10 Sep

Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for “staggering chutzpah”

A federal judge has fined Texas lawyer Evan Stone $10,000 for sending out subpoenas and then settlement letters to people accused of sharing a German porn film called Der Gute Onkel—all without the judge’s permission.

In September 2010, Stone brought suit on behalf of Mick Haig Productions against 670 accused file-swappers, and he asked permission to take early discovery. Judge David Godbey said no; instead, Godbey brought in the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen to represent the interests of the Does, since none of them had yet been named and therefore had no counsel to speak for them. EFF and Public Citizen lawyers soon began hearing from people who said that Verizon had turned over their information to Stone, information generally obtainable only by subpoena.

The lawyers asked Judge Godbey to find out what was going on, and to sanction Stone if he had in fact issued subpoenas without the court’s permission. Turns out that he had—at least four times. Godbey ruled (PDF) yesterday that Stone "grossly abused his subpoena power," obtained subscriber names he was not entitled to learn, and then, "almost unbelievably, Stone used the information he received to contact an unknown number of potential Does, presumably in the form of demand letters and settlement offers."

This wasn’t even the first time Stone had run into subpoena problems. In a separate Texas lawsuit over anime, Stone sent a subpoena more than a month after the judge in that case withdrew permission to do so; even more shockingly, "Stone issued the subpoena on the same day that he voluntarily dismissed the underlying case," according to Godbey.

via Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for "staggering chutzpah". Seriously stupid and unethical moves by this lawyer.