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There was a time when I thought that someday I might like to be a judge — that at some point, after the kids are educated or incarcerated or off following a band or whatever, it would be rewarding to wrap up my career with some time on the bench.
At least most of the time.
Last week Fight Copyright Trolls broke a story about Prenda Law attorneys Paul Hansmeier and Brett Gibbs being involved in some questionable class-action-objector shenanigans. Techdirt and Ars Technica followed up on the story. I really don't have anything of substance to add — read the Fight Copyright Trolls post, it's instructive — but the story reveals that being a judge does, in fact, allow for very occasional moments of fun.
The case was Shames et al v. Hertz Corporation et al, a class action pending in federal court in San Diego in 2007. The parties reached a proposed settlement. On the last day for objections to the settlement, Paul Hansmeier — purportedly representing his father — wrote to the attorney for the class and said, in effect, that unless the class paid him $30,000, he'd object to the settlement:
I will extend to you an offer to settle this matter with my client for $30,000.00 if the settlement terms are reached by 5:00 PM CST on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. If you reject this settlement and the objection is filed, the offer to o settle is revoked and will not be extended at the pre-filing settlement amount.
Govern yourself accordingly.
Note Hansmeier's parting line there. What is it about pompous scumbags and that line? Does it speak to some inadequacy deep inside them?
Class counsel appropriately told Hansmeier to go piss up a rope and threatened him with sanctions. All wounded innocence, Hansmeier filed an ex parte application seeking to intervene in the case and to have class counsel removed. United States District Judge Michael M. Anello's order denying that request is as satisfying a judicial smackdown as you are ever likely to see. It made me guffaw and bounce in my seat. It included a sharp reference to Hansmeier's puffery: "On Monday, October 1, 2012, governing himself according to the undertone and implications of Objector’s counsel’s letter, class counsel responded . . . ." And then came the hammer:
In reviewing the letters between Objector’s counsel and class counsel, the only “bold and improper” conduct the Court can identify is [Hansmeier's] attempt to extract $30,000, from class counsel in exchange for Objector not filing objections that [Hansmeier] suggested could derail approval of the class settlement and award of attorneys’ fees.
That's going to leave a mark.
So, as you can see, judges can occasionally have some fun. But I think I'll stay a lawyer, and a blogger.
And Paul Hansmeier? Well, in a recent interview with a hometown paper, he expressed hope that representing family members in class action matters would eventually lead to a broader client base:
“Now, I would hope … that as time goes on that I expand the circle, that I gain some credibility and some experience and a reputation for successfully prosecuting these style of cases.”
Do let us know how that goes for you, Paul.
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