A federal appeals court has affirmed monetary sanctions assessed against an Intellectual Property lawyer who represents a maker of adult films in a series of copyright-infringement-by-downloading cases.
U.S. District Court Judge David C. Godbey in Dallas had ruled in January that attorney Evan Stone of Denton, Texas had abused the discovery process, and termed him a “rogue attorney" with "staggering chutzpah" in a blistering decision.
In a July 12 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's sanctions levied against Stone.
Stone represents Germany’s Mick Haig Productions E.K. against a large number of unnamed "John Doe" Defendants who stand accused of downloading Haig’s “Der Gute Onkel” film without authorization.
Stone, no stranger to controversy, was depicted strangling pirates near scantily-clad porn stars in a recent Dallas Observer article.
The District Court had appointed attorneys from Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen as "ad litem" attorneys to represent the interests of the John Doe defendants and it was these lawyers who had sought the sanctions in District Court. The sanctions included attorneys' fees of more than $22,000, and $500 per day for each day Stone failed to comply with a court order.
Stone filed an appeal to the 5th Circuit, arguing the sanctions were unjustified and that the court-appointed attorneys lacked standing to seek them.
The appeals court flatly rejected Stone's argument. It specifically held that “no miscarriage of justice will result from the sanctions” that were imposed “as a result of Stone’s flagrant violation” of court rules.
The appeals court said Stone committed the violations by using the subpoena power of the court to find the identity of anonymous Internet users “then shaming or intimidating them to settle for thousands of dollars” each.
The appeal is captioned Mick Haig Productions E.K. v. Does 1-670, 11- 10977, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans). The District Court case is Mick Haig Products E.K. v. Does 1-670, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
The tactic of using the threat of John Doe subpoena discovery against pornography downloaders has come under recent fire in high-profile class action litigations against a number of adult film companies.