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One Porn Lawyer Illegally Practicing in Florida; Another, Kenneth Ford Has Been Found Practicing without a License

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from www.arstechnica.com – Third Degree Films publishes pornographic masterpieces like Illegal Ass 2 and Tampa Swingers Party. The company has been filing lawsuits around the country against individuals who have been uploading and downloading its movies on BitTorrent.

But the campaign hit a snag in Florida on Thursday when three of the defendants in the case notified the court that the plaintiff’s attorney, Terik Hashmi, was not licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.

Judge Robert L. Hinkle put the case on hold while the court investigates whether Hashmi has, in fact, been practicing law in the state without a Florida law license.

Third Degree’s litigation campaign has raised objections from defendants around the country. Like a number of other peer-to-peer lawsuits, Third Degree’s basic strategy appears to be to use the courts to obtain the names of individual defendants, and then approach those defendants seeking four-figure settlements.

Because defending against a federal lawsuit would almost certainly cost more than the settlement amount, most defendants simply pay up. This strategy is particularly effective when the works in question are pornographic, because even many innocent defendants will be unwilling to have their names publicly associated with a film like those mentioned above.

“Disputing the allegations as a named defendant would involve significant legal costs and other burdens, and the harm of Plaintiff’s public accusation of pornography is irreversible regardless of the Complaint’s final outcome,” wrote one anonymous Third Degree defendant last September. “Plaintiff calculates that Doe defendants like me will pay settlement fees to avoid legal costs and public embarrassment, notwithstanding the falsehood or truth of the complaint in each individual situation.”

The peer-to-peer porn lawsuit campaigns have gotten more focused as judges have grown increasingly skeptical of national file-sharing lawsuits involving thousands of defendants. Third Degree had used geolocation technology to limit this particular lawsuit (there are many others) to defendants whose IP addresses appear to locate them in Florida.

Now these Florida defendants have gotten a three-week reprieve, as Judge Hinkle has given Hashmi until March 9 to prove that he is, in fact, licensed to practice law in Florida. All actions in the file-sharing lawsuit are put on hold while the court investigates the allegations.

Indeed, the court has barred Third Degree from accepting any settlement money from defendants while the case is on hold. If the allegations against Hashmi are true, the case will be dismissed.

This is not the first time that the plaintiff in a peer-to-peer porn lawsuit has run into legal trouble himself. Last month Kenneth J. Ford, an attorney who had been seeking damages from downloaders of such classics as Teen Anal Nightmare 2, was charged with a felony for forging a court order and defrauding a client. Evidently, it’s hard to find good attorneys to sue random people over their pornography consumption.

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