Judiciary

Not a Star Trek fan? Former DOJ lawyer provides a guide to judge's opinion blasting Prenda lawyers


U.S. District Judge Otis Wright—or one of his clerks—is a huge Star Trek fan, considering the number of references in a recent opinion to the original series and the spinoffs that followed.

That’s the conclusion of former Justice Department lawyer Angelo Spenillo, a Star Trek aficionado who currently works at a tech consulting firm called the Nerdery. The Law Blog of the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal spoke with Spenillo, who outlined many of the references.

Wright’s opinion (PDF from Wired), issued last week, sanctioned four lawyers who pursued illegal porn downloaders for copyright infringement. The lawyers and the entities they created “have outmaneuvered the legal system,” Wright wrote. “They’ve discovered the nexus of antiquated copyright laws, paralyzing social stigma, and unaffordable defense costs. And they exploit this anomaly by accusing individuals of illegally downloading a single pornographic video. Then they offer to settle—for a sum calculated to be just below the cost of a bare-bones defense. For these individuals, resistance is futile; most reluctantly pay rather than have their names associated with illegally downloading porn.”

Spenillo spotted several Star Trek references in that paragraph, the story reports. They include:

• The accusation that the lawyers “outmaneuvered the legal system” refers to the way Star Trek spacecraft outmaneuver a charging vessel.

• The word “nexus” refers to an alternate reality in Star Trek: Generations in which an individual’s dreams and ideals created their reality.

• “Resistance is futile” is a classic line uttered by the Borg in Star Trek.

Other references:

• Wright’s reference to a “cloak of shell companies” refers to Klingon battleships that used an invisibility “cloaking” technique.

• Wright wrote that one of the sanctioned lawyers was “just a redshirt,” a reference to classic Star Trek in which the crew member in a red shirt often died in the episode.

• Wright says that the lawyers and the entities they created “boldly probe the outskirts of law,” a reference to the classic Star Trek line “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

• Wright refers to the U.S. Attorney’s office as the “federal agency eleven decks up.” The office is eleven floors above Wright’s office, but the phrase is also a reference to the starship’s main operations at Deck 11.

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