Copyright lawyer with ‘ignominious record’ must pay over $100K in sanctions, 2nd Circuit says
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A federal appeals court has upheld sanctions of more than $100,000 against copyright lawyer Richard Liebowitz for lying to a New York federal judge and violating his orders.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New York concluded that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York did not abuse his discretion when he imposed a sanction of more than $83,000 in attorney fees and an additional monetary sanction of $20,000.
Liebowitz, who has filed thousands of copyright infringement actions in federal courts, has been deemed a “copyright troll” in one legal opinion. He often settles cases in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Even though he has been a lawyer for only a short time, Liebowitz has “compiled an ignominious record of reprimands and sanctions from judges across the country,” according to the 2nd Circuit decision.
“Given Liebowitz’s serious and repeated misconduct,” the appeals court said, Furman was justified in imposing the kind of sanctions used “to deter future misbehavior, protect other litigants, and maintain the integrity of the judicial system.”
Last month, the appeals court upheld another part of Furman’s sanction that required Liebowitz to notify his clients and the courts handling his cases of the sanctions decision against him.
Liebowitz and his firm, the Liebowitz Law Firm, had alleged in the July 2019 lawsuit that Bandshell Artist Management infringed his client’s copyright for a photograph of musician Leon Redbone.
The suit claimed that the photograph was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, even though Liebowitz’s client had included the photo on a CD-ROM of unregistered photos. The photos on the CD-ROM were registered a month after the suit was filed.
Furman had sanctioned Liebowitz for the false copyright claim; for failing to comply with initial court orders regarding mediation, discovery and proof of service; and for lying about an order requiring in-person mediation. Neither Liebowitz nor his client had attended the mediation; two associates who had not issued an appearance in the case were sent instead.
Leibowitz had claimed that the mediator had given permission for an associate to attend the mediation and for the client to appear by phone. The mediator denied that he had given permission for the client to appear by phone. The mediator acknowledged, however, that Liebowitz’s clients had appeared by phone in other mediations without incident, and Liebowitz had sent an associate to a mediation on at least one other occasion.
Leibowitz said he obtained permission from the mediator the night before the scheduled mediation; neither Leibowitz nor the client were in New York at the time, but Leibowitz said he had a contingency plan if the mediator had denied his request.
After Furman scheduled a hearing on the issue, Liebowitz filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal signed by both parties. Furman ordered dismissal but retained jurisdiction for sanctions.
At the end of his opinion imposing sanctions, Furman listed 40 cases criticizing Liebowitz.
“The simple fact is that Mr. Liebowitz has a problem: He does not feel constrained by the truth and, when cornered, has no compunction about lying, even under oath,” Furman had written.
The appeal is Liebowitz v. Bandshell Artist Management. Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston wrote the 2nd Circuit opinion.
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