Rather than immediately paying the $22,000 in attorneys’ fees a federal judge ordered him to pay as part of a Jan. 24 order, Denton solo Evan Stone filed an emergency motion for stay of sanctions pending appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 27.
The following is the background on the matter, according to U.S. District Judge David Godbey’s Jan. 24 order: The order stems from a dispute in Mick Haig Productions E.K. v. Does 1-670, a case in which Stone had represented an adult filmmaker that wanted to obtain the names of 670 Texas Internet users who allegedly copied and distributed his client’s film via the Internet. Instead of ruling on Mick Haig Productions’ discovery motion that sought to learn the Does’ identities, Godbey appointed ad litems to represent the Does’ interests. Mick Haig later dismissed its case with prejudice.
Last year, the ad litems filed a motion for sanctions against Stone, after they informed Godbey that “Stone had been issuing subpoenas to the Does’ ISPs [Internet Service Providers] even though the Court had not authorized him to do so,” Godbey wrote in his Jan 24 order. The ad litems also asked for attorneys’ fees for the cost of litigating the sanctions motion.
On Sept. 9, 2011, Godbey issued a sanctions order against Stone, ordering Stone to pay $10,000 into the court registry, pay the ad litems’ attorneys fees for bringing the motion for sanctions, and file a copy of the sanctions order in every federal or state proceeding in which Stone represented a party.
On Oct. 26, 2011, Stone filed a motion with Godbey to stay the imposition of sanctions pending appeal, arguing that filing a copy of the sanctions order in every proceeding in which he represents a party “will result in irreparable harm.”
Godbey was not sympathetic to that argument, writing in his Jan 24 order that “it is Stone’s actions, and not the resulting Sanctions Order, that do damage to his professional goodwill.” Godbey denied the stay and ordered Stone to pay $22,000 in attorneys’ fees.
In his appeal to the 5th Circuit, Stone writes that the sanctions order harms not only him but his client because “it prematurely harms Counsel’s goodwill and impinges on his clients’ respectful rights to a fair trial, but has very little to do with deterring purportedly erroneous subpoenas.”
Stone did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Paul Alan Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen’s Litigation Group who is an at litem in the case, says it regrettable that the dispute has come to this. “I just hate to pursue sanctions against lawyers,” Levy says. “But this lawyer has gone beyond the pale.”
-- John Council