On Friday I wrote a scathing review of the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) case dismissal, but I did not post it. In short, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients (and all the others implicated in this case) who have been dismissed from the case.
The difficulty I am facing is that while being dismissed is the goal of any John Doe defendant in a bittorrent case, in my opinion, I am uncomfortable with the way the dismissal happened.
As many of you know, there was new precedent set by Judge Facciola’s ruling in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case, and as a result, Judge Reggie Walton gave the plaintiffs until March 9th, 2012 to start naming or dismissing defendants. In short, instead of admitting improper jurisdiction, yet another D.C. judge opted to invoke the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(m) which gives plaintiffs 120 days to either name or dismiss defendants. Understanding that the Prenda Law Inc. plaintiff attorneys had no interest in continuing the lawsuit against individual Doe defendants, they dismissed the case.
Now while it is always nice when opposing counsel opts to kill a case rather than move forward against defendants, Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel revealed more than he probably should have to the court. In a move which probably angered Paul Duffy and his superiors, Tim Anderson wrote the following paragraph:
Plaintiff acknowledges the Court’s busy docket; Plaintiff is currently engaged in settlement negotiations with a substantial number of putative Doe Defendants. Rather than prematurely initiate litigation against individuals who may ultimately wish to resolve Plaintiff’s claims via settlement — and thus needlessly burden the Court — Plaintiff believes that dismissing the claims against the remaining non-settling Doe Defendants in this action without prejudice in lieu of filing actions against non-settling individuals strikes a favorable balance between preserving Court resources and safeguarding its intellectual property rights.
In other words, “Court, we are dismissing the case so that you do not need to waste your time looking over us watching what we are doing. We would prefer not to have you watch us anyway because you will force us to do something we don’t want to do (e.g., “name” defendants), which would make our extortion scheme much more costly to us and thus we wouldn’t be able to sustain our operation if we had to actually go after defendants. So thanks to you, since we now have all the names we need from the ISPs of the putative Doe Defendants, we will continue to call and harass those who haven’t settled without having you worry about what we are doing.”
In short, I would have liked to see the judge issue an order indicating that since they have dismissed the case, they are no longer permitted to use the names they acquired from the subpoenas and collect settlements from putative defendants. The legal system is not a tool to discover private information about internet subscribers only to dismiss the case and continue their extortion scheme offline.
For this reason, I suspect that you understand why I am not so happy with this case dismissal. Getting your names only to dismiss the action was simply part of their plan all along.