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More on the Judge, the Lawyer, and When the Grandfather Died

The saga of Richard Liebowitz (alleged "copyright troll," though that's tangential to this particular controversy) continues.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I wrote about the case last week; there are now more developments, reported by The Smoking Gun under the headline, "Federal Judge Pummels Lying Litigator In Unrelenting Courtroom Beatdown":

In a remarkable courtroom pummeling, a federal judge today branded a notorious copyright lawyer an inveterate liar who undertook a "concerted campaign of deception" that has left her questioning the attorney's "fitness to practice."

In a 70-minute hearing in her White Plains, New York courtroom, Judge Cathy Seibel this morning delivered a blistering denunciation of Richard Liebowitz's behavior in connection with a civil lawsuit he brought last year on behalf of a photographer.

As detailed in a TSG story published Monday, Liebowitz (seen at right) lied to Seibel when asked to explain why he failed to show up for an April 12 court hearing. Liebowitz claimed that his grandfather had died on the morning of the hearing, and that, "I needed to immediately arrange to be with my family during this difficult time." Liebowitz told Seibel, "In the Jewish religion certain customs needed to be done before the Sabbath that I needed to assist in. I truly hope the Court understands this emergency."

Read the story (and follow the links) for more. Thanks to reader Theodore Shulman for the pointer.

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20 responses to “More on the Judge, the Lawyer, and When the Grandfather Died

  1. An absolute classic example of “the coverup is worse than the crime”.

    Liebowitz is an experienced lawyer. His inability to read that the Judge was not going to let him off the hook until he stopped lying is absolutely astounding.

    If I were to psychoanalyze, I would say this- perhaps some of the more dishonest members of my profession are so used to judges letting stuff go, or just imposing a minor sanction, that they figure they can just lie their way out of anything and the judge will eventually drop it or impose a sanction and move on. So the notion that “OK, now the judge is on my butt, I need to back down and apologize and fess up” just never enters their brain.

    But this is a truly healthy exercise. This is a great chance for the judiciary to make an example of someone, to say the rest of the world of lawyers, “don’t do this kind of thing”.

    1. And by the way, even in the hearing reported on by TSG, he STILL DIDN’T FESS UP. He and his lawyers said he was inexperienced, he was grieving from the death (not on April 12) of his grandfather, it was an honest mistake.

      JFC!

      1. Maybe he meant that the decision to keep lying to the court was the mistake, honestly.

      2. I could see the very first mistake — missing the deposition and not notifying the court — being an honest one, if his grandfather had died three days before.

        What he should have done was tell the truth about why he missed the court date. He probably could have gotten away with that, and I’d guess even have avoided paying for the other party’s costs (IANAL — just guessing!). But once he started down the lying path, his goose was cooked.

        1. It wasn’t a deposition that he missed; it was a discovery conference.

          And the problem he had is that it’s very likely — Judge Seibel seemed to think so — that he had deliberately skipped it because he was facing scrutiny over his discovery practices and was trying to avoid being called to account for it.

          1. The type of meeting didn’t matter to me, but now I see it should have; I didn’t pick up on the suspicion that he had intentionally missed it to cover up his sloppy practices. Thanks.

        2. The problem is, the grandfather died on 4/9 and he missed a hearing on 4/12. It might be plausible that he made a mistake because he was distraught, but…research revealed he made at least 6 filings between 4/10 and 4/12, which suggests it was business as usual for him and he wasn’t at all distraught about grandpa.

          https://twitter.com/BoothSweet/status/1194617648765648897

          1. Honestly, this renders his lawyer’s submission false too. His lawyer argued that he was so distraught that he wasn’t in his right mind for three days. In fact, he was practicing law as usual.

            I think the judge is being a lot nicer than she should be. Liebowitz should be continuing to face contempt fines every day until he files a COMPLETELY honest declaration (i.e., one that admits that he wasn’t too distraught to practice law, had no psychological issue, and engaged in a months long campaign of lying solely to avoid a discovery obligation and then to further avoid having to admit that he had lied to the Court), or takes the 5th Amendment (in which case his bar card needs to be revoked and he should be prosecuted for a criminal contempt).

            And his lawyer needs to be severely sanctioned for attempting to mislead the Court in his filing.

            1. Alternatively, he’s confessing malpractice for those clients….

            2. Yup, 100% agree.

      3. Honestly, part of me is surprised his grandfather actually died relatively close to the timeframe.

        1. Ditto. I had been assuming a purely hypothetical grandfather.

        2. Same. I was assuming grandpa had died months or years before. I now think the guy is only 93% as unethical as I originally had thought.

    2. “If I were to psychoanalyze, I would say this- perhaps some of the more dishonest members of my profession are so used to judges letting stuff go, or just imposing a minor sanction, that they figure they can just lie their way out of anything and the judge will eventually drop it or impose a sanction and move on. ”

      I have known quite a few people who simply do not understand when they have pushed things too far. They are themselves the types to bluster and make threats, so they automatically downgrade (in their minds) the severity of what someone is saying to them. Normal speech doesn’t get through. Escalation doesn’t get through. They are perpetually two steps behind; they always bluster two steps ahead and cannot comprehend that what is being aimed at them is not bluster, but fact.

      While it’s a negotiation tactic, it’s not a lawyer thing.

  2. If he had fessed up in the beginning he would have gotten a bench slap and maybe a bill for the opposing lawyers time but it would all be over. It would have been cheaper than the sanctions.

    How hard would it have been to write:

    “You honor I apologize to the court and opposing counsel for missing the hearing. My grandfather died only few days earlier and the emotional stress on me, my mother and family combined with the necessary preparations for his funeral caused me to simply forget. I should have informed the court and opposing counsel. I deeply regret the oversight.

    Please accept this heartfelt apology”

    Unfortunately I don’t belive that was the reason he missed the hearing.

  3. If he had simply said the grandfather had passed away shortly before the hearing rather than the morning of the hearing, this might have been an acceptable excuse. And even afterwards, if he had simply corrected it, the real situation might be close enough to what he had said that he probably wouldn’t have been sanctioned, certainly not as severely as he eventually was.

  4. At least he hasn’t played the antisemitism card…yet

  5. Leonard French has been covering all things Liebowitz in recent months and made the trip up to White Plains for the hearing. His vlog (after the end of the hearing) is here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWVVB0ikHMA

    1. According to the guy in the video, someone submitted an anonymous email to the court detailing Liebowitz’ shenanigans in other jurisdictions. It it supposed to be hitting the docket, but I have not checked.

  6. He probably had bone spurs.

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