Prenda Law was a “copyright trolling” scheme that sued thousands for downloading online porn, but the organization was buried under a wave of judicial sanctions beginning in 2013.
However, the three lawyers found to be intertwined with the organization—John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy—continue to get in hot water. On Friday, an Illinois federal judge reconsidered (PDF) a 2014 ruling in which he found there wasn’t enough evidence for a “contempt of court” finding. New evidence has convinced US District Judge David Herndon that Steele and Hansmeier should be found in contempt, and last week he ordered them to pay $65,263. That amount will get progressively larger, the judge warned, “if they continue their misdeeds before this Court.”
In addition, Steele and Duffy “engaged in unreasonable, willful obstruction of discovery in bad faith,” and Herndon ordered those two to pay for the defense’s discovery expenses, needed to unwind the complex financial records.
The three offending lawyers have until July 15 to pay up.
“We’re ecstatic because we finally got it, and this order gives them a set date by which to pay,” said defense lawyer Jason Sweet in an interview with Ars. “They didn’t have to obstruct discovery. It was always in their control. As the court found, they’ve shown a willingness to lie, and they’ll continue to do so unless they’re sanctioned.”