samedi 29 novembre 2014

Douglas Handshoe, CPA looses fight to block $180,000 copyright infringement judgment under the SPEECH Act

Justice may finally be coming, her sword drawn, for inveterate blogger Douglas Handshoe, a homophobic Mississippi accountant who seems to have too much time on his hands.

homophobic blogger Douglas K. Handshoe
On November 24, 2014, a judge of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi granted the motion of Trout Point Lodge and its owners to send a court action seeking enforcement of their $180,000 Canadian copyright infringement judgment against Handshoe back to state court. The significance of this ruling is that Handshoe had attempted to remove the litigation to federal court under the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act in June.  Trout Point, Perret, and Leary have won a total of $817,000 in Canadian judgments against Handshoe, and this will be the first to move towards actual enforcement. Another $210,000 in defamation awards awaits eventual enforcement by the Trout Point plaintiffs, who have demonstrated a calm persistence in pursuing Handshoe in his home state.

Handshoe has also been sued for defamation by at least two persons in Louisiana, including a case where his attempt to have the defamation action against him dismissed as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation" or SLAPP suit was flatly rejected, not once but twice, by Chief Judge Piper Griffin of New Orleans Civil District Court. Handshoe has publicly cried  about all the lawsuits against him being SLAPP suits, and his opponents being "SLAPP happy nut jobs." The courts apparently do not agree.  

Handshoe's loss in Mississippi comes more  than 2 1/2 years after Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Hood awarded record damages for defamation against Handshoe in February, 2012. Since then numerous other courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit have called Handshoe's homophobic rhetoric "reprehensible" and "grotesque."

Concluding the second Canadian lawsuit against the Mississippian, in which Handshoe appeared and defended, on Valentine's Day, 2014, Nova Scotia Justice Kevin Coady issued a written decision finding Handshoe had violated the Trout Point plaintiffs' copyrights in four images by publishing them without permission on his blog Slabbed juxtaposed with homophobic, false, and defamatory words. The pictures were of the Plaintiffs. He award maximum statutory damages of $20,000 for each instance of infringement and also awarded a significant $100,000 in exemplary damages.  Both cases have attracted significant media attention in Canada, and test the waters of cross-border legal relations in the Internet age.

Trout Point quickly moved to enforce that judgment in Mississippi state court; Handshoe removed it to federal court 6 months ago claiming it was a federal question under the SPEECH Act. The case ended up in Chief Judge Louis Guirola's court. The blogging CPA also filed numerous motions seeking that the federal court require a bond from Trout Point, and also asking the Mississippi court to stop the third-party New Orleans lawsuit against him through an anti-suit injunction. Such an injunction would violate basic constitutional principles going back to the Founding Father's Anti-injunction Act. Handshoe frequently yammers on his blog about how Leary, Perret, and others seek to violate his constitutional rights, but apparently has a serious problem recognizing the rights of others. Judge Guirola ignored such filings by Handshoe.

In what the Chief Judge did take up, Handshoe petitioned the court to find that because the Nova Scotia Supreme Court's 2014 decision also included findings of, and damages for defamation, the copyright infringement damage award was also somehow susceptible to the SPEECH Act's provisions. He also at points argued that the decision was somehow res judicata, obviously not knowing the first thing about this legal principle despite claiming his web site to be "the premiere legal affairs blog in the Gulf South."  Handshoe also again hurled numerous baseless allegations of felonious criminal activity against the Nova Scotia gay couple in his federal court submissions, which he has been doing online since 2010. Handshoe does not know Leary and Perret. Comments he published on his blog have referred to them as "queer fag scum" among numerous other epithets.

In his removal notice, Handshoe tried to argue the Plaintiffs were doing something untoward by enrolling the copyright judgment; the federal court did not agree.

Chief Judge Guirola wrote: "Plaintiffs argue that they are not seeking to enforce a foreign judgment for defamation but for copyright infringement. The Court agrees. Based on the clear and explicit language of the Canadian court Order incorporated by reference into the state court petition, the underlying judgment is for copyright infringement."

However, the federal judge did not stop there. Knowing the full background of Handshoe's previous SPEECH Act case, he conducted a further analysis, asking: "whether this foreign judgment for copyright infringement falls within the purview of the SPEECH Act. If so, then removal was proper. If not, the case must be remanded."

Handshoe failed to convince the judge on any point.
Copyright infringement is not included in the language of the SPEECH Act,
which specifically includes defamation, libel, and slander in its definition of
defamation. Furthermore, the Court finds that the judgment sought to be enforced
– which concerns the publication of photographs that Plaintiffs claimed to be
copyright-protected – is not a judgment for a “similar claim alleging that forms of
speech are false, have caused damage to reputation or emotional distress, have
presented any persons in a false light, or have resulted in criticism, dishonor, or
condemnation of any person.” 28 U.S.C. § 4101. Indeed, unlike the judgment at
issue in the claim previously before the Fifth Circuit and this Court, the judgment
at issue here does not involve allegations of false or damaging forms of speech at all.
See generally Trout Point Lodge, 729 F.3d 481. Instead, the judgment concerns
purported property rights in photographic images. See, e.g., Axcess Broad. Servs.,
Inc. v. Donnini Films, No. 3:04-cv-2639, 2006 WL 1115430, at 3 n.1 (N.D. Tex. Aug 26, 2006) (“A copyright is a property right . . . .”).
The judge also took up and flatly rejected Handshoe's yammering about"bifurcation," and his innuendo that the Nova Scotia court justice somehow illegally colluded with Trout Point.  
Defendant claims that the Canadian court bifurcated the Canadian case into
multiple component judgments in an effort to circumvent the SPEECH Act. Defendant’s mere argument is insufficient to meet his burden to show that removal was proper. See Simons v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 193 F.3d 848, 850 n.7 (5th Cir.
1999) (“‘Removal . . . cannot be based simply upon conclusory . . . allegations.’”)
(citation omitted). Nonetheless, Plaintiffs are not seeking to enforce any defamation component judgment, but only the copyright infringement component judgment. There is no indication that the judgment sought to be enforced encompasses any monetary damages awarded for defamation, and, thus, no basis for removal under the SPEECH Act. 
Defendant’s statement that the final opinion of the Canadian court and Plaintiffs’ filings in that court “indicate[] a vastly differing fact pattern where defamation is the primary tort alleged[,]” (Def’s. Mem. 2, ECF No. 13), does not persuade the Court that removal is proper, either. This Court was not provided a copy of the final opinion of the Canadian court, only the judgment. And, while the filings attached to Defendant’s Memorandum do include defamation allegations, again, the actual judgment sought to be enforced is not for defamation. 
Thus Mr. Handshoe will be heading back to state court, where the Canadian judgment for copyright infringement is very likely to be enforced considering the close relationship between the U.S. and Canada, as well as their common respect for copyright protections. This precedent-setting decision will help delimit future inquiries into the breadth of the SPEECH Act's protections. It also eliminates a large swath of legal arguments Handshoe might have hoped to make to avoid justice. 

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