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Archive for May, 2012

It is always nice when one judge reaches into another judge’s docket and removes a case from his docket.

While I cannot tell if this is exactly what happened here, all I can say is that Comcast essentially just won their “forum shopping” case against Prenda Law Inc. relating to their Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) case in the Southern District of Texas (a.k.a. “MILLENNIUM II”). BUT before you go off celebrating, Comcast is STILL under an obligation to hand out your information. Watch out!

To recap, if you remember from my “Forum Shopping” article on 5/16, Millennium TGA, Inc. sued 939 John Doe Defendants in DC (“MILLENNIUM TGA I”). When they learned that Judge Robert Wilkins (who killed a prolific bittorrent case) was assigned to the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case in DC, the Prenda Law Inc. attorneys for Millennium TGA, Inc. dismissed the case and then re-filed it in the Southern District of Texas (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) (“MILLENNIUM TGA II”) suing essentially the same John Doe Defendants as they did in the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case in DC which they voluntarily dismissed when they learned that Judge Robert Wilkins was the judge assigned to that case.  The Texas judge rubber-stamped their request to serve the ISPs with subpoenas to obtain the contact information of the 939 John Doe Defendants, and Prenda Law Inc. sent out the subpoenas to the ISPs. Comcast (one of the ISPs) saw the obvious forum shopping (actually, “judge shopping”) issue (among others) and refused to comply with the subpoenas. Prenda Law Inc. sued Comcast in DC (what I called “MILLENNIUM TGA III” in my 5/16 article).

In the MILLENNIUM TGA III case in DC (which is essentially Prenda Law Inc. suing Comcast in order to force them to comply), Magistrate Judge Kay ruled against Comcast telling them that they must comply. Comcast appealed, BUT THE JUDGE’S ORDER FORCING COMCAST TO COMPLY IS STILL VALID AND IS STILL IN EFFECT! So what exactly is going on?? What happened today??

On 3/26, Comcast noticed that Prenda Law Inc. violated the court’s “judge shopping” rules (LCvR 40.5(a)(4)) by not reporting that its new case [assigned to Magistrate Judge Kay] was substantially related to the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case that it voluntarily dismissed when it was before Judge Wilkins.

According to the DC local rules, to prevent contrary rulings by different judges for the same issues, if two lawsuits are substantially related (here, they are essentially identical), all subsequently filed cases get assigned to the original judge.

Knowing this, on 3/26, Comcast filed a “Request For Judge Reassignment” which was ignored until this morning.

As of this morning, District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle took the case away from Magistrate Judge Kay and reassigned it to Judge Robert Wilkins — the judge it should have gone to originally. Woohoo! Comcast’s victory is palatable at this point, because we can almost predict with certainty that he will rule in Comcast’s favor and will allow them NOT to comply with the subpoenas in the Texas MILLENNIUM TGA II case.

The problem is that all you see on the docket is a granting of the 3/26 motion for reassignment. Comcast appealed Magistrate Judge Kay’s terrible ruling against it, and Prenda Law Inc. filed a response to which Comcast responded to, but THERE WAS NEVER A RULING ON THEIR APPEAL which means that JUDGE KAY’S ORDER IS STILL IN EFFECT! COMCAST IS STILL UNDER AN OBLIGATION TO COMPLY WITH THE SUBPOENAS!

So in short, I have no doubt that Judge Wilkins will side with Comcast. However, I just don’t know if he has enough time to stop what he is doing (judges don’t only spend their days only reading these pornography-based bittorrent cases) and write an order 1) granting Comcast’s appeal and overturning Magistrate Judge Kay’s order [which is still in effect], and 2) granting Comcast’s motion for an extension of time to comply with the subpoena (which for many people, the deadline is today).

So while Comcast has essentially won the battle, they have not yet won the war. Comcast is still under the obligation to comply with the subpoenas.

MY OPINION:
…On a personal note, I feel that it is important that Comcast subscribers take note of the CONFLICT OF INTEREST that is apparent even in cases such as this one.  Comcast has been blindly complying with Prenda Law Inc.’s subpoena requests for almost TWO YEARS now.  They have opened up their own “Subpoena Compliance” division and have hired new staff (twelve new full-time employees, if my memory serves me correct) just to comply with these subpoena requests. They have entered into private agreements where Prenda pays them a certain sum of money for each IP address lookup (~$45 per IP address, give or take), and thus COMCAST RECEIVES A FINANCIAL BENEFIT FROM COMPLYING WITH THE SUBPOENAS.  On top of that, while I have spoken to John Seiver and I believe he is a very skilled attorney (remember the work he did in bringing down the Digiprotect case almost two years ago?), I cannot help but to be suspicious that this whole lawsuit is a PUBLIC RELATIONS STUNT solely to boost the image of Comcast.  After all, I must ask you — where were they until now? Have they filed ONE motion to quash on behalf of their subscribers? Why not? After all, with all the thousands of failed motions to quash filings attempted by their subscribers, Comcast could have SUCCESSFULLY filed motions to quash on behalf of its subscribers [they had standing in each case to object, and judges were dumbfounded why they never got involved], but they never did. Why not?

I also would like to mention that Comcast was one of the first ISPs to sign on to the MPAA/RIAA’s “six strikes” program (now on hold) which will no doubt be wreaking havoc on their subscribers in the near future.  So while I applaud John Seiver and Comcast for fighting and [what will likely be] WINNING the case against Millennium TGA, Inc. and Prenda Law Inc., I still need to ask myself on behalf of my clients, where were they until now? And, “will they still “accidentally” comply and collect their fee?” I would like to remind you that this has happened before.

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I am getting phone calls about “scare” letters that plaintiff attorneys Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC have been sending out using the name “Media Law Group” on their letterhead.  Again, this is Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (particularly in this case, Ellis Bennett).

There is no overly exciting news here — the case for which these letters are now being sent out is “Third World Media, LLC v. Does 1-4,536” (Case No. 1:11-cv-00059) filed on 1/10/2011 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The number of the Doe Defendants has changed, as the case name used to be “Third World Media, LLC v. Does 1-4,171.”  Quite frankly, this is just another “me too” production company trying to make a few bucks shaking down people who allegedly downloaded their adult films.

What is noteworthy in this case is how it was literally ignored by Judge Richard Roberts for almost 10 months before it was thrown over his shoulder on 11/15/2011 to Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson for her to deal with it.  During this time, Judge Roberts never replied to any of the motions, and he completely ignored the plaintiff attorney’s request to serve subpoenas on the ISPs in order to gain access to the John Doe Defendant’s contact information.

However, as soon as Judge Robinson took over the case, no doubt champagne bottles were brought out and the bubbly started flowing.  “Cheers!” probably came from the halls of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC’s office.  Why? They found themselves a patsy judge.

Immediately after receiving the case, Judge Robinson not only rubber-stamped the order essentially handing 4,000 subscribers into the hands of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (one of the original copyright trolls from the mega cases of 2010 and 2011), but she gave them more leeway than I have ever seen a judge give a copyright troll.  I have seen orders giving plaintiffs 120 days (in accordance with Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which gives a plaintiffs 120 days to name and serve or dismiss [John Doe] defendants), however, in her order, she gave them 270 DAYS!

Quite frankly, I’m not one to call a judge corrupt, or to claim that a judge is in the pocket of one party or another, but giving a copyright troll 270 days (where the rules allow for a MAXIMUM of 120 days) seems fishy to me.

But then, it doesn’t stop there.  Immediately after her 11/29/2011 order giving the plaintiff attorneys carte blanche for the next 9 MONTHS (FYI, that’s until the end of August, 2012), on 12/6/2011 the plaintiff attorneys amended their complaint adding new defendants (consequently adding 110 pages of IP addresses to the docket).

The funny thing, however, is that none of us have heard a PEEP from defendants, which indicates to me that the ISPs they targeted have given them a hard time and have not released the contact information of the accused Doe Defendants… until now.

As of this week, a number of defendants have started calling our office about this case.  Apparently the ISPs have begun complying with the subpoenas.  Let the games begin!

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It is very easy to put up a banner claiming “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED — NO MORE BITTORRENT CASES IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK,” but reality is not that simple. A judge can give a ruling, and it can be a darned good ruling which is binding on all other judges in that federal district (similarly, that ruling is persuasive for judges in other federal districts). One such case is the case written up by Sophisticated Jane Doe in her “The Domino Effect: Trolls are not welcome in the Southern District of New York anymore” article posted just moments ago. I do not need to re-write this up — she did a wonderful job, and there is no reason to duplicate her efforts.

That being said, this case does merit some discussion. The name of the case is Digital Sins, Inc., v. John Does 1-245 (Case No. 1:11-cv-08170, or 11 Civ. 8170) [misspelled], filed in the U.S. District Court for the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York (remember our blog post about forum shopping there?). I am happy to share that the case is now SEVERED AND DISMISSED. Obviously, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who were part of that case. This ruling is WONDERFUL for you.

As far as I am concerned, this ruling was the order I was waiting for back in March when I reported that all of copyright troll Mike Meier’s New York cases were consolidated by Judge Forrest. Similarly, you’ll see what I thought would happen in my “New York Judge consolidates and freezes SMALLER BITTORRENT CASES for plaintiff attorney” article earlier that month. Well in short, my opinion with hindsight was that all this was a dud, and Judge Forrest merely consolidated the cases to rein in Mike Meier so that she can control him and his cases so that they all had uniform outcomes. This was obviously a step in the right direction, but it did not dispose of the cases in their entirety. Perhaps because Judge Forrest had experience with copyright cases in the past, she thought she should be the one to preside over them. However, in my opinion, she just made them more orderly; she didn’t rule on the underlying issues plaguing each of Mike Meier’s cases.

Here comes Judge Colleen McMahon of the same Southern District as Judge Forrest, and she (like Judge Forrest) has my respect. In her ruling on Tuesday, she took the opportunity to take a John Doe ruling, and turn it into NEW LAW FOR NEW YORK COURTS (obviously I am referring to the federal courts). What impressed me was that not only was she aware of Judge Forrest’s activities, she changed the law by dissenting with them.

“Judges Forrest and Nathan, have decided to allow these actions to go forward on a theory that permissive joinder was proper.  I most respectfully disagree with their conclusion.” (p.4)

Further, she ruled that if Mike Meier wanted to sue these 244 defendants, he may do so in separate lawsuits, AND HE MUST PAY THE $350 FILING FEE FOR EACH LAWSUIT (that’s $85,400 in filing fees that Digital Sin, Inc. will have to pay if they want to go after the dismissed defendants).

“They are dismissed because the plaintiff has not paid the filing fee that is statutorily required to bring these 244 separate lawsuits.” (p.4)

What made this case blogworthy (and you’ll notice, I rarely post about the run-of-the-mill dismissals that happen every day in various jurisdictions when their rulings teach nothing new) was that Judge McMahon suggested TWO STRATEGIES to John Doe Defendants that she believes would successfully refute the plaintiff attorney’s geolocation evidence as proof that the court has personal jurisdiction over the accused IP addresses.

Firstly, she suggests that the John Doe defendants not living in the jurisdictional confines of the court simply file a SWORN DECLARATION that they live somewhere else.

“John Doe 148 could have overcome [the geolocation data evidence provided by the plaintiff] by averring [e.g., in a sworn decaration] that he was a citizen and resident of some state other than New York — even New Jersey or Connecticut, portions of which are located within the geographic area that is covered by the geolocation data.” (emphasis added, p.5)

Secondly, she said that since plaintiff attorneys are getting the personal jurisdiction right (e.g., filing lawsuits against Californians in California, against Texans in Texas, etc.), defendants could start asserting the “WRONG VENUE” argument (essentially saying, “Court, yes, I live in New York.  But I was sued in Long Island and I live in Buffalo.  It would be an extreme hardship for me to travel down to Long Island every time I need to show up for a hearing there to defend my case.”).  The actual verbiage suggested by the Court is that “…plaintiff has failed to plead facts rom which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that this Court has personal jurisdiction over this John Doe, or that venue is properly laid in this district.”  (emphasis added).

Next, this ruling is VERY EXCITING because it puts handcuffs on Mike Meier should he wish to file against any of the severed and dismissed defendants in a follow-up case.  Those rules are:

1) When an ISP complies with a subpoena request, it may not share the telephone number or e-mail address of the subscriber with the plaintiff attorney.

2) Assuming the ISP does not file a motion to quash (it obviously may AND SHOULD do so on behalf of its subscribers [my opinion]), the ISP shall share the subscriber’s information WITH THE COURT ONLY (not directly to the plaintiff as is usually done), and the court will disclose the information to the plaintiff attorney.  (I’m not sure the benefit of this — they still get the contact information of the John Doe Defendants this way).

3) The plaintiff may use the information disclosed ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF LITIGATING THAT CASE (so the plaintiff may no longer use the threat of future litigation if they do not immediately settle to extort a settlement.  This was a tactic used by many plaintiff attorneys (most notoriously, Prenda Law Inc. who admitted that they dismissed the case so that they can go after the John Doe Defendants [extorting settlements] without the court’s involvement).

Lastly — and her timing is quite interesting as we just finished writing about forum shopping in bittorrent cases — she warned Mike Meier not to engage in “judge shopping.”

“Lest plaintiff’s counsel think he can simply put cases against the severed and dismissed John Doe defendants into the wheel for assignment to yet another judge, I remind him of Local Civil Rule 1.6(a) [which requires the plaintiff attorney to bring the existence of potentially related cases to the attention of the Court].” 

For your reading pleasure, I have pasted a copy of the order below.  For my own opinion on the topics discussed by the judge, I have pasted them below the judge’s order.

MY OPINION:  There is more here that I did not write about, namely that the judge believes that all the bittorrent cases currently being held by Judge Forrest and Judge Nathan should be assigned over to her so that she can dispose of them once and for all.  She also went into other judge’s rulings which duplicate content in other articles on the blog.  However, once again, we have another wonderful ruling.  However, moving forward, perhaps I am a bit jaded, but I don’t foresee Judge Forrest or Judge Nathan tomorrow assigning over all their bittorrent cases to this judge.  There is now a disagreement in the New York courts (as there are in many jurisdictions) as to how to handle these cases.  I would love to jump up and down, wave a banner and declare “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED — NO MORE BITTORRENT CASES IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK,” but quite frankly this is not reality.

More likely than not, plaintiff attorneys such as Mike Meier, Jason Kotzker, and any other copyright troll who wants to file in New York will continue to file there.  As you can see in my forum shopping article (which should more properly be called “Judge Shopping”), an attorney can in ONE DAY file  9 SEPARATE CASES and receive 7 SEPARATE JUDGES, as was the case with Kotzker’s recent filings.

In addition, while the SWORN DECLARATION argument and the VENUE arguments are both easy solutions to disprove the plaintiff’s prima facia case for personal jurisdiction (meaning, the bare minimum a court will require in order to accept the fact that it has personal jurisdiction over the defendants in the case), a John Doe Defendant hoping to hide his identity from the plaintiff attorney and quash a subpoena should not be excited by these solutions.  1) For the sworn declaration, they’ll necessarily be giving up their true location (they cannot lie that they live in Connecticut when they live in California), and we all know that Mike Meier is only ONE local attorney to a larger IP monetization group (“The Copyright Enforcement Group”) which has other attorneys in other states, and who continues to recruit new hungry would-be copyright trolls.  So even if they succeed in getting their case dismissed here, guess who will be filing against them in their home state’s federal court?  2) A John Doe Defendant who asserts the “correct state, wrong venue” argue just made a big blunder — he admitted that personal jurisdiction is proper in that state.  Rules for venue are based on a number of factors, NOT ONLY WHERE THE DEFENDANT LIVES.  Similarly, no doubt the plaintiff will respond in a wrongful venue argument in a motion to quash that “John Doe filed this motion to quash asserting wrongful venue (which by the way is not a valid ground to quash a subpoena; jurisdiction IS), but he is not a party to the action [yet] and thus he has no standing to file this motion to quash.”  Remember this?  Lastly and realistically, the proper time a defendant CAN AND SHOULD use this wrongful venue argument is in his ANSWER (which means he was already NAMED as a defendant in the case).  Too late.  There are better issues to kill a case at this point than complaining that the court is too much of a drive.

[DISCLAIMER: I’ve given many opinions here which is not to be taken as legal advice.  Each defendant has different needs and different circumstances, and for this reason, the legal advice I give for one of my clients may not be appropriate (or may even be harmful) to another client who’s circumstances are different.  Also, obviously no attorney-client relationship is formed until you sign a retainer and become a client.]

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5/17/2012 NOTE: I want to make sure the blog continues to be a source of accurate information, and so while I have no doubt that the forum shopping I speak of in this blog happens (especially with copyright trolls filing lawsuits all over the place, sometimes implicating the same defendant in different cases (as is what happened with the Millennium TGA, Inc. Texas case), it was brought to my attention that Jason Kotzker filed cases in the Southern District of New York before receiving the adverse ruling in the Eastern District. For this reason, I am changing the blog article to reflect this fact.

I received a few inquiries in the past day or so about evidence that has surfaced that Prenda Law Inc. is involved in what is known as “forum shopping.”  Forum shopping in the context of our bittorrent cases is essentially where a plaintiff attorney (“copyright troll”) receives an adverse ruling from a judge in a particular federal district. “No problem,” the troll thinks. “There are many other federal districts in the country, some of which where the judges have not heard about our pornography bittorrent lawsuits. We’ll file there instead.” (See John Steele’s war of words with Sophisticated Jane Doe in the comments section of this article, specifically page 2.)  So the troll re-files its lawsuit, sometimes shamelessly doing a “cut and paste” job, implicating literally the same IP addresses they implicated in lawsuits they filed and dismissed in other jurisdictions. More about Prenda Law Inc. and forum shopping here.

The problem is that Prenda Law Inc. isn’t the only one doing this — many, if not all of the copyright trolls are doing the same thing, and just because “other people are doing it” doesn’t make it any more ethical.

This issue becomes relevant is when a local attorney receives an adverse ruling essentially shutting down bittorrent lawsuits in a particular jurisdiction. So far, as you know, you and we have been quite successful in educating judges as to the issues in the bittorrent cases [which has resulted in many case severances and dismissals], and the more judges learn about the copyright trolls’ tactics, the quicker they’ll shut down one or more of a plaintiff attorney’s lawsuits. The question becomes — and this is where forum shopping becomes relevant – IF A JURISDICTION SHUTS DOWN A COPYRIGHT TROLL’S CASES, IN WHICH COURT DO THEY RE-FILE THE LAWSUIT?  After all, the plaintiff attorneys are under the instructions from their clients (here, the production companies) to “sue this list of IP addresses who downloaded our stuff.”  If a court in a particular jurisdiction will no longer entertain such lawsuits — and each John Doe Defendant is potentially worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN SETTLEMENTS — where do the plaintiff attorneys sue these defendants?  Right or wrong, EVEN IF THEY SUE THEM IN THE WRONG COURT, MANY DEFENDANTS STILL WILL SETTLE.  Thus temptation for the copyright troll to “stick them into another lawsuit” is no doubt too great — “after all, who tracks this stuff?”  Hence, this is where forum shopping becomes an issue.

As just one example of a court shutting down a bittorrent case making it difficult to file in that federal court again (let’s see if I am proved wrong), it was brought to my attention yesterday that Jason Kotzker filed a handful of new cases — 8 in total — which he filed in the U.S. District Court for the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York (FYI, this is where Mike Meier is having trouble with his cases consolidated by Judge Forrest). These cases are:

Newly filed in the New York SOUTHERN District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-11 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03810 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-8 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03812 – Judge Seibel)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-16 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03818 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-17 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03820 – Judge Karas)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-21 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03821 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03823 – Judge Karas)

The funny part about this is if you remember my “Malibu Media, LLC – Friend of Foe? Foe.” article posted on March 23rd, 2012, you’ll immediately notice that Jason Kotzker was filing in the EASTERN DISTRICT of New York. However, no more. If you remember reading (and it does become difficult after a while to keep tabs on all of this) Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article on May 2nd, 2012 entitled, “New York judge blasts trolls’ practices, recommends banning mass bittorrent lawsuits in the district,” it should make perfect sense why Jason Kotzker is no longer filing in that court.

In all fairness, Jason wrote me and noted that he was filing in the Southern District of New York before this adverse ruling, and he is correct (I have listed a few of these cases below).  That being said, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more filings from him in the U.S. District Court for the EASTERN District of New York any time soon, lest he file and land the same judge who hits him with sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

New York Southern District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02950 – Judge Oetken)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02951 – Judge Griesa)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02952 – Judge Cote)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02953 – Judge Crotty)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02954 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02955 – Judge Engelmayer)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02960 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02961 – Unassigned)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No 1:12-cv-02962 – Judge Baer)

Looking at even this list of cases all filed in the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York at the same time, you have to ask yourself — why did Jason Kotzker break these cases into “John Does 1-4″ cases, when he could have easily filed the lawsuit as Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-42?  Are you telling me that breaking this case into 9 SEPARATE CASES resulting in 7 SEPARATE JUDGES [whereas 2 are known to rule against copyright trolls] is not forum shopping?!?  Are you kidding me??

Here is my solution.  We have learned from past experience, judges need to be educated on the issues, and sometimes from non-parties, sometimes from us attorneys whispering into their ears, and sometimes through mainstream channels via the EFF, the ACLU, through their use of amicus briefs. For this reason, I would like to see more people sending letters to the chambers of Judge Ramos [Phone: (914) 390-4290], to the chambers of Judge Karas [Phone: (914) 390-4145], and to the chambers of Judge Seibel [Phone: (914) 390-4271] and the others letting them know exactly what is going on.  Tell them what cases have been filed, and tell them which other judges have the other cases.  Speak about jurisdiction.  Speak about joinder.  Speak about the phone calls you have received from the plaintiff attorney’s so-called “collection” agents.  Now obviously calling up and ranting won’t get you anywhere.  However, calling up each Judge’s chambers and asking for their fax number, and then sending over a well written letter to the judge can certainly get some results.

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As a response to the “You Have Been Shopped” article written by DieTrollDie on forum shopping, I do have some insight to add to this.  In short, there are not two Millennium TGA lawsuits in this forum shopping scandal, but three (if you are counting the “motion to compel” lawsuit in DC which is the key to understanding exactly what is going on — this is the missing link which provides the insight I am sharing).

MILLENNIUM TGA I: In short, on 12/7/2012, Millennium TGA v. Does 1-939 (Case No. 1:11-cv-02176) (hereinafter, “Millennium TGA I”) was filed in DC.  It was assigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the DC judge who killed the “Expendables” bittorrent lawsuit — this was the Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-23,799 lawsuit by Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC which quickly expanded from 6,500 into 23,222 John Doe Defendants before the judge shut down the case.  It took Prenda Law Inc. a week to figure out that their judge was THE Judge Wilkins, and they quickly and voluntarily dismissed the case.

MILLENNIUM TGA II: Four days later, Prenda Law Inc. used their local counsel Doug McIntyre (the same local counsel who was almost fired because he took on the West Coast Productions, Inc. client [remember them in DC and in W.VA with their attorney Kenneth Ford who is now in jail?] in his West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-351 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00504) case which he filed without telling Prenda Law Inc. about it) and on 12/20/2012, Doug McIntyre filed the Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  This case involves pretty much identical parties, facts and claims as were alleged in the MILLENNIUM TGA I case in DC.  I suppose they thought nobody would notice their overt forum shopping, especially since they changed the name of their lawsuit.

Everything went smoothly for the plaintiff attorneys in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case in Texas …until Prenda Law Inc. served a subpoena on Comcast, who said “no.”

This is where the story gets interesting.  On 2/29/2012, Comcast objected to the subpoena by stating that 1) the court lacked personal jurisdiction over most of the IP addresses listed in the subpoena; 2) there were serious joinder issues in the lawsuit; and 3) the plaintiff was engaging in “a blatant attempt to FORUM SHOP” since they already dismissed MILLENNIUM TGA I to avoid being in front of Judge Wilkins in DC.

MILLENNIUM TGA III: As a result, Prenda Law Inc. (Millennium TGA, Inc.’s attorneys) filed a lawsuit against Comcast (it was actually a “motion to compel”) in the MILLENNIUM TGA, INC. v. JOHN DOE (Case no. 1:12-mc-00150) case in DC.

It was in this lawsuit that John Steele “surfaced” from pretending (think, “Prenda”) that he was not associated with Prenda Law Inc. since Paul Duffy allegedly took over the firm.  It is also my understanding that Prenda Law Inc. didn’t realize that John Seiver was the attorney behind the scenes on this case, and what they might not have known was that John Seiver has wreaked havoc on bittorrent cases as long as two years ago with the Digiprotect cases in New York.  Perhaps even Prenda Law Inc.’s predecessor firm Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC was not yet in existence when this happened, and John Steele was still running his divorce practice a la the Steele Law Firm, PLLC.  Either way, I suspect that they filed the motion to compel Comcast to comply with the subpoena in order to bully them, and they didn’t realize that Comcast (through John Seiver) would fight back.

Now advancing forward a bit on the timeline, Magistrate Judge Alan Kay ignored pretty much every point that Comcast brought up and he issued an order on 4/18/2012 ordering Comcast to comply with the subpoena for the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case.  They were ordered to reveal 351 of the subscriber identities to Prenda Law Inc.  This is, however, where it gets interesting.

John Seiver, obviously realizing that Magistrate Judge Kay made a dumb ruling, essentially called him a moron in appealing his order.  As an attorney, I would hold my tongue myself here in writing this article, especially because I am interested in seeing John Seiver and Comcast prevail, and I know that sometimes a judge can rule his court by ego rather than adhering to the law, but Magistrate Judge Kay’s ruling against Comcast was so dumb I could not contain myself.

In short, according to Comcast’s appeal, 1) the judge erred by failing to consider any of the legitimate defenses that Comcast raised on behalf of its subscribers. 2) The judge erred by failing to address the fundamental issue of whether any of the unnamed Does would be subject to personal jurisdiction (either in Texas, or in DC per the motion to compel).  3) The judge erred by failing to address the possible misjoinder of the one John Doe defendant (and the many co-conspirators) in the Texas case.  4) The judge erred by failing to realize that “conspiracy” is not a sufficient crime to allow massive discovery on the John Doe Defendants, and 5) Magistrate Judge Kay was not the proper judge to accept this case — according to DC’s own local rules (Local Rule 40.5), the case should have been immediately reassigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the judge who was previously assigned to the MILLENNIUM TGA I case, since MILLENNIUM TGA I and MILLENNIUM TGA II had identical claims.  As of this evening, I am still waiting to hear a ruling on this appeal.

Now for those of you still in Prenda Law Inc.’s MILLENNIUM TGA II (Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501)) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, if you are a Comcast subscriber, as you can see, there are unresolved questions in the MILLENNIUM TGA III DC case, and your status is uncertain.  Thus, my contribution to the FORUM SHOPPING article by DieTrollDie today is that the DC MILLENNIUM TGA III case holds the key to understanding what is currently going on in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case here in Texas.  Now as for everyone else (e.g., non-Comcast clients who are in the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case), understand now that the MILLENNIUM TGA III [motion to compel] DC case directly impacts your Texas case.  Obviously this is something we are watching for our clients.

If you are interested in reading this entertaining appeal by Comcast in order to understand the entire story and its implications, I have attached a copy of Comcast’s motion below.

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