jeudi 17 décembre 2015

Homophobic Mississippi blogger Douglas Handshoe shows "a plain misunderstanding of copyright law"; federal court dismisses more of his allegations involving "gay robots"

Douglas Handshoe CPA
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi has just dismissed the remnants of homophobic Mississippi blogger Douglas Handshoe's lawsuit against a Louisiana process server and a civil rights attorney. Since 2013, "forensic accountant" Handshoe has taken to filing lawsuits replete with conspiracy theory in addition to targetting opponents on his blog, "Slabbed" with adjudicated false criminal allegations. Handshoe has sued at least 16 persons and companies, some of them twice since May, 2013. He has also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for his purported company "Slabbed New Media." Thus far, Mississippi courts have been deferential to Handshoe's questionable legal maneuvers, in the eyes of legal commentators, much too much so. That epoch has now ended.

One of the people Handshoe sued in Mississippi is Chris Yount, a Louisiana private investigator and process server who served Handshoe with civil process, but had no connection to the unrelated lawsuits he was serving on Handshoe. In apparent retaliation for Yount simply doing his job, in early 2014 accountant Handshoe delved into the court files of Yount's divorce case in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has summarized the relevant facts in two recent decisions:
On February 13, 2014, Mr. Handshoe published on a pornographic drawing authored by Mr. Yount's 13-year-old son that had previously been filed with the court as part of Mr. Yount's divorce proceedings in the 24th Judicial District Court. Captions and comments authored by Mr. Handshoe and Mr. Truitt underneath the drawing described its graphic nature and clearly identified the author as a minor child and the divorce proceedings in which he was involved.
Subsequent to this initial publication, the trial judge overseeing the divorce proceedings sealed parts of the record, including the pornographic drawing, and ordered the drawing removed from the internet. Notice of copyright infringement pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was sent to the webhost of, who also provided Mr. Handshoe with a copy of the trial court's order. On February 18, 2014, the blog post containing the drawing as well as the www.slabbedorg website was taken down by the webhost in response to the copyright infringement notice and violations of the webhost's terms of service. Mr. Handshoe subsequently found a new webhost, brought the website back online, and republished the posts containing the pornographic drawing. On at least two separate occasions in Februaryand March of 2014 after the evidence had been placed under seal by the court, Mr. Handshoe authored additional posts where he published the drawing together with comments that clearly identified the minor child author and his father.
Handshoe has said in court filings that the drawing in question showed a "line of gay robots" engaged in questionable conduct, although no one else has opined as to the sexual orienation of the alleged robots. Daniel Abel has alleged in court documents that Handshoe is obsessed with the sexuality of other men; such allegations have not yet been proved in a court of law.

Consequently, Yount, with Abel acting as his attorney, sued Handshoe in Louisiana for defamation and invasion of privacy, among other things. In that case, both Handshoe and his co-defendant Bobby Truitt have had their anti-SLAPP special motions to strike denied by the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. (SLAPP stands for "strategic lawsuit against public participation").

In reaction to being sued by Yount, Handshoe filed suit against Abel and Yount in Mississippi federal court, ironically alleging they had abused court process and made knowing misrepresentations under the Copyright Act for sending the above-mentioned notice of copyright infringement.

Ultimately, for unknown reasons, Abel never responded to Handshoe's amended complaint that was allegedly mailed to him, and a few days ago Handshoe had him noted in default by the clerk of court. Handshoe then filed a motion for default. That spurred the federal court judge into action.

Within two days, on December 16, 2015, Judge Keith Starrett took steps not only on the default motion, but sua sponte on issues of jurisdiction and the failure of Handshoe to state adequate claims in his legal pleading: "the Court does not find that Plaintiff has stated a claim on which relief can be granted for his misrepresentation claim under 28 U.S.C. § 512(f)"; "Plaintiff’s claims of malicious prosecution and abuse of process for filing the appellant brief in the Louisiana action will be dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment will be denied as to these claims"; "because the Court has neither diversity nor supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining abuse of process claim, the claim will be dismissed without prejudice and default judgment will be denied as to this claim". As to the Copyright Act intentional misrepresentation claim, Judge Starret wrote:
In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff admits that the drawing at issue was drawn and published by the minor child on whose behalf Abel and Yount are claiming a copyright. (Amended Complaint [27] at ¶¶ 14, 17.) Plaintiff alleges that there is no copyright. Section 512(f) makes liable “[a]ny person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section . . . that material or activity is infringing.” Under Plaintiff’s theory, Abel is liable under this section because the minor child held no copyright in the drawing. This, however, is a plain misunderstanding of copyright law. Plaintiff admits that the minor child was the author of the drawing. (Amended Complaint [27] at ¶ 14.) By that fact alone, the minor child possesses a copyright in the drawing under 17 U.S.C. § 102(a)(5). Plaintiff does not allege in his complaint that his use of the drawing was authorized by either the copyright owner or law, and asserts only that a copyright does not exist. As the Court must find that a copyright does exist, Plaintiff has failed to plead a misrepresentation under § 512(f). Additionally, Plaintiff does not adequately allege the amount of damages he has suffered as a direct result of his web host relying on any misrepresentation by Abel and Yount. As such, the Court must deny Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment.
The federal judge also issued an Order to Show Cause to Handshoe. He now has 21 days by which he has to remedy what look like radical defects in what is left of his wrecked lawsuit. The countdown begins, tick tock.
Order to Show Cause directed at Douglas Handshoe

Handshoe has admitted that the sexually-explicit drawing in question was authored by Chris Yount's son, and the court has found "the minor child possesses a copyright in the drawing under 17 U.S.C. § 102(a)(5)." Attorney Abel was ordered by the Louisiana family court to do whatever was necessary to have the drawing removed from publication on Slabbed. Submitting a copyright infringement notificiation certainly seems like a reasonable way to achieve what the Louisiana court ordered, and where was the "misrepresentation" Handshoe claims?

In addition, legal observers say there simply exists no "abuse of process" tort in presenting the Louisiana court order to Handshoe's web host because this constituted an extra-judicial act not involving the court system or process. Simply showing a court order to a third party is not an "abuse of process."

One has to wonder when further legal action against Handshoe for abuse of process and malicious prosecution will begin? Perhaps the citizens of Mississippi should be upset with Handshoe for wasting taxpayer dollars and clogging the local judicial systems with lawsuits that keep being dismissed?

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