Copyright

"Copyright Troll" Richard Liebowitz Suspended (on Interim Basis) from S.D.N.Y. Bar

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From an order issued today (see pp. 8-10 of Usherson v. Bandshell Artist Management):

This matter comes before the Committee on Grievances for the Southern District of New York … to consider the imposition of discipline against respondent Richard Liebowitz … based upon charges brought against him by the Committee on August 5, 2020 …. Given the current status of the investigation as confidential, both the Charges and the investigation underlying their imposition are referenced without detail in this Order.

The full Committee [on Grievances for the Southern District of New York] (consisting of Chief Judge McMahon, Judges Castel, Daniels, Nathan, Stanton, Vyskocil, Magistrate Judges Aaron, Cott, and McCarthy, and the undersigned as Chair) has now reviewed [Respondent Richard Liebowitz's] submission, as well as the record developed during the Committee's investigation. After careful deliberation, the Committee is unanimously of the view that the Charges are strongly supported by the record. What is more, the Committee is unanimously of the view that interim disciplinary measures against Respondent must be put in place immediately….

The record in this case—which includes Respondent's repeated disregard for orders from this Court and his unwillingness to change despite 19 formal sanctions and scores of other admonishments and warnings from judges across the country—leads the Committee to the view that recurrence is highly likely. In short, in light of the nature and seriousness of the Charges, the strength of the record supporting those Charges, and the risk and danger of recurrence, the Committee concludes that an interim suspension of Respondent from the practice of law before this Court pending final adjudication of the charges against him is warranted.

In the exercise of its discretion, the Committee will defer the final adjudication of the charges against Respondent currently pending before this Committee, as well as any other charges this Committee sees fit to bring against Respondent in the future as part of these disciplinary proceedings, until after Respondent has had an opportunity to present his defense to the Charges at an evidentiary hearing before a Magistrate Judge of this Court.

Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, Respondent is hereby suspended from practicing law in the Southern District of New York, effective the date hereof, pending the outcome of these proceedings and  until further order of this Court. It is further ordered that Respondent is commanded to desist and refrain from the practice of law in the Southern District of New York in any form, either as principal or agent, clerk or employee of another; that Respondent is forbidden to appear as an attorney or counselor-at-law before any judge or Court in the Southern District of New York; that Respondent is forbidden to give another an opinion as to the law or its application or advice in relation thereto as to any matter in the Southern District of New York, all effective the date hereof, until such time as disciplinary matters pending before the Committee have been concluded and until further order of this Court.

This decision may have been related to the June 26 referral by Judge Jesse Furman in Usherson, in an opinion that began thus:

Richard Liebowitz, who passed the bar in 2015, started filing copyright cases in this District in 2017. Since that time, he has filed more cases in this District than any other lawyer: at last count, about 1,280; he has filed approximately the same number in other districts. In that same period, he has earned another dubious distinction: He has become one of the most frequently sanctioned lawyers, if not the most frequently sanctioned lawyer, in the District. Judges in this District and elsewhere have spent untold hours addressing Mr. Liebowitz's misconduct, which includes repeated violations of court orders and outright dishonesty, sometimes under oath.

He has been called "a copyright troll," McDermott v. Monday Monday, LLC, No. 17-CV-9230 (DLC), 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184049, at *9-10 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2018); "a clear and present danger to the fair and efficient administration of justice," Mondragon v. Nosrak LLC, No. 19-CV-1437 (CMA) (NRN), 2020 WL 2395641, at *1, *13 (D. Colo. May 11, 2020); a "legal lamprey[]," Ward v. Consequence Holdings, Inc., No. 18-CV-1734 (NJR), 2020 WL 2219070, at *4 (S.D. Ill. May 7, 2020); and an "example of the worst kind of lawyering," id. at *3. In scores of cases, he has been repeatedly chastised, warned, ordered to complete ethics courses, fined, and even referred to the Grievance Committee. And but for his penchant for voluntarily dismissing cases upon getting into hot water, the list of cases detailing his misconduct—set forth in an Appendix here—would undoubtedly be longer.

But as the opening paragraph notes, the precise charges are not currently public.

For more on the Richard Liebowitz saga, see some of these posts.

NEXT: Can't Seal a Case Just Because the Parties Settled

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  1. It seems the committee sees this putz in the same light as most people see lawyers in general.

  2. The Creepy Copyright Lawyer just does not have the same bada bing, bada boom as the Creepy Porn Lawyer.

  3. This guy sounds like he has OCD.

  4. What makes someone proceed so recklessly after all the investment of law school and setting up a practice? I mean, other than general craziness, brain cancer, etc — has anyone ever had any friends or colleagues go overboard like this?

    I’ve had friends who burned out, got sloppy, and generally let themselves get fired rather than expend the effort to quit on their own. But that’s nothing compared to getting disbarred after so many wakeup calls and chances to take a break and get a grip.

  5. It should be clear that he will never comply. If you fine him because he won’t comply he will neither comply nor pay the fine. If you bar him from practicing law he will practice law anyway. If you jail him for defying your orders he will practice law from jail. If he wasn’t such an asshole I might admire him.

    1. Maybe he will eventually end up in ADX Florence then. 🙂

    2. “he will practice law anyway”

      Not. His entire practice is suing rich targets for alleged copyright infringement, and then holding them up for money. Presumably gets paid on a contingency.

      If a court won’t let him file cases, sign papers and appear, his practice is gone. And the copyright bar is well aware of him, and will bring his suspension to the judge’s attention right quick.

      And other federal courts will quickly follow suit. They generally have reciprocal discipline.

      So his practice, at least as is currently structured, has taken a major hit.

      1. I should mention that federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright cases. See 28 USC 1338(a).

  6. 1,280 filings times $400 filing fee (this is not including any other fees) means he’s laid out over half a million dollars. Either he’s independently wealthy or he’s been very successful at attracting paying clients. If he’s barred from SDNY he can usually find jurisdiction elsewhere. Sounds like he’s doing pretty well.

    1. See my above comment. He operates on a contingency. The filing fee is small change compared to what he recovers. And other federal courts will soon follow suit.

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