Trials & Litigation

Lawyer didn't lie to judge about grandfather’s death but fudged the date, letter reveals

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A lawyer who has filed 2,000 lawsuits for copyright infringement got little sympathy from a judge Wednesday during a court hearing to determine whether he should be jailed for failing to provide proof of his grandfather’s death.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel of New York had ordered lawyer Richard Liebowitz to supply the proof after he missed an April 12 court hearing and said the reason was a death in the family that occurred on the hearing date.

Liebowitz didn’t supply a death certificate or obituary, but he filed a letter saying his grandfather died. He filed subsequent declarations making the same claim, without further proof.

A Nov. 11 letter to the court by Richard Greenberg, a lawyer representing Liebowitz, said Liebowitz’s grandfather had indeed died, but the date of death was April 9, and he was buried the same day, Law360 reports. A death certificate and funeral home receipt were attached to the letter.

During the hearing, Greenberg said Liebowitz was “in a daze” after his grandfather’s death, and any misrepresentations were not intentional, according to coverage of the hearing by the Smoking Gun.

Seibel countered that it was implausible that Liebowitz’s haze continued through the many months that he “tried to wheedle his way out of the problem.”

Liebowitz also apologized during the hearing, calling his misstatements “an honest mistake,” according to the Smoking Gun.

“Stop kidding yourself,” Seibel replied. Rather than being an honest mistake, Liebowitz’s statements amounted to a “concerted campaign of deception,” she said.

Greenberg’s letter said Liebowitz is “an avid photographer,” and his burgeoning copyright practice “obviously fills a need in the ranks of freelance photographers who struggle to make end meet financially while their work is often used by commercial entities, mostly media companies, without permission or compensation.”

Greenberg asked Seibel to vacate two contempt orders against Liebowitz, to declare his financial penalties satisfied, and to allow him to continue to practice before the federal court.

Greenberg estimated that Liebowitz owed $3,700 in financial penalties because of fines imposed by Seibel for each day that he failed to supply the requested proof.

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