John Steele, and Paul Hansmeier." But they don't. The result is confusing. The fact section of the counterclaims refer to "plaintiff," which seems to be a reference to Alan Cooper, but the text of some of the counterclaims themselves suggest that Paul Godfread is a counterclaimant as well. Moreover, clearly Duffy is a counterdefendant in the counterclaim in his case and Prenda law is a counterdefendant in the counterclaim in its case, but past that it's a bit hard to piece together. The counterclaims talk about the various individuals and entities and assert that they are alter egos of each other (a legal argument meaning that one can be held liable for the actions of the other), but they are coy about who they are suing. The counterclaims would benefit from clarification.

The SLAPP Issue: In both cases, the first counterclaim seeks a declaration that Cooper's and Godfread's conduct is protected by Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute. This is odd. It took me a while — bear in mind I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer — but I think I have worked out what is going on. It's wonky. Skip this section if it's going to make you doze off.

First, a reminder: anti-SLAPP statutes allow a defendant to file a special motion to dismiss a lawsuit that attacks protected speech. Here is my discussion of how they work and why they convey rights that defendants don't normally have.

Second, a qualification: at least until we pass a national anti-SLAPP law, anti-SLAPP statutes are state statutes. Their application is limited, in tedious and complicated ways, in federal court. The short version is this: a federal court will usually apply the anti-SLAPP law of the state in which it sits, but only to state law claims before it. So: if I sue someone on federal and state claims in federal court in California, the federal court will apply California's anti-SLAPP statute to the state claims but not the federal claims. (There are other dreary restrictions on application of anti-SLAPP laws in federal court too involved to describe here.)

Third, a strategic note: these two defamation suits are in federal court in Illinois. Illinois has a reasonably robust anti-SLAPP statute which should apply to the state law claims in Prenda's and Duffy's lawsuits. Normally you'd bring that motion rather than answering the complaint. So: why haven't Cooper and Godfread brought a motion under that statute? I don't know. I have no inside information. I have only hypotheses. One hypothesis: rather than getting the defamation cases dismissed, they want to use the discovery process in federal court in Illinois (rather than the process in Cooper's state case in Minnesota) to dig into Prenda Law and its principals. That might be a good strategy because (1) federal courts are less tolerant of evasion and misbehavior in discovery, and (2) federal courts will likely take more note of Judge Wright's proceedings and compel discovery accordingly. So: perhaps Cooper and Godfread are still planning to file an Illinois-law anti-SLAPP motion — though it would be oddly timed — but my educated guess is that they are going to use the Illinois cases to conduct a rubber-glove investigation of Prenda.

Fourth, a qualification: as I said, the counterclaims' first claim for declaratory relief confused me at first. Federal courts apply the anti-SLAPP statute of the state where they sit, not some other state. Moreover, anti-SLAPP laws are a procedural vehicle for dismissing a case, not the basis for a claim. So why are Cooper and Godfread seeking declaratory relief under the Minnesota anti-SLAPP statute, rather than moving under the Illinois statute?

Then I took a closer look at the Minnesota statute. Unlike other anti-SLAPP statutes, the Minnesota statute articulates not just a vehicle for dismissing baseless lawsuits, but an immunity from suit:

Lawful conduct or speech that is genuinely aimed in whole or in part at procuring favorable government action is immune from liability, unless the conduct or speech constitutes a tort or a violation of a person's constitutional rights.

So. I think Cooper's and Godfread's theory is that their conduct in Minnesota is, under Minnesota law, immune from suit, not just subject procedurally to an anti-SLAPP motion. Clever. Very clever. And in federal court in Illinois, a declaratory relief claim is probably the right way to raise that.

Of course, since I practice in California and in the Ninth Circuit, I could easily be missing some nuance of Illinois, Minnesota, or Seventh Circuit law. Edited to add: And, as Nicholas suggests in the comments, filing an answer forecloses Prenda and Duffy from filing a dismissal without prejudice — that means they can't get out without court permission now, as Prenda has been doing in cases across the country.

The Discreet Charm of Paul Hansmeier: The most amusing moment in the counterclaims is when Cooper and Godfread describe a threatening letter Paul Hansmeier sent Godfread shortly after Godfread filed Cooper's lawsuit alleging that Prenda Law had stolen his identity. Here it is in all its glory.

Dear Mr. Godfread:

My firm has been retained by Livewire Holdings LLC to pursue claims in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota against you and your coconspirators arising from defamation, civil conspiracy and related acts. The alleged acts occurred in e-mail communications and blog posts describing my client as a criminal enterprise. As you know, such statements constitute defamation per se and are, quite frankly, wildly inappropriate. Less-egregious claims have resulted in multi-million dollar judgments, as I trust this one will. The facts of the underlying case are essentially a law school exam hypothetical of every possible variation of libel. Perhaps you can forward my client's complaint to your former professors at William Mitchell. My client is well-aware that you are a major contributor to these blog sites.

The purpose of this e-mail is to inform you of impending litigation so that you preserve all relevant evidence in your possession including, but not limited to, communications between yourself and David Camaratto, Morgan Pietz, Nicholas Ranallo and any other individuals associated directly or indirectly with the sites fightcopyrighttrolls and dietrolldie. Further, any and all other evidence that might
be relevant to this matter must, of course, be preserved.

I suspect that you aligned yourself with these defamatory efforts as a marketing strategy. I don't know if these efforts paid off, but I can assure you that making baseless accusations of criminal conduct is not a wise move for a licensed attorney. All of that being said, my client knows that you didn't work alone in these wrongful efforts. If you think we are missing out on more serious actors in your enterprise my client would be willing to consider decreasing your liability in exchange for information about these individuals. Of course, that interest will disappear if someone else comes forward first. Think it over and let me know. If you're willing to take the fall for whole group then you are decidedly a "true believer."

Welcome to the big leagues.

Paul

There are a few things I'd like for you to notice about this letter. First, note that Paul Hansmeier is a pioneer, a sort of Marie Curie of douchebaggery: in "Welcome to the big leagues," he has discovered a close-off even more insufferable than "govern yourself accordingly."

Second: please take note of the dog that did not bark in the night. That is, note what the letter does not say. Consider the context. Godfread, on behalf of Cooper, is telling courts that Prenda Law has stolen Cooper's identity, and has filed a lawsuit on that basis. What would you expect in response, if Prenda Law had an answer for that? If I were representing Prenda Law, and had an answer, there is no doubt in my mind I would articulate it. I would say, "As you and Mr. Cooper know, and witnesses will attest, Mr. Cooper was a willing participant in AF Holdings LLC and fully consented to being an officer." Or I might say "You have recklessly and without adequate basis suggested that your client is the Alan Cooper who is an officer of AF Holdings, when even the briefest inquiry would show that AF Holdings is led by the distinguished Alan Cooper of Nevis and St. Kitts." I would say something articulating why Cooper's and Godfread's assertions are false. As I so often say, vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of thuggery. But Hansmeier says nothing of the sort. He has only adolescent puffed-up threats and insults. What do you think that signifies?

Prenda Law faces reckoning in Los Angeles. That should have been their focus for some time. Once proceedings before Judge Wright started to heat up, they could have dismissed the two Illinois cases, as John Steele dismissed the Florida cases. They didn't. They may learn, to their regret, that they have committed the jurisprudential equivalent of opening a second front in Russia just before winter. Their winter.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

112 Comments

106 Comments

  1. Earle  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:06 am

    I read the answering document yesterday and the whole time I was asking myself "How much did this cost?". I don't generally bother myself with that question, but in light of Mr. Cooper's presumptive innocence in this affair it strikes me as an extremely malicious ploy on the part of Prenda Law et al to force someone to have to answer so much bullshit.

  2. Adam Steinbaugh  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:10 am

    Another dog that didn't bark: where's the Livewire Holdings defamation lawsuit that Hensmeier was supposedly retained to pursue? I recall only Prenda and its lawyers suing.

  3. Dan Weber  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:15 am

    Was filing in three different courts a deliberate attempt to drive up costs?

    Also, Exhibit C made me go "awwwww…".

  4. Bear  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:19 am

    Who Are Cooper and Godfread Suing, Anyway? My main criticism of the counterclaims is that they are rather vague as to who is suing whom.

    In their defense, I have to wonder if you're allowed to copy&paste an org chart in the defendant space on the forms.

    "Vagueness" does look to this NAL to be the main Prenda et al defensive strategy. That and permanent plane reservations for the bugout.

  5. Joe  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:19 am

    Extra douchebag points for Mr. Hansmeier: the reference to William Mitchell is a dig. Hansmeier went to the University of MN. In the Twin Cities legal community, grads from UMN generally look down on grads from William Mitchell. Hansmeier is trying to lord his higher ranked and "better" law school over Mr. Godfread. Of course, as most people who practice law in the Twin Cities actually know, William Mitchell grads are often far superior lawyers in practice to UMN grads.

    I say that as an alum of the University of Minnesota Law School.

  6. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:23 am

    Oh, another thing: Isn't this a fairly early response? That is, couldn't Godfread and Cooper just wait a week or two more before filing? Or perhaps ask for/stipulate an extension in response?

    If so, the strategy seems to be "don't LET Prenda pull a Carreon" and go, 'whoops, me bad, dismiss without prejudice.'.

  7. Josh M.  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:27 am

    Oh, gods…can't…eat…any…more…popcorn…

  8. Phil  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:30 am

    Wow, just…wow. I found Popehat a couple of weeks ago via a link from an Arstechnica article, and have been closely following what's been going on with Prenda Law ever since.

    Attorneys and judges are a necessary part of society…but what unprincipled attorneys like these guys do is not only undermine the entire law community, but place a large burden on the same society that they're supposed to be providing justice to. It's wrong on so many levels. Good luck to Mr. Cooper – sounds like he's found a competent attorney in Mr. Godfread.

    I don't know how this particular story will end, but however it does end, I hope that Judge Wright (and any other judges that end up getting involved) sends a clear message to any other would-be extortioners that this behavior is unacceptable and won't be tolerated.

  9. John Henry  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:38 am

    "I suspect that you aligned yourself with these defamatory efforts as a marketing strategy."

    Because that is the only reason anyone does anything, right? I mean, what other reason is there? That's the reason we all went to law school. Duh.

  10. John Ammon  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:38 am

    I can't wait to see what Judge Wright has to say about this.

    Also, pretty OT, but Adam, I think if there's ever a film about some epic future exploit of yours, I dare say they should cast Benedict Cumberbact to play you… …I'd watch it.

  11. Dan  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:43 am

    In most states, you can file an answer that just says, in so many words, "y'all is full of shit."

    You've been reading my Missouri civil procedure hornbook again, haven't you?

  12. orvis barfley  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:45 am

    oh, man.  this is excellent stuff.  better than any novel i've sought to internalize.

    attorneys and judges — and cops — are necessary parts of society much in the way that anuses are necessary parts of bodies.  ya gotta have 'em but you don't want to think about 'em unless they're giving you trouble.

    in this case that isn't true.  fascinating story well told.

  13. Jim Tyre  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:45 am

    Ken, you really should adopt "welcome to the big leagues" as your slogan, it's so wonderful. (Though Hansmeier might sue you for copyright infringement if you do.)

  14. Matthew Cline  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:46 am

    There's an awful lot of "Paragraph X of Plaintiff’s Complaint is not directed at Defendants, and they therefore provide
    no response thereto". Is it normal for a complaint to have so many paragraphs not directed at the defendants?

  15. Dan  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:47 am

    Quick anecdote about this:

    Usually they are formulaic, and it's sadly common practice just to cut and paste every defense you ever heard of to preserve it, whether or not it has any connection to the case at hand.

    I left a firm for a better paying one, and a friend of mine took over my caseload and inherited my horrific secretary. He dictated a response and said, after listing specific affirmative defenses, "add the boilerplate affirmative defenses". Of course, she literally typed out in the pleading "The Boilerplate Affirmative Defenses", and this thing was filed. She was fired for incompetence…

  16. John Henry  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:51 am

    The assumption is that it was the Does that said the stuff that Godfread and Cooper did not.

  17. Michael Mock  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:52 am

    So, just how bad does all this look for Prenda Law? IANAL, but here's my guess: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3ZOKDmorj0

  18. Lyssandri  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:01 am

    I know I said this before, but – oh man – do I wish that Orly Taitz had to appear in front of Judge Wright. He might actually be one of the few Judges who would hold her feet to the fire and make her have to deal with actual consequences for her vexatious and incompetent behaviour.

  19. Ygolonac  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:25 am

    "Oh no, Br'er Prenda, y'all dassn't stick yore hand into that-there bear trap and hammer on the trigger plate!"

    "Welcome to the big leagues." WHAM WHAM *SNAP*

  20. Trebuchet  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:27 am

    @Jim Tyre:

    Ken, you really should adopt "welcome to the big leagues" as your slogan, it's so wonderful. (Though Hansmeier might sue you for copyright infringement if you do.)

    Sorry, it doesn't hold a candle to "Snort my taint". Or even "Snort my pony's taint".

  21. Jeff  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:31 am

    I'm considering the very small possibility that Alan Cooper is Keyser Soze.

  22. En Passant  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:40 am

    Thanks for this analysis of the defamation case. I had previously thought it a sideshow that would be dismissed because of the armageddon in California, so I didn't pay much attention.

    Now, thanks to your exegesis, damnit, I have paid what attention my canine frontal lobes can muster. That was very painful, so I will inflict upon you my conjecture for another reason (besides the MN immunity provision) that angling for a MN anti-SLAPP claim might be a more likely choice to pursue first.

    In addition to reasonable attorney fees and costs under the MN statute, Section 554.04 Subdivision 2 (b): The court may award the moving party punitive damages under section 549.20.

    But the IL statute appears only to award attorney fees and costs.

    At least in my world, I'd rather catch a rabbit than a tennis ball. Rabbits are tasty, and I can eat the rabbit. Tennis balls, not so much.

  23. polymath  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:43 am

    "The counterclaims would benefit from clarification."

    They would, and in due time they will be. But the answer needed to be filed now.

    This way, Prenda must answer at Judge Wright's hearing before the clarification is required.

  24. albert  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:48 am

    Ken,
    Fascinating reading, keep it up.

    Is "rubber-glove investigation" generic lawyer-speak, or is it unique to N. California?

  25. Jeroen van Rijn  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:57 am

    Like Marie Curie, I'm certain Paul's discovery will play a big part in his undoing…

  26. Joseph Ratliff  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:00 am

    In other news, man builds machine* that can turn grass into popcorn so he can continue watching Prenda openly and publicly disintegrate.

    (*machine still in beta mode, only a prototype)

  27. Matthew O  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:02 am

    After viewing exhibit C, I have concluded that in the future, courts should require that a small child doodle in the margin of all legal documents submitted to them. It would make our legal system at least 60% more adorable.

    "And if you'll draw your attention to exhibit D, about three lines below the unicorn…"

  28. Mitch  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:06 am

    Echoing @Nicholas Weaver, I think that they answered and asserted the Anti-SLAPP law as opposed to moving to dismiss on the basis of the Anti-SLAPP law in order to close the door of FRCP 41(a). Until they answered, Prenda could have voluntarily dismissed their claims without prejudice without the need for a court order. Now, any voluntary dismissal would be with prejudice.

  29. SPQR  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:09 am

    Ken, interesting explanation of the presence of the Minnesota SLAPP statute citation in the answer, I couldn't figure it out.

    I agree that I found the language of the counter claims re parties frustrating.

  30. MattS  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:21 am

    Josh M.,

    No worries, at this point there probably isn't any popcorn left in North America.

  31. MattS  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:24 am

    albert,

    I think the "rubber glove investigation" means the will be bringing in a proctologist to conduct discovery.

  32. SJD  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:25 am

    I'm also echoing Nicholas Weaver regarding the deadlines, but unlike him, I read that the answer was way overdue. It's a puzzle.

    Both cases were filed on 2/14, removed on 2/28.

    Rule 81(c):

    [...]A defendant who did not answer before removal must answer or present other defenses or objections under these rules within the longest of these periods:

    (A) 21 days after receiving—through service or otherwise—a copy of the initial pleading stating the claim for relief;

    (B) 21 days after being served with the summons for an initial pleading on file at the time of service; or

    (C) 7 days after the notice of removal is filed.

  33. JusticeChimp  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:59 am

    Justia lists one as filed on 2/28, the other on 3/1. If both were served same day one would be day 20, the other day 21…

  34. Bob Relyea  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:19 am

    Am I wrong, or does exhibit B show Gibbs notarizing Alan Cooper's signature? If so wouldn't that complicate Gibbs' defence before Judge Wright?

  35. Kat  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:25 am

    Just when I thought it couldn't get better, it does!

  36. Lucy  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:32 am

    That letter was amazing. The red herring game.

    That whole thing about marketing and getting paid off…. just…. the whole thing wreaks of someone in a panic.

    That closing, lol.

    Thank you for keeping up on this, and helping to understand the process and what is going on.

  37. jfb  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:35 am

    April 2nd cannot get here soon enough. It will be a combination of Christmas and the 4th of July.

    And "the jurisprudential equivalent of opening a second front in Russia just before winter" is one of the all-time great lines.

  38. Anonymous  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:46 am

    That's some tough talk for a guy who was too cowardly to appear in Wright's courtroom on March 11 to explain himself, and who appears to be planning to chicken out again.

    Apparently he had absolutely no Plan B for what happens after someone calls him out on his bullshit.

    Big League my ass.

    Brett Gibbs should roast and bear a full share of responsibility for working with these guys. I admit he did a decent job playing a patsy for Wright, but look at the pattern of behavior. Between Gibbs' extensive work for S|H and Prenda, and for Hansmeier's personal professional class action objector scheme, there is no way Brett couldn't figure out what was going on and who he was working with. Neither Steele nor Hansmeier sound like the subtle type, so after two years, expect me to believe Brett had no idea what they were like? I think birds of a feather, flock together, is more like it.

  39. SJD  •  Mar 22, 2013 @11:49 am

    After yesterday's bedtime reading of the Hansmeier's letter, I had a dream… I was Paul Godfread, Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo at the same time. Paul Hansmeier was there, but out of focus. Every time I tried to concentrate looking at him, Brett Gibbs's head popped up yelling "objection" in a shrill voice.

  40. Andrew  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:02 pm

    I was wondering what the state court complaint was, but I hadn't had a chance to run to Minneapolis and get a copy for myself. (What non-lawyer wants to pay $8 to get a copy of a court filing for a case in which he is not a party? Well, me, I guess, but now I don't have to.)

    I wonder if and when the defendants will answer that suit. Their time may or may not be expired under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.01, depending how and when service of the summons and complaint was made. Also, the Hennepin County District Court has sometimes been a few days behind in getting filings into the system. The case number is 27-CV-13-3463, if anyone cares, and the record can be found by searching the public court records.

    Until now, I was never all that impressed with Minnesota's anti-SLAPP, and it still looks like there are plenty of weasel clauses in there. Nevertheless, amending the complaint to add a claim under Minn. Stat. § 554.045, which specifically permits claims arising from SLAPP lawsuits in federal court, could be a fun time.

    Finally, I'm glad to see Exhibit B in those filings; I mentioned it in comments to another post, since it has both "Alan Cooper"'s and Brett Gibbs' e-signatures on the same page. I hope that Judge Wright gives Gibbs the "opportunity" to explain this circumstance on April 2.

  41. Colin  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:06 pm

    In most states, you can file an answer that just says, in so many words, "y'all is full of shit."

    This, of course, is descended from the English Common Law plea of "Bollocks".

    I do hope someone welcomes Mr. Hansmeier to "the big leagues" at the conclusion of the April 2 hearing, should he appear.

  42. Anonymous  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:14 pm

    @Andrew

    If memory serves, Brett did "explain" that document to Wright under oath, in the most perfectly slippery way possible. Notice the document says:

    "counsel for Plaintiff has a signed original notarized version of the above Verified Petition"

    It doesn't say:

    "Brett L. Gibbs has a signed original notarized version of the above Verified Petition."

    So… Gibbs claimed that "counsel for Plaintiff" in that context meant Prenda Law, Inc. not Brett Gibbs personally, so if such a document exists it is in the hands of Prenda "senior partners," and he just took their word that it exists.

    Unbelievable, I know, and how he managed to "confirm" this without at least seeing it is left as an exercise for the reader. Somewhat surprisingly, Wright did not continue to drill down on it, but it could be that he got what he needed to move things along. The key point is Brett tossed the hand grenade back to his buddies, and since they were too cowardly to show up, they didn't even know about that particular gem until they got their transcript copy.

    BTW, in my dreams all the Prenda Stooges are in shackles before a judge who is screaming "HOW MANY FALSE LIGHTS DO YOU SEE!??!" over and over again.

  43. SJD  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:16 pm

    @Andrew: Cooper v Steele complaint (with exhibits) is linked from my post.

  44. Andy  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:21 pm

    As one of those falling into both IANAL and IANAA (American) I take it the has no knowledge of and demands strict proof is a boilerplate term similar to the phrase that escapes me know but refers to belief, essentially saying I know it but can't prove to the relevant standard yet.

  45. Andy  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:29 pm

    And I find the phrase later on, upon information and belief.

  46. Delvan Neville  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:40 pm

    @Bob nice catch, he'll probably stick to his legal dunce cap defense, "Oh, well Steele told me Alan signed the copy I sent him, and I believed him" but I'm not so sure even with his background if he can argue he doesn't understand what notarize means.

    @SJD: I did a day-long soak of the hashes I could find on Prenda's site about a week ago on the off chance that if there's some honeypot action, they might not have turned off the tap by then. Want a list of the IPs that were actually offering up the whole or pieces of the file, see if they identify any more not-so-anonymous Prendites at your site besides that Mullvad proxy? (I kept exhaustive logs to ensure I didn't participate in any distribution or download of the files in the process)

  47. Delvan Neville  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:45 pm

    Oh, forgot to mention: Exhibits A & C are my first time seeing both Alan signatures side by side. Real Alan has a wide A, a middle initial, and Coo trailing off into a squiggle (I do something similar myself). AF Films Alan has a very narrow A and C, no middle initial, and includes every letter in Alan and Cooper.

    Unless they claim Alan intentionally wrote his name funky (and get some handwriting expert to try to argue its still the same person), they're going to be hard pressed continuing their argument that its the same Alan…the argument they've stuck to based on who they had Gibbs serve.

  48. SJD  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:47 pm

    @Delvan Yes, I compiled a list of all suspected comments from Steele, but posted only those that use Mullvad (50%). There are unmasked comments that strongly connect Mullvad ones to Prenda offices. Send me an email at sophisticatedjanedoe@yahoo.com and I'll send the list to you.

  49. Scott  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:47 pm

    Hansmeier's reply letter has a certain air of paranoia about it in the last paragraph:

    All of that being said, my client knows that you didn't work alone in these wrongful efforts. If you think we are missing out on more serious actors in your enterprise my client would be willing to consider decreasing your liability in exchange for information about these individuals.

    Have the principals of Prenda Law descended to the bunker?

  50. Roland Maguire  •  Mar 22, 2013 @12:57 pm

    To comply with EU money-laundering regulations it is necessary for lawyers over here to conduct a 'know your client' exercise. this includes verifying the identity of the officers of any corporate entity, the shareholders and the parties to any owning trust. Any failure in this regard is both a matter of professional misconduct and, potentially, criminal law liability.

    Is there an equivalent regime in the US? If so, it seems like Gibbs et al have serious problems on this front alone even before the substantive issues are looked at.

  51. Malc  •  Mar 22, 2013 @1:16 pm

    One weird thing that struck me in reading the exhibits: these guys are pretty green, in the whole scheme of things. Take Steele's boast about how, "for nearly a decade", he's been litigating "complex" issues: while it's not negligible, less than 10 years experience isn't hugely impressive. Ken, by contrast, has been working the criminal justice system for, what, 18 years?, Judge Wright was in private practice for 22 years, has been a judge for "nearly a decade" (8 years), and was a cop for 11 years.

    Don't get me wrong: I don't believe time-in-grade equates to competence, but boasting of a <10 year career is a bit like boasting of an SAT score of 1550 or an IQ of 100: OK, but a long way from exceptional.

  52. Nicholas Weaver  •  Mar 22, 2013 @1:17 pm

    Roland: Adam Steinbaugh covered this in talking about Prenda's FRCP 7.1 Landmine: http://adamsteinbaugh.com/2013/03/11/prenda-law-steps-on-frcp-7-1-landmine/

  53. Shane  •  Mar 22, 2013 @1:46 pm

    @malc – when I took the SAT a 1550 was an excellent score (1990's when the max was 1600)

  54. apauld  •  Mar 22, 2013 @1:57 pm

    @Matthew O "After viewing exhibit C, I have concluded that in the future, courts should require that a small child doodle in the margin of all legal documents submitted to them."

    I assumed it was John Steele that made the doodles….

  55. Roland Maguire  •  Mar 22, 2013 @2:09 pm

    Thanks Nicholas.

    In the EU the requirement applies to all retainers (whether or not litigation is involved) and has to be met at the initial stage with documentary proof retained on the file.

  56. Craig  •  Mar 22, 2013 @2:21 pm
  57. M  •  Mar 22, 2013 @2:36 pm

    "vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of thuggery"

    I actually just put that in a separate document and hung it on my wall. I'm a lawyer who just got sued by a former tenant and it was all vague threats. When it's personal, it is easy to look at a complaint and panic. After I cut through all the hoo ha, I realized that it was all vague and all calculated to get me to cave. I am fighting back hard. I wish I had signed off my counterclaims with "Welcome to the big leagues." That would have been awesome.

  58. SPQR  •  Mar 22, 2013 @3:12 pm

    Craig, the belief that Prenda was actually the source of the alleged original piracy has been bandied about in the online community for some time.

  59. Matthew Cline  •  Mar 22, 2013 @3:15 pm

    they're going to be hard pressed continuing their argument that its the same Alan…the argument they've stuck to based on who they had Gibbs serve.

    I don't think that's necessarily it. It seems to me that it's more like "the judge is breathing down my neck to serve Alan Cooper, so I'll show I made an effort to serve a Cooper, since Steele won't give any details on the Cooper of AF".

  60. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 22, 2013 @3:40 pm

    @Dan
    I left a firm for a better paying one, and a friend of mine took over my caseload and inherited my horrific secretary.

    Don't you love it when you're expected to put up with intolerable working conditions for years, but as soon as you leave, they decide those conditions simply aren't good enough for your replacement?

  61. orvis barfley  •  Mar 22, 2013 @4:44 pm

    I don't believe time-in-grade equates to competence

    in the austere and august world of design contracting, there are jewels of wisdom encapsulated in sayings to instruct and enlighten newbies.  one says: ' there's ten years experience and then there's one year of experience ten times.'

    that's not my favorite of the encapsulated gems, however.  that one would go: 'if it flies, floats, or fucks, you can't afford it.'

  62. Shay  •  Mar 22, 2013 @5:01 pm

    "I know I said this before, but – oh man – do I wish that Orly Taitz had to appear in front of Judge Wright."

    Oh man…we can only dream.

  63. IANAL  •  Mar 22, 2013 @5:18 pm

    > "I know I said this before, but – oh man – do I wish that Orly Taitz had to appear in front of Judge Wright."

    Maybe she's the real Alan Cooper? Or "Salt marsh"? We can only wonder. April 1st isn't far off. Nor is the hearing set for the day after.

  64. Myk  •  Mar 22, 2013 @5:31 pm

    After a bit of analysis, I can conclude that Steele, Lutz, Hansmeier(s) and Gibbs are trying a rare and difficult binary legal move known as "The Heisenberg Defense". i.e., You can see them but be unable to discern what they're up to, or you can know what they're doing but you cannot see them.

    It comes to difficulty though when they come up against Judge Wright's "Schroedinger's OSC", where they are either present and dead, or not present and dead.

  65. Myk  •  Mar 22, 2013 @5:32 pm

    Also; damn you Ken, I'm trying to study here!

  66. Anonymous  •  Mar 22, 2013 @5:48 pm

    @Malc

    But they were drafted into the Big Leagues straight out of law school! You have Paul's word!

  67. nlp  •  Mar 22, 2013 @6:10 pm

    If I was part of the Prenda team I would be searching desperately for an Alan Cooper who was
    A) alive at the time the documents were signed
    B) dead and
    C) didn't have a lot of relatives to muddy the case.
    I would then point to him and state that this is the Alan Cooper who was part of AF Holdings. It wouldn't work for long, but at least it would keep some of the heat off while I packed for Nevis.

  68. John O.  •  Mar 22, 2013 @7:06 pm

    I'll quote some Napoleon, "Never interrupt your enemy when he makes a mistake."

    Yup.

  69. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:19 pm

    What I said on FCT bears repeating about welcome to the big leagues.

    "Yes indeed, welcome to the big leagues… where a motley band of anonymous posters have helped mortally wound your company and your careers by exposing the underhanded dealings you’ve been involved in.
    Did you think we’d run and hide?
    Well it appears you was wrong, because we found a whole truck load of skeletons in your closets and they are coming out into the light.

    So how is all of this working out for ya? :D "

    On the ponderings about honeypots, let me chum the water a bit more…
    "IIRC some early paperwork from what would become Prenda or LW claimed that their client had the exclusive right to distribute the file via BT.
    I always thought that wording was odd…. until now."

    And then there is a couple posts by the user who might be the honeypot talking about getting busted over a year ago… but is still uploading new things after he "settled".

    Curiouser and curiouser…

  70. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:37 pm

    @nlp they might not want to head there. In researching everyones favorite tax haven I discovered many people who had property there who were very angry dealing with people breaking into their homes. It seems that despite the happy pictures in the publicity they were having issues with poor people being poor and kept poor to keep things nice for the tourists.

  71. SJD  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:41 pm

    @TAC: Gibbs's parents live in Grenada, where Brett's wedding is set to happen less than a month from today. Is Grenada better?

  72. naught_for_naught  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:48 pm

    They may learn, to their regret, that they have committed the jurisprudential equivalent of opening a second front in Russia just before winter.

    Velcome to Stalingrad Beetches!

  73. Igor Zevaka  •  Mar 22, 2013 @8:56 pm

    Ken, you mention that by filing counterclaim, Duffy et al are on the hook for a potential discovery. How's this potential for discovery any greater than in the original suit by Cooper against Prenda?

  74. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 22, 2013 @9:14 pm

    @SJD hurm… someone should look into that. It would be sad if these silly legal games were to effect Brett's life like that.
    Here you are just living your life and some court sends a letter that people you know nothing about want to talk to you about something you allegedly did that was wrong.
    If someone were to offer Gibbs a settlement deal right now we'd be deep into irony right? :D

    Got a pot of honey I can borrow?

  75. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:01 pm

    @Igor Zevaka – IIRC Cooper vs 'The Bad Men' was filed in state court, where 'The Bad Men' vs Cooper et al was removed to Federal Court.

    Federal Judges will not look kindly on Duffy/Prenda trying to drop the case and run now that it has been answered. They will need to back up their claims and proof has been asked for over in over in the response. IANAL but I'm pretty sure they are very very sad right now that they didn't dismiss the cases once they were removed to the Federal Courts.

  76. AlphaCentauri  •  Mar 22, 2013 @10:16 pm

    Now, what would be ironic would be if Alan Cooper the caretaker is an undercover officer who was investigating Prenda and ended up as the star of the show when they stole his identity — a sort of human honeypot.

    Housekeeping and maintenance personnel always hear the juiciest gossip, because people talk in their presence like they're part of the furniture, and because they see the papers lying around and in the wastebaskets.

  77. Malc  •  Mar 23, 2013 @12:42 am

    @Shane… yeah, I (now) remember that; in my defense, I recalled that high-1500's was either very good or very average, Googled the question, and was told it is the average. I never thought to Google what it _had_ been! Yet another hint that while Google may have the answers, it doesn't have the questions!

  78. Jake  •  Mar 23, 2013 @6:34 am

    while not related to the technical legal discussion:

    have you considered that alan cooper may actually be related to these litigious shell companies?

    i have read several articles about prenda law and this disputed identity stuff smells like someone trying to intentionally muddy the waters. if i were associated with any of these shell companies per the claims against alan cooper, i would seriously consider entirely disavowing my participation. i imagine it would be hard to prove otherwise considering several of these companies are offshore.

    if i were involved with these shell companies, i would make like a teenager and pull out.

  79. orvis barfley  •  Mar 23, 2013 @7:37 am

    Housekeeping and maintenance personnel always hear the juiciest gossip, because people talk in their presence like they're part of the furniture, and because they see the papers lying around and in the wastebaskets.

    a similar attitude among men toward women is said to be one of the most absolutely key reasons we are a free nation today.  it was thought by most men at that time that women simply had no interest in politics or military matters.  a genetic nature that you could count on, as it were.  also, children of men who support your cause were routinely assumed to support your cause if they had any interest at all.

  80. Chad Miller  •  Mar 23, 2013 @7:53 am

    Jake: Ken touched on this in an earlier post. The short version: If Alan Cooper did voluntarily enter into this scheme at any point, why hasn't Prenda just come out and said so? Despite calling AC's claims "defamatory", not once (to my knowledge) have they alleged that he was involved, or given any information on who the "real" AC is if he wasn't. Instead, they've carefully avoided making a factual statement that can be checked.

  81. Another anonymous NAL  •  Mar 23, 2013 @8:07 am

    Anybody else hearing Jimi Hendrix riffs in the background?

    "Scuse me, while I SLAPP this guy…"

  82. Lucy  •  Mar 23, 2013 @9:26 am

    This scenario would make an excellent movie. Here is my initial fantasy cast.

    Written and directed by Guy Ritchie

    Duffy: Anthony M. Hall
    Steele: Emilio Estevez
    Paul Hansmeier: Matt Bomer (White Collar)
    Gibbs: Jensen Ackles (Supernatural)
    Lutz: Steve Buscemi
    Salt Marsh: The Arcata CA Bottoms

    Judge Otis Wright: Morgan Freeman (my first choice would have been Michael Clark Duncan RIP)
    Alan Cooper: Sasha Roiz (Grimm)
    Godfread: Gabriel Macht (Suits)
    Pietz: Liam McIntire (Spartacus)
    Ranallo: Nathan Fallion
    SJD: Janeane Garofalo or Tina Fey
    Ken White: Willie Garson (White Collar) or Bruce Willis

    ;-)

  83. Lucy  •  Mar 23, 2013 @9:41 am

    Also, a cameo appearance by Ron Jeremy as a Doe.

  84. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 23, 2013 @9:43 am

    @Jake – You should head over to fightcopyrighttrolls.com and use the search for Coopergate. While all of this looks recent and sudden, its been the elephant in the room for a while in some circles.

  85. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 23, 2013 @9:46 am

    @Lucy – I think this movie is being filmed by Micheal Bay, because this is all about to blow up big.

  86. Joe Pullen  •  Mar 23, 2013 @10:11 am

    But Hansmeier says nothing of the sort. He has only adolescent puffed-up threats and insults. What do you think that signifies?

    Basically I think it means if you were to give Hansmeier an enema, you’d have to bury what’s left over in a matchbox.

    Also, in Texan-eese, “ya’ll” is the singular term “all ya’ll” is the plural.

  87. Lucy  •  Mar 23, 2013 @10:18 am

    Side note; for the “Big League" cast, I did search Glee on IMDB.

  88. Malc  •  Mar 23, 2013 @11:06 am

    Random observation: notice how Gibbs/Steele/Hansmeier/Duffy respond to just about any communication from a professional peer, they immediately launch into a rant about how opposing counsel drowns puppies for grins, or something.

    E.g.

    Dear Mr Steele/Duffy/Gibbs/Hansmeier,

    Further to your letter of the 12th, we note that the date by which you request a response is from last year, 2012. May we assume that the correct date is this year, 2013?

    Sincerely,

    A. Counsel.

    Dear A Counsel:

    In all our weeks of professional lawyering, we have never seen such scurrilous and unprofessional behavior.

    Welcome to the reflect upon your big conduct leagues.

    Some_random_interchangeable_sig /s/ DuSteeGibMeieir.
    Dear Mr.

  89. RJ  •  Mar 23, 2013 @2:11 pm

    @Lucy, I think this needs to be cast as a comedy, not an action film:

    Duffy: Adam Sandler
    Steele: Shia LaBeouf (primarily for his off-camera behavior)
    Paul Hansmeier: Robert Downey Jr. (he would do that deposition justice)
    Gibbs: Keanu Reeves (whoa, dude)
    Lutz: Steve Buscemi
    Salt Marsh: Steve Buscemi

    Judge Otis Wright: Dwayne Johnson
    Alan Cooper: Jeff Bridges/Steve Buscemi (shared role, depending upon which "Alan Cooper" is being shown–the real or the fake)
    Godfread: Mark Wahlberg
    Pietz: Robert De Niro (but toned down a bit from "The Devil's Advocate")
    Ranallo: Sacha Baron Cohen
    SJD: Reese Witherspoon
    Ken White: Sean Penn

    Just imagine the deposition, with De Niro and Cohen examining Robert Downey Jr, while Keanu Reeves tried to object.

  90. Ken  •  Mar 23, 2013 @2:35 pm

    James Spader would do a good Pietz.

  91. Lucy  •  Mar 23, 2013 @4:55 pm

    Nice suggestions. This would be shaping up to be a great film. I had trouble because those guys are so young looking by the few pictures I saw. I am wholly unfamiliar with the newest whipper-snappers on the acting scene.

    Love the Sean Penn suggestion. I also love Nathan Fillion and think he should be in there somewhere.

    James Spader is great.

  92. Grant Gould  •  Mar 23, 2013 @5:38 pm

    For casting the comedy, it's too bad Peter Sellers is dead. This would be the perfect film for having three quarters of the roles played by the same actor.

  93. Jake  •  Mar 23, 2013 @7:01 pm

    Chad Miller: "If Alan Cooper did voluntarily enter into this scheme at any point, why hasn't Prenda just come out and said so? Despite calling AC's claims "defamatory", not once (to my knowledge) have they alleged that he was involved, or given any information on who the "real" AC is if he wasn't. Instead, they've carefully avoided making a factual statement that can be checked."

    note that the document in exhibit C is a copyright assignment document where AC has signed for AF Holdings LLC (henceforth AF), a Nevis LLC. i presume this is the document that prenda is claiming was signed by AC on behalf of AF. when dealing with offshore entities, it can be very hard to actually check any of the related information. examples of these ambiguities include:

    - does AC have an ownership interest in AF? you can't tell, it's a Nevis LLC, and that information requires filing suit and winning in Nevis iirc

    - is the signature on the copyright assignment actually AC's? the real AC could have gotten someone else to sign for him so that the signatures do not match in the case anything goes to court (like it has done)

    - is AC acting as a nominee manager or owner? again, one cannot determine due to Nevis' privacy laws

    my impression is that the lawyers here are essentially "attack dogs gone wild" and anyone else involved with the operation is trying to dissolve their relationship. this could include AC, but he may be entirely uninvolved and the victim of some sort of identity theft.

    here is a link that shows some of the entities involved and their jurisdictions

  94. Myk  •  Mar 23, 2013 @10:09 pm

    One amendment –

    Ken White: Liam Neeson.

    "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for a settlement, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you give me a pony now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

  95. Anonymous  •  Mar 24, 2013 @2:13 am

    I certainly look forward to a dramatization of the reported incident from John Steele's law school days when he tried to explain what combat is like to a Veteran.

    I'm sure it was just as enlightening as when John tries to explain what the law is like.

  96. orvis b.  •  Mar 24, 2013 @5:45 pm

    it's too bad Peter Sellers is dead

    you could just stop right there and you'd have said a lot.  comic genius sorely missed.

  97. orvis barfley  •  Mar 24, 2013 @5:47 pm

    sorry.  didn't realize it would do that.

  98. Avid Watcher  •  Mar 25, 2013 @12:48 am

    If you're willing to take the fall for whole group then you are decidedly a "true believer."

    Clearly Hansmeier has been watching too much Cult.

  99. Anonymous  •  Mar 25, 2013 @3:07 pm

    http://ia601200.us.archive.org/19/items/gov.uscourts.azd.732217/gov.uscourts.azd.732217.44.0.pdf

    Interesting filing in an AF Holdings case in AZ, lots of references to the March 11 hearing but I found this gem very intriguing:


    And although Mr. Goodhue is attorney of record, the evidence supports that Mr. Steele and Mr. Hansmeier are driving this litigation. Further undersigned counsel has experience litigating against Mr. Goodhue in Lightspeed Media Corp v. Sekora, CV2012-053194, currently pending in Maricopa County Superior Court (See Declaration of Paul D. Ticen, attached as Exhibit E hereto). When a disclosure dispute developed between the parties, communication with Mr. Goodhue was cut-off, and instead undersigned counsel dealt first with Brett Gibbs and then John Steele. (Id.).

    Now why would Brett L. Gibbs, the contractor, the file clerk, the poor misled patsy, the guy who had little autonomy or decision-making responsibility and who is only licensed to practice in CA insert himself in a discovery dispute in an Arizona state court case?

    I'll take Perjury for $1000 Alex.

  100. SJD  •  Mar 25, 2013 @3:16 pm

    I just recapped the Ticen's declaration. Will be available soon. "Interesting read" is an underestimation.

  101. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 25, 2013 @3:22 pm

    You mean the whole they just asked me to hold this bag, how was I supposed to know it was full of weed defense doesn't work when other people bought from you?

  102. SJD  •  Mar 25, 2013 @3:26 pm
  103. IANAL  •  Mar 25, 2013 @5:34 pm

    In the AZ case, did they get to file anything telling the court about the OSC against the Prenda group? Because there's no mention of all the crazy hijinks going on.

  104. Anonymous  •  Mar 25, 2013 @6:22 pm

    Wow, missed the declaration of Ticen earlier. So Gibbs was attempting to get him to settle and AZ case and lecturing him on AZ disclosure rules?

    Sure doesn't sound like the Brett L. Gibbs who was pleading ignorance in Judge Wright's courtroom.

    Also some amazing insight in the email exchanges into just how evasive these guys are. They are not even willing to produce evidence in a case that they brought!

  105. marco73  •  Mar 26, 2013 @5:07 am

    You could shorten that to :
    "They are not even willing to produce evidence…"

    In Texas, they'd be known as all hat, no cattle.

  106. That Anonymous Coward  •  Mar 26, 2013 @3:44 pm

    @marco73 – unless your in East Texas where all you need to do is buy a cow and then you can use the courts there.

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