And now, the latest in the Prenda Law saga.
Recall that Judge Wright has ordered attorneys associated with Prenda Law to appear in his court on Monday, March 11. I've been watching all week for some response from them. This afternoon I saw that attorney Morgan Pietz — who represents the John Doe defendant in the case in which Judge Wright has been issuing orders — filed an opposition to an ex parte application for relief filed by lawyers (and subjects of Judge Wright's order) John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy, as well as paralegal Angela Van Den Hemel. Yet the application didn't itself appear on PACER.
(An ex parte application is a motion that is not filed on a regular schedule — which, in federal court in Los Angeles, is 28 days before the designated hearing. Rather, it's filed on an urgent basis, without a hearing date specified, outside the normal scheduling rules.)
Mr. Pietz's opposition brief is here. Fortunately, Pietz provided context by attaching the Steele/Hansmeier/Duffy ex parte application as an exhibit. Here it is. Pietz suggests that the ex parte application may not be online yet because they filed it manually at the clerk's office rather than by e-filing it on the electronic filing system, which automatically and immediately places it on PACER. That's probably right, though it may not be for sinister reasons — as non-parties appearing for the first time in the case, Steele, Duffy, and Hansmeier may not have been able to e-file the document in the case.
In short, Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy say that Judge Wright should lift his order because (1) Judge Wright lacks personal jurisdiction over them because they are in different states, aren't parties to this case, and aren't attorneys of record in this case; (2) they didn't get adequate notice of the order, they are busy, they have limited resources, and traveling on short notice is difficult. They ask, at a minimum, that the judge reschedule the hearing. Considering they have had several days to put a brief together, I find this motion rather half-hearted and meager, particularly given the gravity of the situation and what they are trying to accomplish. If this is all they could pull together, I am surprised they didn't file it sooner, like Wednesday.
In opposition, Mr. Pietz points out that (1) John Steele has sent letters like this one into California demanding settlement for copyright claims; (2) Paul Hansmeier appeared in San Francisco as the designated representative of AF Holdings, and (3) Duffy is a member of the California State Bar and was counsel of record in AF Holdings cases in San Francisco. I think Mr. Pietz very clearly has the better of this argument. Brett Gibbs has offered sworn testimony that his activities were directed by Steele and Hansmeier and that Duffy was the principal of Prenda Law — together with the admissions in Hansmeier's deposition, that's more than enough to show activities directed to California establishing jurisdiction over them. The question of whether they had enough time to prepare to appear is the sort of thing that's in the broad discretion of the court — though, if I were making that argument, I sure as hell wouldn't have waited until Friday afternoon to make it, when it looks like gamesmanship.
I'll keep an eye out for orders or further filings. I wouldn't be surprised if Judge Wright rejected the jurisdiction argument but gives them an extension.
By the way, I stand by what I said in my prediction about what stance the Prenda Lawyers might take. The evidence clearly shows that Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy have directed Prenda Law litigation activities in California. A federal judge has ordered them to appear here and explain those activities. By responding with a jurisdictional argument now, they have utterly eviscerated their credibility and the credibility of their enterprise permanently in every court in the United States of America.
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