Saturday, 17 December 2016
Those who live by the Sword (of Justice) must be prepared to die by the Sword
As many of the readers of this blog and all of my fellow bloggers are lawyers, I need to tread carefully here. But every so often the news of the downfall of some over-zealous lawyer decidedly lifts my mood. Not that I have anything against lawyers - I don't go as far as William Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part2, Act IV, Scene 2) for instance - but evidence that they are prone to human fallibilities, just like the rest of us, is reassuring. We already know that courts are fallible: why else would there be appeal courts? And occasionally the courts feel the need to point out the errors of lawyers appearing in front of them. But dramatic and public falls from grace are somewhat rare. Too few of us treat the SRA's list of recent decisions as our required daily reading.
Not so long ago it was the turn of Andrew Crossley and his company ACS:law to receive the disapprobation of HHJ Birss as he then was, for their creative approach to copyright infringement. And more recently came the non-IP related news that solicitor Paul Shiner faces being struck off for some of his activities in relation to human rights cases which he has brought against the Ministry of Defence.
Now, like an early Christmas present, comes news from the USA that the legal firm which is a sort of ACS:law on steroids, Prenda law, faces criminal prosecution. Or more accurately, two of its attorneys do. I imagine that most readers will have heard of Prenda law and its regrettably not-unique business model. We've previously featured many stories about it here on 1709 and so I won't try to provide a summary of their past deeds. The latest twist in the saga is a federal indictment on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit perjury and suborn perjury, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. It will probably take half a morning just to read out the charges to the two defendants, Paul R Hansmeier and John L Steele.
Clearly it is necessary for me to stress that, of course, these two upright citizens are entirely innocent until the court finds otherwise, but the news of this indictment may just have a salutary effect on other copyright trolling operations. Or at least cause them to amend their modus operandi.