Hello, my name is Ralph and I’m a Trekkie. I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a boy in the 60s watching it with my parents. I’ve seen every Star Trek show ever made, and even bought several Star Trek video games just so I could fire Phasers and Photon torpedoes. So how could I not bring to your attention the greatest Star Trek-inspired court order of all time? It was written by my new favorite judge, Otis D. Wright, II, U.S. District Judge in, where else, California. The sanctions order dated May 6, 2013 arises out of a discovery violation in a strange copyright case, Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe. A complete copy of the order is here linked for your reading pleasure.
Judge Wright’s opinion begins with this famous quote:
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
— Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Thinking of the scene in Wrath of Khan where Spock utters these fateful words nearly brings a tear to my eye, no doubt it did for the plaintiffs here too. It was a warning shot that they were about to be phaser blasted, or as lawyers often say these days, bench slapped. The first paragraph of the opinion gives a great summary of the plaintiffs, copyright trolls all, and includes a reference to my favorite Star Trek villains, The Borg:
Plaintiffs have outmaneuvered the legal system. They’ve 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. For these individuals, resistance is futile; most reluctantly pay rather than have their names associated with illegally downloading porn. So now, copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow, starving attorneys in this electronic-media era to plunder the citizenry.
Is that a terrific beginning to an opinion, or what? But wait, there’s more. Judge Wright goes on to say:
Plaintiffs do have a right to assert their intellectual-property rights, so long as they do it right. But Plaintiffs’ filing of cases using the same boilerplate complaint against dozens of defendants raised the Court’s alert. It was when the Court realized Plaintiffs engaged their cloak of shell companies and fraud that the Court went to battlestations.
Battlestations, battlestations! Can you not hear the classic Star Trek alarms in your head? The judge then goes on with another first by using a Google Earth photo to expose a plaintiff’s lawyer’s lie. They had stated that a defendant lived in a large mansion with a big gate out front, whereas the Google Earth photo showed it to be a typical small suburban track home. No gate, no mansion. This was just one example of Judge Wright’s exposure of a pattern of lies by plaintiff’s counsel. It led to his dismissal of the case, award of fees to defendants, and, declaring that these particular plaintiff’s counsel suffer from a form of moral turpitude unbecoming of an officer of the court, referring them all to state and federal bar associations for ethics investigations. But wait, there are still more torpedoes left in the Captain’s, I mean, Judge’s arsenal. Judge Wright concludes his sanctions with an awesome flurry of weapons fire reminiscent of Kirk himself:
Third, though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage. The Court will refer this matter to the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. The [Court] will also refer this matter to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service and will notify all judges before whom these attorneys have pending cases. For the sake of completeness, the Court requests Pietz to assist by filing a report, within 14 days, containing contact information for: (1) every bar (state and federal) where these attorneys are admitted to practice; and (2) every judge before whom these attorneys have pending cases.
Judge Otis Wright, you are a true Trekkie and my new hero. Thanks for a great order. I cannot wait to cite it against certain Klingon-like opposing counsel.