Merl Ledford: Hero of the People

by Mike on 6/1/2007

in Copycat Law, First We Kill All the Lawyers

Some people think all lawyers are scum. Then, once every 13 years or so, a lawyer does something that makes everyone stand up and say, “Well done, my good man!”

This news is a couple of months old by now, but it still is worth re-telling that Merl Ledford is a hero for standing up in front of the tanks of the RIAA and making them back down.

Merl’s letter starts off:

The lawsuit filed by your office and your letter arrive at a particularly inappropriate time in Barry and Cathy Merchant’s life. Mrs. Merchant left my office after our first meeting to attend to ill father in Colorado. She and Barry Merchant left my office today to attend his funeral. You should advise your clients that they are facing a “thin skull plaintiff” either on a Rule 11 sanctions motion or (upon favorable termination) in a malicious prosecution action.

It gets better from there.

Your client should carefully consider whether it has probable cause to proceed at this point. Mr. Merchant’s hard drive is available for immediate, carefully supervised inspection by your client; a carbon copy of the drive has been made by technicians to insure that the evidence is well backed-up. At the time of inspection, we will expect your clients to be prepared to dismiss all claims with prejudice. The pleadings may be e-filed from my office the same day. Although dismissal will not avoid your clients’ exposure to attorneys’ fees under the Copyright Act, it will certainly mitigate damages to Mr. and Mrs. Merchant and the possibility of escalating the issues by counter-claim on federal grounds that have been successfully pleaded in other states as well as on pendant California claims that have, thus far, tempered your clients’ California zeal for litigating in this state.

(Emphasis added). In other words, even if you drop this suit, folks, you’re going to have to cough up some cash.

It is well documented that your clients’ reliance on MediaSecurity (an admitted “non-expert;” UMG v. Lidor, East Dist NY No. 1:05-cv-01095-DGT-RML) and its overall method of identifying P2P copyright infringers is wholly unreliable and inadequate.

Translation: You’ve got no case.

It is not too late to correct your clients’ (and your law firm’s) mistakes. My clients are willing to accept dismissal of the litigation in exchange for: 1. Payment of Mr. Merchant’s reasonable fees and costs including retainer… 2. Apology on your firm’s letterhead by your supervising partner for inappropriately filing and maintaining an action against Mr. Merchant without probable cause…

And then there’s the procedural discussion:

Procedurally, we need to address how best to move the case to the Fresno Branch so you can enjoy our new Courthouse and avoid Judge Levi’s wrath for filing in the wrong court…. Once the case is moved to the Fresno Branch, your clients should consider cleaning up their complaint. The FRCP and collateral estoppel from other RIAA law and motion matters require much greater specificity in pleading than your clients provided in the complaint I reviewed. Dates of the alleged downloads, which plaintiff (or affiliate) holds which copyright to which track, etc. must be specifically pleaded and proven. You are as familiar as I am with the results in other cases where RIAA’s general allegations have been challenged. Let’s get over that hurdle without unnecessary law and motion practice.

Translation: Even if you had evidence, your legal writing is so sloppy it would get tossed out of court.

And what was the result of this letter? The RIAA blinked.

We need more lawyers like Merl and a few less who are willing to pimp out their law degrees for the recording industry.

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