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Fox Rothschild partner Lincoln Bandlow, who has led a nationwide copyright infringement litigation campaign on behalf of a pornography producer, was sanctioned $750 by a federal magistrate judge in California this week.

The sanctions were related to Bandlow’s failures to meet court deadlines in at least 24 nearly identical cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In a separate case, Bandlow has been fighting to keep the leader of client Strike 3 Holdings from being deposed leading up to a scheduled trial.

Los Angeles-based Bandlow, whom the judge said had never before been sanctioned in his 25-year law career, has filed more than 2,500 copyright infringement claims on behalf of Strike 3, helping to make last year hit a record for the most copyright claims brought across U.S. federal courts in at least a decade.

The company’s cases accuse Internet IP addresses of stealing the pornography Strike 3 produces under brands such as “Vixen,” “Blacked” and “Tushy.” The cases typically settle before the defendants are named in court.

In the cases for which Bandlow was sanctioned, he failed to provide status reports in a timely manner. Those status reports were due after a typical step in Strike 3′s litigation campaign: asking, and usually receiving, permission from a court to obtain the name and contact information for Internet subscribers who allegedly stole its videos over a program known as BitTorrent.

Bandlow had argued that the missed status reports were inadvertently caused by short staffing during the holidays as well as technical problems calendaring cases from Sacramento’s federal court. In an interview prior to his Feb. 20 sanctions hearing, he said those problems were limited to his practice and to the Sacramento federal court system.

Bandlow voluntarily dismissed the cases in which he’d missed the filing deadlines and also told U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Delaney that he would not file any more cases in the Eastern District of California until his technical issues with the court were fixed.

But Delaney held in her Feb. 26 order that Bandlow’s failure to file the reports was not “mere inadvertence or recklessness.”

She noted that Bandlow’s choice to file such a large number of cases did not absolve him of responsibility to handle them properly: “Mr. Bandlow has a professional responsibility to refrain from acting as counsel in more cases than he can handle at one time,” Delaney wrote.

She added that that technology problems were no excuse, writing, “The practice of law predates the computer.” And she said it is “inexcusable” that Fox Rothschild, a 900-plus lawyer Am Law 100 firm, would have staffing problems around the holidays. Bandlow also had been warned previously about missing filing deadlines and had largely used the same excuses, Delaney said.

“Mr. Bandlow’s conduct constitutes willful disobedience of court orders, which is tantamount to bad faith,” Delaney concluded.

Still, Delaney tempered the sanctions she had been considering, which could have amounted to $6,000. She said she believed Bandlow’s apologies were “sincere” and that his bad faith “was not the most egregious kind.”

The sanctions order does not mark the first time Bandlow’s porn client has come under fire from a federal judge.

Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in a November opinion that Strike 3′s cases “smacked of extortion.”

Strike 3 ”treats this court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM,” Lamberth wrote. “Its feigned desire for legal process masks what it really seeks: for the court to oversee a high-tech shakedown. This court declines.”

The developments this week were not all negative for Strike 3. In another case before Delaney in Sacramento’s federal court, Bandlow defeated an effort to quash Strike 3′s subpoena to AT&T to hand over its internet subscribers’ contact information. In her ruling, Delaney said the D.C. opinion written by Lamberth “is of limited persuasive value.”

In a statement, Bandlow said he was “very pleased” with Delaney’s ruling to deny the motion to quash, saying that it “rejected a motion that attacked the merits of Strike 3 lawsuits, holding in favor of Strike 3 that the lawsuits are proper under controlling Ninth Circuit authority.”

Regarding the sanctions, Bandlow said Strike 3 would “immediately” send the $750 payment to the federal court in Sacramento.

First Trial Ahead

In large part thanks to Strike 3 Holdings, more copyright lawsuits were filed last year than any year since at least 2009, according to Lex Machina. Strike 3 filed 2,185 of the 6,516 copyright lawsuits filed nationally last year, Lex Machina data show. The second most copyright complaints were filed in 2015, when 5,219 were brought.

Of the 2,786 copyright cases Strike 3 had filed as of Wednesday, according to data from Lex Machina, zero had gone to trial, and hardly any have been actively defended.

At least one case is scheduled for trial, and it has been causing a different kind of headache for Bandlow and his team of Fox Rothschild lawyers.

The defense team in that case has filed a counterclaim against Strike 3 for abuse of process and is seeking to depose Greg Lansky, the flamboyant owner of Vixen Media Group. Lansky is the face of Strike 3’s porn brands, and he files a declaration in each of its lawsuits attesting to the company’s struggles with internet theft.

In court filings last week in Washington State, Fox Rothschild partner Bryan Case wrote that Lansky should not be deposed because he has no direct knowledge of Strike 3’s national litigation campaign, other than green-lighting it.

“The fact that Mr. Lansky, as head of Strike 3, approved the company’s policy to enforce its copyrights by suing individual infringers, like defendant, does not warrant Mr. Lansky’s deposition,” Case wrote.

On Thursday, Judge Thomas Zilly ruled that Lansky can be deposed and that Strike 3 will have to pay $700 in attorney’s fees for fighting efforts to depose him.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that a judge ruled Lansky could be deposed and ordered Strike 3 to pay $700 in attorney’s fees for fighting his deposition.

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