Anthony Smith (Prenda Law)

Lightspeed Media Corp. v. Smith, 314 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2014), 830 F.3d 500 (7th Cir. 2016)

Dan Booth represented a man accused of illegally hacking into a website to view pornography online, and conspiring with Internet service providers Comcast and AT&T to help other Internet users do the same. The client maintained his innocence; faced with a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff simply dismissed the lawsuit. On a motion to sanction the plaintiffs’ attorneys for vexatious litigation, the client won an award of more than $70,000 in costs and attorney’s fees, the full cost of his defense. The sanctioned attorneys, from the notorious Steele Hansmeier and Prenda Law firms, did not pay when ordered, claiming insolvency, and the court added contempt sanctions against them. Extensive post-judgment discovery uncovered evidence of the sanctioned attorneys’ extensive financial holdings, contradicting their insolvency claims, which led to further sanctions for obstructing discovery, and a second sanction for contempt in deceiving the court. On appeal, affirming both the vexatious litigation and the original contempt sanctions, the Seventh Circuit memorably began its opinion: “The first rule of holes, according to an old saying, is to stop digging.” The Court of Appeals also affirmed the discovery sanctions and the Prenda attorneys ultimately paid the amounts ordered in this case. (The sanctioned attorneys have since been disbarred, in part based on the misrepresentations uncovered in the Lightspeed Media case, and have been convicted of criminal charges stemming from fraud and money laundering in their mass copyright litigation campaign.)