Righthaven complains about ‘scorched-earth’ efforts to enforce judgments
9 January 2012
A new round of name-calling erupted Monday between copyright lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC of Las Vegas and one of its creditors.
Righthaven, the copyright enforcement partner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and formerly of the Denver Post, has for months been in survival mode as it tries to block creditors from seizing its assets.
Creditors — including people sued by Righthaven for copyright infringement but who then defeated Righthaven in court — have won $216,335 in judgments against Righthaven. That’s money they spent on legal fees successfully fighting Righthaven.
In the latest round of legal wrangling, Righthaven filed motions in federal court in Las Vegas on Monday complaining about what it called the “scorched earth judgment enforcement efforts” of Righthaven defendant Wayne Hoehn and his attorneys.
After on June 20 winning dismissal of the Righthaven lawsuit against him — alleging infringement of a copyright for a Review-Journal column — Hoehn was awarded $34,045 in legal fees against Righthaven on Aug. 15.
Righthaven has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reverse both the dismissal of its suit against Hoehn and the award of his legal fees.
Righthaven, in the meantime, complained in Monday’s court filing that Hoehn’s attorneys at Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas had inflated the $34,045 to $63,720 to cover Randazza’s judgment collection efforts through Nov. 1.
A court clerk issued a writ of execution against Righthaven’s assets for the $63,720 on that date.
Randazza then used the writ to garnish a Righthaven bank account with the aid of U.S. marshals, though it’s believed to have contained less than $1,000.
The $63,720 writ of execution also was included in Randazza’s successful request that a receiver be appointed to auction Righthaven’s property, including its copyrights, trademark and website domain name.
So far, the receiver has seized and auctioned the website for $3,300 but has said Righthaven has been uncooperative in turning over the trademark and copyrights.
Randazza in recent weeks has filed motions asking the federal court to find Righthaven in contempt for failing to sign over the copyrights and trademark; and also is seeking a “writ of body attachment” requiring marshals to bring Righthaven CEO and Las Vegas attorney Steven Gibson to court so he can be required to sign over the copyrights.
Righthaven, in a motion Monday opposing the writ of body attachment, called it “nothing more than a blatant attempt to garner media attention and notoriety.”
Righthaven reiterated arguments in its court filing that Randazza is seeking to force the company to sign over copyrights that federal judges — in Hoehn’s case and in others — have ruled Righthaven doesn’t own.
This caused one of Hoehn’s attorneys, Marc Randazza, to remark during a hearing Monday that “they’re taking inconsistent positions in their appeal.”
Righthaven, in appealing the dismissals of several of its lawsuits, is arguing judges were wrong to find it didn’t own the copyrights it was suing over.
Randazza, who spoke in federal court Monday prior to a judgment debtor’s examination for Righthaven’s officers Gibson and his spouse, also asked that Righthaven be sanctioned for turning over required financial information well past the deadline to do so, and then not disclosing all the information Randazza was seeking.
“Sanctions are appropriate. It’s highly improper and abusive,” Randazza said of Righthaven’s conduct.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Johnston didn’t comment Monday on the request for sanctions, but he did grant a request by Righthaven that a “protective order” be issued to cover the debtor’s exam of Gibson and his wife, Raisha “Drizzle” Gibson.
The protective order prevents the parties from disclosing the financial information revealed during Monday’s debtor’s examination, which was attended by both Mr. and Mrs. Gibson.
Debtors’ examinations are not public proceedings, so only the parties know what occurred during the event. Monday’s debtors’ exam was held after a public hearing setting the ground rules.
Randazza was expected to question the Righthaven officers about the location and extent of Righthaven’s assets that could be seized to cover Hoehn’s judgment.
Observers also have been wondering how Righthaven has continued to cover the legal fees of its last remaining outside attorney, Shawn Mangano of Las Vegas, at a time when Righthaven says it has been unable to pay Hoehn’s judgment, be it $34,045 or $63,720.
Both sides were asked Monday how the debtor’s examination went.
Mangano, who attended, said the Righthaven officers told Randazza the company no longer has any cash Hoehn can seize but that Randazza can seize about 10 computers and a server — minus their hard drives.
Mangano said the hard drives are being removed because they include privileged information about pending Righthaven cases and appeals, as well as information protected by attorney-client privilege.
“There might be a desk and a chair or two that can be sold as well,” Mangano said.
Randazza said he didn’t wish to comment beyond “the proceedings were subject to a protective order.”
Righthaven, in the meantime, filed a motion to quash the $63,720 writ of execution issued for Hoehn and against Righthaven. If granted, the motion would block the court-appointed receiver from continuing her efforts to seize Righthaven’s federal copyright registrations and trademark.
Righthaven reiterated in the motion to quash that Hoehn’s attorneys had inflated the writ of execution amount, making it invalid.
“Righthaven has been improperly deprived of money through the garnishment of its company bank account and has lost intangible property through the receiver’s sale of its Internet domain,” Righthaven complained in the motion. “These execution efforts must stop until the defendant has obtained a valid writ of execution. The court must vacate the receiver’s appointment because it was made without the existence of a valid writ of execution.”
Randazza, when his firm replies to Monday’s filings, is expected to call them yet another delay tactic by Righthaven and he’ll argue the amount owed to Hoehn grows with each court proceeding and court filing — and that it actually stood at $110,000 as of Monday morning.
U.S. District Judge Philip Pro — as opposed to Johnston — is expected to decide whether Gibson can be hauled into court to sign over the copyrights or whether Hoehn’s judgment enforcement actions will be halted, as requested by Righthaven on Monday.
A hearing for Pro to make those decisions has not yet been scheduled.
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