Florida Judge Halts 27 Copyright Troll Cases—Attorney Caught Practicing Law Without A License?
Yesterday, the Northern District Court of Florida halted 27 copyright troll lawsuits targeting more than 3,500 Doe defendants while it examines whether the copyright trolls' lawyer, Tarik Hashmi of the Transnational Law Group, is properly allowed to practice law in Florida. The cases include copyright troll lawsuits Hashmi filed on behalf of, among others, Third Degree Films, Inc.; Patrick Collins, Inc.; and SBO Pictures, Inc.; (a full list can be found in the attached order). The cases were moving along rapidly until three Doe defendants called the court's attention to a Cease and Desist Affidavit that Hashmi submitted to the Florida State Bar in 2010. The affidavit stated Hashmi was not licensed to practice law in Florida and would not conduct legal actions until he was licensed by the state.
Mr. Hashmi has until March 9 to respond to the allegations. Any person who has been contacted about these suits should know that they have been stopped.
In his February 16th order, District Judge Hinkle consolidated the 27 cases; stayed all proceedings; and forbade further contact with Doe defendants while the investigation into Hashmi's conduct is pending. Until the court rules on Hashmi's qualifications, or lack thereof, all proceedings with future deadlines are put on hold. More importantly, Judge Hinkle stopped Hashmi and the companies he represents from taking any future action regarding the Does—including trying to collect settlement payments—until he proves his status as a qualified Florida lawyer. If Hashmi is unable to prove his qualifications, the Judge will likely dismiss the cases.
In the past, courts have commented on the dubious business model of copyright trolls. This most recent action provides even more cause for concern regarding these cases. We're glad that lawyers for Doe defendants caught this issue and we will continue to track the Florida cases.
April 2011 Update: On April 2, Judge Hinkle did not allow Hamshi to substitute a lawyer and ordered all of the cases dismissed. Though the copyright trolls may refile the suits, the current law suits have stopped. See the attached .pdf.