Copyright Troll Richard Liebowitz Says It's Really Unfair That He Should Have To Tell Clients And Courts How Frequently He's Been Caught Lying In Court

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Last month we wrote about the ultimate benchslap against noted copyright troll Richard Liebowitz. Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of NY published a 61 page opinion that goes into massive detail on Liebowitz's longstanding pattern and practice of lying to courts over and over and over again. Beyond going into the cringe-worthy details of many lies told in this specific case -- Arthur Usherson v. Bandshell Artist Management -- it includes an appendix with 40 examples of Liebowitz lying, misrepresenting, and/or being sanctioned in other cases. It's pretty stunning. The order dumped over $100k in sanctions on Liebowitz, but much more damning, it referred Liebowitz to the Court's Grievance Committee, required Liebowitz to give a copy of the order to all of his clients, and said that it needed to be filed along with any new lawsuits he filed -- which is notable, since Liebowitz seems to file new lawsuits every other day or so.

After that ruling, though, Liebowitz's breakneck pace of filing dried up. And so of course he's fighting back. He's hired some real lawyers to represent himself, and is appealing the ruling. He's also asking the court to get rid of all of those non-monetary sanctions regarding informing his clients and other courts. The filing explaining why the court should remove those sanctions is quite a read, and despite being filed by lawyers that Liebowitz has hired, I'd argue they're not particularly flattering to Liebowitz. First, he complains that these sanctions "will cause severe economic and reputational damage to Mr. Liebowitz," and, yeah, duh. Except it's not the sanctions that are the cause of that: it's Liebowitz's own behavior.

These sanctions place Mr. Liebowitz in an impossible position: he must choose between either not initiating cases so as to avoid having to file the Opinion, or continuing to initiate cases, filing the Opinion, and thereby risk causing the court to view the client in a negative light by virtue of the client’s association with Mr. Liebowitz. Mr. Liebowitz must, in other words, choose between not practicing, and practicing in a way in which his actions will redound to the detriment of his clients. This Court has forced Mr. Liebowitz to make this impossible choice notwithstanding that Mr. Liebowitz and LLF have, over the past several years, successfully represented and vindicated the rights of copyright holders in thousands of proceedings.

Right. But that's kind of the point. Liebowitz has been sanctioned monetarily many, many times for this kind of misbehavior and it has not changed his actions. So at some point a court has to up the ante. And this seems like a reasonable way to do so.

Liebowitz also tries to blame his mistakes on inexperience:

Mr. Liebowitz’s troubles with various federal courts around the country, the result of his inexperience and perhaps overly ambitious business model, must therefore be considered in context.

That is not an excuse that is likely to fly with any court, nor should it. He also claims that the reason he's so frequently sanctioned is because he files so many lawsuits, so of course that's going to lead to more sanctions:

Even if Mr. Liebowitz possibly is “one of the most frequently sanctioned lawyers” in this District, he is without question one of its most frequent filers.... Mr. Liebowitz and LLF resolve the vast majority of cases without incident... (noting that Mr. Liebowitz has filed approximately 2,500 cases nationwide) with id. at App’x (listing 40 cases in which Mr. Liebowitz was sanctioned). Mr. Liebowitz and LLF can do better, and they have, since the motion for sanctions was filed in this action, set in motion plans to correct the negligence and public faults that they know have harmed their reputation. Taken as a whole, however, their record is more fairly considered not that of the pejoratively termed “troll[s]” or “lampreys,” ... but rather the result of zealous advocacy to enforce artists’ otherwise unprotected federally guaranteed rights at affordable contingent rates—marred by the consequences of overwork and relative inexperience.

Except, no. Most lawyers don't ever get sanctioned, no matter how many cases they file, so that's not a good excuse at all. And Liebowitz has claimed many times over that he will put in place plans to "correct the negligence" and yet more and more sanctions keep on coming.

Hilariously, the new filing also claims that doing his job in making sure that the cases he file involve works that actually have a registered copyright is too expensive and time consuming:

Further, Sanction 6 will impose enormous monetary and time-related burdens on Mr. Liebowitz and LLF, as well as their future clients. Ordering a deposit copy of the copyrighted work from the U.S. Copyright Office has cost Mr. Liebowitz, per his Declaration, between $200 and $1,200, and deposit copies often are not delivered for several months—a time period which has been further lengthened during the current pandemic. See Liebowitz Decl. ¶ 10. Given the nature of Mr. Liebowitz and LLF’s practice, which relies on a high volume of cases to make it economically feasible to provide legal services to artists whose cases, individually, generally have small maximum recoveries, the deposit copy requirement could impose on Mr. Liebowitz and LLF costs of thousands of dollars and thus render the filing of many copyright infringement actions—and the firm’s continued operation—financially untenable.

If following the law makes the nature of your legal trolling business untenable then perhaps it's a sign that your operation itself is... untenable.

Liebowitz also tries to argue that Judge Furman abused his discretion in issuing these sanctions, which is pretty laughable, because I actually thought that Furman was pretty restrained in sanctioning Liebowitz for repeatedly lying, including filing a lawsuit over an image claiming a false copyright registration and then regularly lying to the court about it. Liebowitz's lawyers try to nitpick around some of Liebowitz's lies (such as about whether or not he and his client were required to appear in person for a hearing, or whether or not Liebowitz informed a mediator that they would not). The court record makes it clear that Liebowitz is lying. Liebowitz insists the evidence is still up in the air:

As the Hearing transcript reveals, a serious question exists as to whether this factual finding was an abuse of discretion, as there was insufficient evidence in the record for the Court to conclude that the mediator did not grant Mr. Usherson permission to appear by phone. The primary evidence the Court relied on for this point was the mediator’s testimony that Mr. Liebowitz did not ask for such permission.... But the other evidence cited by the Court to corroborate the mediator’s testimony was equivocal at best, and the testimony alone does not support the finding. For example, although the Court read the mediator’s email exchange with counsel for Defendant—in which counsel stated, the night before the mediation, that he “would have assumed Mr. Usherson either flew to NY tonight or is likewise on a very early plane” and the mediator responded, “I understand”—as indicating the mediator did not know that Mr. Usherson would appear by phone, ... an equally plausible reading of the mediator’s email is that he was so aware. If the mediator believed, having spoken with Mr. Liebowitz earlier that evening, that Mr. Usherson would be attending the mediation in person (as the Court suggests is the case), the mediator equally likely would have said so in his response to counsel, rather than merely acknowledging counsel’s assumption. In sum, there is, on this record, a serious question whether this Court abused its discretion in relying on the mediator’s essentially uncorroborated testimony to find by clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Liebowitz lied about requesting permission for Mr. Usherson to appear by phone.

Liebowitz also argues that these sanctions go "beyond what was reasonably necessary for deterrence." Again, that is laughable, given that the judge detailed dozens of examples of previous sanctions that clearly had no deterrent effect on Liebowitz.

And... then, Liebowitz tries to claim that leaving these sanctions in place will harm "the public interest" because... Liebowitz won't be able to continue filing his often highly questionable lawsuits.

There is a strong public interest in the continuation of Mr. Liebowitz and LLF’s law practice. Mr. Liebowitz and LLF have carved out a successful law practice that provides a realistic prospect of recovery to copyright plaintiffs in relatively low-dollar infringement cases that otherwise could go unfiled.... Absent a stay, Mr. Liebowitz, LLF, and their clients will suffer harm.

Cry me a river.

In support of this filing Liebowitz filed a declaration that, among other things, insists he's a changed man since the benchslap he got back in November of 2019 (when he was sanctioned for lying about the death of his grandfather). Except, he claims he did this on his own "initiative" and not because he got smacked around by another judge:

Since the motion for sanctions was filed in this case, I have worked to improve my organizational practices and those of my firm. In November 2019, on my own initiative, I retained a recognized expert in the field of legal ethics. On the expert's recommendation, LLF has deployed new practice management software, which helps the firm manage case calendaring and alerts, case documents and discovery, copyright registration information, and other important case details. All of LLF' s cases initiated since January 2020 are managed on the new system. Further, I have maintained my relationship with the expert, and continue to call on him as legal, ethical, and organizational issues arise.

Also, for reasons that are unclear, Liebowitz includes a declaration from Bruce Cotler, the President of the NY Press Photographers Association, and Liebowitz's former boss. Cotler has been a big time supporter of Liebowitz's for years, but perhaps he should recognize that this damages his own reputation, rather than helps Liebowitz's. Cotler's declaration makes a few points, none of which are particularly useful. He says that he's known Liebowitz since he was a teen (so what?), that Liebowitz has represented him, and that photographers often have to deal with infringement. Again, that's meaningless when the issue is all the times Liebowitz has lied to courts and failed to actually represent the best interests of his clients.

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Filed Under: arthur usherson, copyright troll, richard liebowitz, sanctions


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:01pm

    'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

    Oh did I need this with all the bad news coming out lately...

    Someone fetch me the nano-violin, I feel a symphony coming on. A person who regularly lies to courts, gets caught and sanctioned for it then whining that telling courts and prospective clients that he engages in such practices and that maybe he's not to be trusted(due to all the documented lying) is practically the definition of 'self-inflicted wound'. Just a thought but if telling people your job history is enough to keep them from hiring/trusting you the problem might be on your end.

    You also got to love how his excuses shoot each other in the back, as the dupes he hired to represent him try to both argue that he keeps making 'mistakes' because he lacks experience and that those 'mistakes' should be overlooked because he's just filing so many cases, something which I guess requires no legal expertise nor adds any?

    Hopefully whatever judge/judges have to deal with this joke of a filing have a good time giving it the response it deserves and laughing it right out of court with a hearty, 'Motion denied, have fun sending out the reminders of how untrustworthy you are.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      urza9814 (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:32pm

      Re: 'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

      "You also got to love how his excuses shoot each other in the back, as the dupes he hired to represent him try to both argue that he keeps making 'mistakes' because he lacks experience and that those 'mistakes' should be overlooked because he's just filing so many cases, something which I guess requires no legal expertise nor adds any?"

      Settlements don't add court experience, nor do cases that are dropped before going to court when a settlement offer is refused. How many of those cases he files actually go anywhere? That might explain how he can still be lacking experience...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Jul 2020 @ 5:22am

        Re: Re: 'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

        "How many of those cases he files actually go anywhere? That might explain how he can still be lacking experience..."

        Oh, I'm sure he has the experience required to make for a decent nigerian prince or viagra salesman.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pat Burke, 23 Jul 2020 @ 7:36pm

        Re: Re: 'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

        If there weren’t corporate copyright thieves who flagrantly steal photographs because they’re too cheap to pay, there would be no copyright litigation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 4:17pm

      Re: 'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

      Also, he's a changed man since November, so any further mistakes he has made, and any further lies he has told (and on which he has octupled down) are entirely the fabrications of a judge with unbridled discretion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 23 Jul 2020 @ 2:57am

      Re: 'If people know I'm a liar they might not hire me!'

      Trump didn't seem to have this problem at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:07pm

    He's hired some real lawyers to represent himself

    daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      Are we sure they're real lawyers? Do we know they're telling the truth? Their arguments don't appear to hold water, which makes me suspect they may be, if not on his level, only one pond over.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        MathFox, 23 Jul 2020 @ 12:52am

        Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

        Their arguments don't appear to hold water,

        A lawyer has the moral obligation to also take up weaker cases, defend criminals and such.
        It is easy to find strong arguments for a well-founded case, not so easy to find arguments when your client dug himself into a hole. But a good lawyer tries to find arguments anyway.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Jul 2020 @ 5:31am

          Re: Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

          It's been said the man who represents himself has a fool for a client.

          I'd argue, though, that the one with actual legal acumen who agrees to represent Liebowitz must be either an idiot or a masochist. I'd love to hear their arguments defending Liebowitz's right to have his persistent performance as a lying and inept shitweasel in court considered confidential.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:15pm

      Re:

      Yeah, but one consequence of frantically digging a hole is sometimes your shovel breaks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bobvious, 22 Jul 2020 @ 3:31pm

      Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

      The real karmic kickback would be Liebowitz's lawyers being ordered to inform all of THEIR clients that they represent him, and having to include the same multi-page documentation that Richy is now fighting against.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

        Hi, I'm Lionel Hutz, and I once represented Richard Liebowitz.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        MathFox, 23 Jul 2020 @ 1:03am

        Re: Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

        I don't think Liebowitz's agree with his actions, they just defend his ass in court.
        Compare their work to the work of a lawyer defending a criminal, doing their best to get a fair trial and a small punishment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Tanner Andrews (profile), 25 Jul 2020 @ 11:46pm

        Re: Re: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

        The real karmic kickback would be Liebowitz's lawyers being ordered to inform all of THEIR clients that they represent him,

        That ought not happen. Attys have obligations which may include defending weak cases and trying to make the best of them. And, sometimes, an atty can be surprised when it turns out that what he thought was a lousy case is a lot different when the evidence comes to hand.

        Also, and perhaps more to your point, attys are not deemed to share the views of their clients. The attys who represented the Illinois Nazis in Nat'l Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (14-Jun-1977) surely did not share the views of their clients that government ought to be able to suppress speech. Nor is it likely that the lawyers had any taste for the ideology of their client.

        Yet they did the right thing anyway. Think of this as a reminder that it is not the popular causes that most need legal assistance.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:41pm

    Taking bets that he lies about how often he lies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:13pm

      Re:

      Pretty sure that would be like better on whether the sun will rise tomorrow, in that while it's theoretically possible that it won't happen the odds are pretty good that it will.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 12:51pm

    Conflict of interest

    overly ambitious business model
    Any time that a lawyer is prioritizing money over his clients own interests should be a huge red flag... ... If that statement doesn't refer to the law office going above and beyond for the client, but instead speaks to the financial gains a law office if aiming for, then it should inherently be considered a conflict of interest and the firm should be removed from the case!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jilocasin (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:38pm

    Couldn't have happened to a more deserving lawyer.

    subject says it all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:43pm

    Absent a stay, Mr. Liebowitz, LLF, and their clients will suffer harm.

    I'd argue it's a net win for their clients. At least the ones who, reasonably informed as they should now be about the character of their counsel, decide to look elsewhere for representation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:58pm

      Re:

      Absolutely. Telling the potential victim of a scam that the person they are paying or thinking of paying money is going to rip them off might be terrible for the scammer but it's great for their victim, even if it means they have to find someone else to handle the problem they had.

      Likewise telling someone looking for a lawyer for a copyright case that the person they are considering hiring has a documented history of botching cases so badly that he get sanctioned on a regular basis might mean they have to find a new lawyer but it also increases the odds that they'll find a good one who won't just waste their time and/or put them on the hook for the inevitable sanctions, which is very much the opposite of causing them 'harm'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 22 Jul 2020 @ 3:22pm

      Re:

      Absent a stay, Mr. Liebowitz, LLF, and their clients will suffer harm.

      Uh, isn't that the whole point of sanctions?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:46pm

    All of LLF' s cases initiated since January 2020 are managed on the new system.

    I wonder why none of the ones prior to January 2020 have been moved to the new system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    REM(RND) (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 1:56pm

    The Hammer

    When they make the movie of this, and they should, the judge should be played by the actor who played the judge from Ghostbusters 2 and in the same manner.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Yakko Warner (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 2:46pm

    He got one thing right.

    There is a strong public interest in the continuation of Mr. Liebowitz and LLF’s law practice.

    I, as a member of the public, am strongly interested in the continuation of his law practice. Reading up on his antics provides much-needed amusement and levity in these days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jul 2020 @ 3:36pm

    Patent lawyer heads at ipwatchdog are exploding on a review for the anti-patent book: How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley: https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2020/07/21/reflections-upon-reading-innovation-works-flourishe s-freedom/id=123426/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 3:55pm

    In November 2019, on my own initiative, I retained a recognized expert in the field of legal ethics.

    Given Liebowitz's stupidity, it wouldn't surprise me if he hired John Steele.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 22 Jul 2020 @ 9:22pm

    “. . . there was insufficient evidence in the record for the Court to conclude that the mediator did not grant Mr. Usherson permission to appear by phone. The primary evidence the Court relied on for this point was the mediator’s testimony that Mr. Liebowitz did not ask for such permission.”

    Good Gawd. How much are they charging per hour to literally argue that the court abused its discretion by finding that Liebowitz didn’t ask the mediator for permission because the mediator testified that Liebowitz didn’t ask permission.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2020 @ 1:04am

    Copyright law's best and brightest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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