Prenda Law's Hansmeier Loses Motion to Stay Sanctions

Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — Paul Hansmeier, one of the central Prenda Law figures who was hit with sanctions by Los Angeles federal judge earlier this month, was denied today an emergency motion to stay punishment.

Prenda Law, including principals Hansmeier and John Steele, were  hit with $81,000 in sanctions after U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said that the firm's attorneys "outmaneuvered the legal system" in their attempts to exact payment through boilerplate processes from thousands of defendants accused of illegally sharing porn through torrents.

Today, a two judge panel with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Hansmeier's appeal that to stay sanctions levied against him. The appellate court, however, gave Hansmeier the option to appeal sanctions with Wright.

Hansmeier, who made the emergency stay request to the 9th Circuit on Friday, said in his petition that the lower court made its decision on sanctions partly because Prenda Law figures invoked their Fifth Amendment right against compelled testimony.

Prenda Law attorneys earlier this year were summoned by Wright to discuss their method of operation going after those who share porn through the Internet.

Wright, in his scathing ruling, also referred Prenda Law attorneys to state and federal bar disciplinary panels, as well as U.S. prosecutors and the IRS. He also ordered the notification of “all judges before whom these attorneys have pending cases.”

Wright said in his ruling that Prenda Law "discovered the nexus of antiquated copyright laws, paralyzing social stigma, and unaffordable defense costs. And they exploit this anomaly by accusing individuals of illegally downloading a single pornographic video. Then they offer to settle — for a sum calculated to be just below the cost of a bare-bones defense."

Meanwhile, Hansmeier is finding that the sanctions are hitting his law practice.  

The 9th Circuit, in an order involving Hansmeier's representation as counsel in a case against Groupon, said that the Minnesota attorney's application for admission to the 9th Circuit must be delayed because he has been referred to the Minnesota State Bar for investigation.

The appeals court, threatening further sanctions, ordered Hansmeier to withdraw from the class-action settlement case against Groupon in a timely manner.

Hansmeier objected to the settlement on behalf of Padraigin Browne, who is his client and wife.

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