A Las Vegas lawyer for copyright company Righthaven LLC complained Friday that opposing attorneys are engaged in “scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics.”
Righthaven as a company is regularly criticized for its 275 no-warning lawsuits charging that websites, bloggers and message board posters used content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post without authorization.
The criticism is that the suits are unnecessary as the defendants would have complied with takedown requests and that rather than protecting copyrights, Righthaven is running a money-making scheme involving dubious legal claims and shake-down legal tactics.
Righthaven and its partners at the Review-Journal regularly respond that the lawsuits were needed to crack down on rampant online theft of newspaper industry content.
Lately, the Righthaven criticism has been targeted at its main outside attorney, Shawn Mangano.
Attorneys at Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas, which represents several Righthaven lawsuit defendants in Nevada and Colorado, stepped up the pressure on Mangano on Oct. 25, when they asked a Nevada federal judge to sanction him.
The sanctions motion charged that Mangano regularly uses stall tactics so Righthaven can avoid paying judgments to defendants who defeat the company in court.
The motion also alleged Mangano continues to prosecute Righthaven lawsuits over Review-Journal content – causing defendants to spend money fighting the suits — even though Righthaven has no hope of winning the suits.
That’s because of prior court decisions finding Nevada federal judges lacked jurisdiction to hear the lawsuits because Righthaven didn’t control the copyrights it was suing over.
The sanctions motion asked Nevada Chief U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones to require that Mangano pay $11,925 in attorney’s fees incurred by one of the Righthaven defendants, news aggregator NewsBlaze LLC.
Randazza Legal Group is also representing the Righthaven defendant who gained a court order requiring U.S. Marshals to seize $63,720 in Righthaven assets to cover unpaid legal fees and; in another case, a defendant who won a $33,147 fee award against Righthaven on Thursday in Colorado.
Mangano fired back on Friday, filing with the court several letters and emails he had received from Randazza attorneys.
In one of the emails, Randazza attorney Marc Randazza suggested Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson, a Las Vegas attorney, was behind Righthaven’s litigation strategy that Randazza Legal Group objects to.
For instance, Randazza asked, if Righthaven can’t afford to gain a bond to guarantee payment of defendants’ attorney’s fees, how can it afford to appeal adverse court decisions?
“You aren’t this much of a (expletive). Stop letting Gibson make you look like one. He can’t be paying you enough to make it worth it,” Randazza wrote in a Sept. 29 email to Mangano.
In a letter dated Monday, Randazza attorney J. Malcolm DeVoy IV offered to drop the sanctions motion against Mangano and to not ask Jones to award attorney’s fees in the NewsBlaze case in return for a payment of $8,000.
Mangano in his filing Friday said he’s discussing this letter with the State Bar of Nevada as it potentially put him in a conflict of interest position — by urging Righthaven to pay the $8,000, he stood to personally benefit by having the sanctions motion withdrawn.
“I interpreted Mr. DeVoy’s correspondence as attempting to persuade me into seeking that an $8,000 payment was made by my client to his firm so that I would avoid any further potential professional embarrassment by an adverse decision reached by this court. I have sought the advice of counsel with the State Bar of Nevada as a result of Mr. DeVoy’s letter given its tenor and its implication on the attorney-client relationship with my client,” Mangano wrote in his filing.
Overall, Mangano wrote, he’s not taken actions that typically result in sanctions like in bad faith unnecessarily prolonging the Righthaven cases.
Rather, Mangano said, he’s “attempted to zealously advocate my client’s position on an intensely disputed issue of jurisdiction in this case and in several other cases.”
“I believe that my client will eventually prevail on this jurisdiction issue on appeal,” Mangano wrote.
The sanctions motion against him, Mangano wrote, resulted from the Randazza attorneys being frustrated at their inability to recover attorney’s fees from Righthaven or even a bond to ensure they will be paid should Righthaven lose its appeals.
The sanctions motion, he wrote, “is wholly consistent with the Randazza Legal Group’s scorched-earth, anti-Righthaven litigation tactics that have now apparently focused on tarnishing the professional reputation (of counsel).”
Jones hasn't indicated when he may rule on the sanctions motion.