Copyright Law

Ethics case alleges 'settlement shakedown' by lawyer whose Prenda firm sued porn downloaders

  • Print.

Attorney disciplinary authorities in Illinois are pursuing a legal ethics case against a Chicago lawyer known for filing a large number of copyright cases against individuals over claimed illegal downloading of pornographic materials.

Filed Thursday against John Lawrence Steele, the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission ethics complaint (PDF) alleges that he engaged in a “settlement shakedown” by filing litigation in an effort to extract settlements through demand letters.

Operating as Prenda Law Inc., as well as predecessor and successor law firms of different names, he and other attorneys filed numerous complaints against alleged porn downloaders during the past five years without intending to pursue the litigation to a conclusion and without informing the court of the large number of related cases, the complaint says. It also accuses Steele of abusing the discovery process and pursuing claims on behalf of offshore businesses for which the caretaker of Steele’s vacation home was listed as the principal owner.

Many of those Steele sued were never served, the complaint says.

The Law & Disorder page of Ars Technica, the Cook County Record and the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) have stories.

Steele is currently in practice with the Accessibility Law Group in Chicago, according to an ARDC online registry.

He did not immediately respond to a phone message Monday morning from the ABA Journal.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “How two California solos helped take down ‘porn troll’ Prenda Law” “Judge boldly uses Star Trek references in opinion blasting lawyers who sued porn downloaders”

See also:

Techdirt: “John Steele Looking To Join Former Prenda Lawyer Paul Hansmeier In ADA Lawsuit Shakedown Business”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.