Newspaper copyright lawsuit filer Righthaven LLC was hit with more criticism Tuesday, this time focusing on what an observer suggested was disrespect for the court system.
Righthaven on Monday, without explanation or warning, skipped a Las Vegas court hearing during which it lost control of its 278 copyrights and its trademark.
Unless Righthaven successfully appeals, the intellectual property items will be auctioned to cover a portion of the $186,680 in legal fees Righthaven owes to people it sued — people who then defeated Righthaven in court. The auction would be on top of the earlier auction of Righthaven's website.
The copyrights had been used by Righthaven in some of its 275 lawsuits alleging copyright infringement — a two-year lawsuit spree that has ground to a halt.
The lawsuit campaign is stalled, perhaps permanently, because of rulings finding Righthaven lacked standing to sue over Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post material or that defendants posting material online from those papers were protected by fair use.
Also Monday, for the second time and again without explanation, the Las Vegas company missed a deadline to file the important opening brief in one of its own appeals in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. On Tuesday, a court clerk there gave Righthaven a third chance to file the brief, but warned that the appeal would be dropped if the brief was not filed by March 14.
Given Righthaven’s association with the well-funded Review-Journal, it may seem odd that the company can’t get briefs filed on time or have its attorney attend scheduled court hearings.
But Marc Randazza, a Las Vegas attorney fighting Righthaven in multiple cases, told U.S. District Judge Philip Pro on Monday that this was the third time in recent months that Righthaven attorney Shawn Mangano failed, without warning to the court, to participate in hearings in person or by phone.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, in another case, has ordered Righthaven to show cause why it should not be held in contempt for failing to abide by her order that it provide a defendant with required financial information.
Mangano and Righthaven CEO Steven Gibson, also a Las Vegas attorney, couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday on why the company missed Monday’s Las Vegas hearing and the deadline in Denver.
Observers were left to speculate on whether the development amounted to Righthaven throwing in the towel on its litigation campaign due to a succession of courtroom defeats — or whether a simple scheduling error was to blame.
"There is no way to tell whether this was a conscious decision or just gross incompetence," Randazza said of the missing appeal brief. "If incompetence, then we've seen that from this outfit plenty of times before. If it was a conscious decision, it shows a stunning lack of professionalism. You don't just file an appeal and then blow it off. That's not how being a lawyer works."
With Righthaven saying it has no cash to pay its debts, it’s believed that its investors — either Gibson or the owner of the Review-Journal — have been pumping additional cash into the company to pay Mangano.
But given Mangano’s absence Monday, it’s possible the investors have chosen not to make any additional capital contributions to cover his legal fees.
"Righthaven has made easily avoidable litigation errors throughout its history, so it's hard to tell if the most recent errors are due to its characteristic sloppiness or some more recent developments," said Eric Goldman, a Righthaven critic who heads the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law in California.
Goldman went on to say: "Righthaven probably can't raise any new cash anymore. Any new cash infusion would go to pay off the judgments against it instead of being available to pay its lawyers. And without lawyer support, they will do an even worse job of litigating than they've done so far. Righthaven might also be giving up because their situation is hopeless. They've lost their domain name, they have no cash, they are about to lose any copyrightable assets and they have an abysmal track record in court."
Separately, with Righthaven lacking copyrights to sue over, judges may see this development as just one more reason to dismiss its pending suits.
But U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson in Las Vegas — independent of Pro’s ruling — appears to be clearing Righthaven lawsuits from his docket for another reason: The company’s well-established lack of standing to sue over R-J material.
In recent days, he’s dismissed Righthaven lawsuits against Lehi, Utah, company Vote for the Worst LLC and against Tony Carl Loosle, of Logan, Utah.