Another Prenda Attorney Faces an Ethics Complaint

Nov 16, 2015 4:23 PM PST

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota state board that probes attorney ethics complaints is seeking to suspend or disbar Paul Hansmeier, a former partner of now-dissolved Prenda Law firm, which was notorious for exacting payments from porn piracy defendants through court-approved subpoenas.

News of the 43-page petition by the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board’s decision was reported earlier today by the Minnesota Star Tribune, which has written extensively on the attorney who now has moved over to filing lawsuits against businesses that aren’t compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Star Tribune reported that the board’s petition was filed just days after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee sought to liquidate Hansmeier’s assets forcibly, arguing that he tried to get court protection from creditors in bad faith.

Hansmeier was seeking to reorganize more than $1.5 million in debts, taxes and court sanctions.

The board, in its petition, cited numerous legal rulings against the attorney, characterizing those suits as “vexation litigation designed to coerce settlement.”

The board cited false statements made in court, in depositions and on state documents under penalty of perjury.

Hansmeier, along with law partners John Steele and Paul Duffy, winded down Prenda Law in 2013 after U.S. District Judge Otis Wright in Los Angeles sanctioned the three for deceiving the court in a porn copyright infringement case. 

The Prenda Law attorneys allegedly created shell companies in order to file porn copyright infringement and computer hacking suits to exploit court subpoena powers and extort settlements, typically about $3,400 per defendant, according to court records.

In August, Illinois’ attorney discipline board filed a seven-count complaint against Steele, seeking disbarment. One month earlier, Duffy died reportedly from heart and alcohol-related conditions.

The Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board is seeking for an order to disbar or suspend Hansmeier.

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