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Judge Orders Record Company Execs To Duluth 231

Posted by kdawson
from the get-your-butts-up-here dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Lest there be any doubt that District Judge Michael J. Davis, presiding over the Duluth, Minnesota, case, Capitol Records v. Thomas, really does 'get it' about the toxic effect the RIAA, its lead henchman Matthew Oppenheim, and their lawyers have had on the judicial process, all such doubt should be removed by the order he just entered (PDF). It removes control of the decision-making process from the RIAA, Oppenheim, and the lawyers. In the order Judge Davis spells out, in the clearest possible terms so that there can be no misunderstanding, that at the extraordinary 2-day settlement conference he has scheduled for later this month, each record company plaintiff is ordered to produce an 'officer' of the corporation, or a 'managing agent' of the corporation, who has corporate, decision-making, 'power.' The judge makes it clear that no one who has 'settlement authority' with any limits or range attached to it will be acceptable. This means that 'RIAA hitman' Matthew Oppenheim will not be able to control the settlement process as he has been permitted by the Courts to do in the past."
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Judge Orders Record Company Execs To Duluth

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  • by subreality (157447) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:45AM (#27047989)

    My heart leaped when I first read that as "Judge Orders Record Company Execs To Death". I'm so disappointed.

    • Re:My heart leaped (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <rayNO@SPAMbeckermanlegal.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:46AM (#27048003) Homepage Journal

      My heart leaped when I first read that as "Judge Orders Record Company Execs To Death". I'm so disappointed.

      I can assure you that if they do show up for this, they will not find it enjoyable.

      • Re:My heart leaped (Score:4, Interesting)

        by subreality (157447) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:55AM (#27048047)

        I appreciate the glimmer of hope. :)

        I dearly hope some of them eventually find it unenjoyable in a criminal PMITA prison kind of way, rather than a merely expensive civil way.

        • I'm pessimistic. Too many times I've read about RIAA lawyers squirming their way out of judge's nooses. In this case, they'll probably ignore the judge's requirements to send an "authority" and then say, "Well that sounds good, but I lack the power to agree or disagree," during the settlement meeting.

          And things will continue to drag on while RIAA eats out the substance of the poor citizen trying to defend herself.

          • Re:My heart leaped (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nabsltd (1313397) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:37AM (#27050223)

            In this case, they'll probably ignore the judge's requirements to send an "authority" and then say, "Well that sounds good, but I lack the power to agree or disagree," during the settlement meeting.

            Based on the judge's order, I'd say that if that happens, expect to see some record company executives found in contempt of court.

            In particular, since that person wouldn't have the authority, the judge would ask for the name of the person that directed them to come. Once Federal judges get actual names of people, it can get quite nasty if you don't do what they say.

      • Re:My heart leaped (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GuyverDH (232921) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:06AM (#27048111)

        I'd prefer some kind of RICO act finding myself... especially with the illegal investigations by unlicensed investigators. Attempts at entrapment (if their actions had been done by police officers or federal agents), attempts at extortion that border on blackmail... "Pay us 5,000.00 or we'll take you to court for hundreds of thousands - oh and we'll keep your little dog as hostage until you pay up..." kind of things (the dog comment is an exaggeration, although it probably went through some of their minds)...

        • Re:My heart leaped (Score:5, Informative)

          by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:47AM (#27048875) Journal

          You realize that what is required of a police officer is completely different in a civil suit right?

          The restrictions on police and government typically only apply to criminal cases. This suit and all of the file sharing P2P RIAA suites so far have been civil suits. They are still bound by rules but not near as stringent as there would be for criminal prosecution.

          Entrapment can occur when the government or one or more of it's officers (private people working on their behalf can be officers too), entice and convince someone to do something illegal that they wouldn't ordinarily do. When citizens do that, it sort of becomes conspiracy instead of entrapment. Instead of just one person breaking the law, someone conspired to get another person to break the law. It doesn't get you out of trouble like if you were able to prove entrapment. There are also defenses like "necessity" that can get you out of trouble. Necessity is more or less the defense that the necessity of the situation left only the options of breaking the laws to escape the circumstances with your life or someone else. Imagine your in prison and the guards are murdering everyone and you escape, You wouldn't get busted for the escape charge. On the other hand, suppose the prison was run in a way that the living conditions was so deplorable that you feared for you life or health, it's a little harder to prove but you could escape punishment there too. Imagine someone jumped in front of you and a relative pointing a gun at both of you. He then tells you he will kill your mom, girlfriend or whoever is with you in 15 minutes if you don't take an unloaded gun into a bank and rob it then give him the money. If you could prove those conditions, you would have acted out of "necessity" and would likely escape punishment.

          Anyways, that's getting way off point. The government is held to a different standard then private people, and criminal cases are held differently then civil cases. Entrapment just won't fit with RIAA and civil lawsuits.

          • by GuyverDH (232921)

            you did see the comments in parens right? where I stated that the actions would have been entrapment if they had been officers????

            just checking...

      • by ameline (771895)

        And if they don't show up, can they be held in contempt? (oh pretty please let it be so :-)

        • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:35AM (#27048249)

          I don't think a contempt charge is possible since the order doesn't name a specific person to show up. It just asks for somebody in authority, don't care who. IANAL though.

          But from the tone it sounds like "if you don't do this - you forfeit." And I don't think anyone wants that to happen.

          Reason being, this bit:

          If complete agreement is not reached, each attorney shall deliver to chambers on or before March 23, 2009 by noon, a letter which shall include: (1) the parties' respective settlement positions before the meeting; (2) the parties' respective positions following the meeting; (3) a concise analysis of each remaining liability issue, with citation to relevant authority; (4) a reasoned, itemized computation of each element of the alleged damages, with a concise summary of the testimony of each witness who will testify in support of the damage computations; and (5) a reasoned analysis justifying their client's last stated settlement position as well as any additional information believed to be helpful to the process of reaching agreement.

          I don't read a lot of legal documents, but specifically points (3) and (4) sound an awful lot like a judge who's absolutely sick and tired of being jerked around.

          If I read this right the judge is trying to expose exactly what's going on here. I hope that is his intention. It sounds like it to me. If that's the case, the RIAA will drop the case. If they don't, if the judge has his way, that that's it for the RIAA. And it certainly sounds like that's on the judge's agenda.

          Because if the judge exposes this for the scam that it is, there will be the Mother Of All Class Action Countersuits, where the previous victims of this scam unite and get their money back. With damages added, of course.

          • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:38AM (#27048261)

            Nah...

            The RIAA companies (SUE-W) will declare bankruptcy and we, the u.s. tax payers will give them several billion dollars..

            Oh waiter... "Bitter, party of one!"

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CoolCalmChris (991775)

            I don't read a lot of legal documents, but specifically points (3) and (4) sound an awful lot like a judge who's absolutely sick and tired of being jerked around.

            I agree, but I also think number 5 is a pretty good indication of his state of mind...

            (5) a reasoned analysis justifying their client's last stated settlement position as well as any additional information believed to be helpful to the process of reaching agreement.

          • by oliphaunt (124016)

            well, the RIAA can move to dismiss their own case. And while it's customary for judges to grant such motions, it would be really singular for THIS judge to deny and force the MAFIAA to actually show up and take their medicine.

          • by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:53AM (#27048893) Journal

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't capitol V Thomas already decided and this is just the settlement portion that was overturned on appeal?

            If that is true, that would mean that all RIAA or the record labels would lose is the settlement. I doubt any class action suits would come about from it.

            I agree that the judge is expecting to expose/determine exactly what's going on. The information gained will probably be ammunition for other cases which might make RIAA's future suits harder to get this far. Perhaps even opening a door to get some other judgments modified too.

          • by Tuoqui (1091447)

            Sounds like the Judge wants the CEO's to show up in his courtroom. Anyone else would naturally have limitations on the amount of compensation they could offer.

            • by cdrudge (68377) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:49AM (#27049625) Homepage

              Many times it's not just the CEO that technically holds the purse strings. The CFO, Comptroller, or other high ranking management may be able to also authorize a settlement without further authorization. Temporary authorization could also be granted if a person does not regularly have authorization, but was given so just for this case.

          • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:59AM (#27051823)

            Well, here's the difference:

            What the judge is asking for is a person-in-fact [wikipedia.org]. The person-in-law [wikipedia.org] is the corporate entity (RIAA) and is demanding that a person-in-fact show up in court that is authorized to make decisions for the corporation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rts008 (812749)

        I can assure you that if they do show up for this, they will not find it enjoyable.

        Okay, I'm crawling out on a limb here, but what if they are masochists by way of business tradition, and can't help but asking for pain?(yes, this may be far-fetched, but is it a factor?)

        BTW, I hope you are right! Experience will have me 'betting' on your side.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kokoloko2k3 (878482)
        I can assure *you* that if they _don't_ show up for this, they will not find it enjoyable either.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CodeBuster (516420)
        Would the settlement proceedings effect just this one instance, Capitol Records v. Thomas, or would the results be more wide reaching, perhaps setting a precedent for other cases pending around the country?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sfing_ter (99478)

        No kidding, have you ever been to Duluth...?

      • Is Duluth really that bad of a town?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:51AM (#27048027)

      Obviously you've never been to Duluth in Winter.

    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:51AM (#27048031)

      Trust me, Duluth, MN is worse.

      • Re:My heart leaped (Score:5, Informative)

        by dasunt (249686) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:26AM (#27048195)

        As a city, I like it.

        Kind of like San Francisco with the severe elevation changes, but if it was transferred to the frozen tundra for half the year.

        The lake is pretty and Engers tower is worth visiting if you're ever in the area.

    • by rts008 (812749) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:21AM (#27048157) Journal

      Well, 'death', Deluth, Siberian gulag, it's all the same. Don't suffer from Premature Disappointment(tm). Be Happy!

    • by xant (99438) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:52AM (#27048315) Homepage

      > The judge makes it clear that no one who has 'settlement authority' with any limits or range attached to it will be acceptable

      There's still a possibility that the settlement will include beheadings, since the agent will have the authority to grant it.

  • so what does this mean?

    This means that 'RIAA hitman' Matthew Oppenheim will not be able to control the settlement process as he has been permitted by the Courts to do in the past.

    • Re:IANAL.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:51AM (#27048033) Journal
      It means they'll probably drop the case to avoid the trouble. These lawsuits are scare tactics, they don't actually care if they win or not.
      • Re:IANAL.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <rayNO@SPAMbeckermanlegal.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:21AM (#27048159) Homepage Journal

        It means they'll probably drop the case to avoid the trouble.

        That would be the smart play, wouldn't it? But then again... they're not known for choosing the smart play, are they?

      • Re:IANAL.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by torkus (1133985) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:58AM (#27048345)

        Assuming the judge *lets* them drop the case without prejudice. Seems like the judge is more than tired of the nonsense and if the MAFIAA tries a 'oh! my bad! Let's be friends' he'll *find* for the defendant - which would amount to making case law out of his/her defense.

        That would go a LONG way to invalidating their whole extortion scheme - they sue, defense cites this case and then puts in a counterclaim for legal fees and damages.

        The MAFIAA doesn't care if they don't win - they just can't afford to actually LOSE because it would set a precedent.

    • by strredwolf (532)

      My guess is that Oppenheim's barred from negotiations. RIAA has to send in the head of each record company, or it's contempt of court.

  • Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by teknosapien (1012209)
    Maybe this is the beginning of the end and a new business model will show up. take the lawyers out of the mix and get to the heart of the matter? This will be interesting to watch
  • by Steve1952 (651150) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:54AM (#27048041)
    Work's been kind of slow for him lately. Perhaps he can represent one of the record companies.
  • If only... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GuyverDH (232921) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:56AM (#27048063)

    I only wish that there had been some way to make it an official judicial order, requiring them to send someone, something that could have major legal / monetary penalties applied if they don't comply, preferably with U.S. Marshall escort, in hand-cuffs if they refused or tried to weasel out - but that would be dreaming big...

    • Re:If only... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GuyverDH (232921) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:59AM (#27048079)

      hmmm - after reading the order... it sounds like if they probably do NOT want to skip this in any way shape or form...

      • by powerspike (729889) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:21AM (#27048163)
        Sorry Your Honor,
        we took a wrong turn on the way to the court house, and ended up in a country that doesn't have an extradition agreement with America. Yours Sincerely, RIAA lawyers.
      • Re:If only... (Score:5, Informative)

        by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <rayNO@SPAMbeckermanlegal.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:27AM (#27048199) Homepage Journal

        hmmm - after reading the order... it sounds like if they probably do NOT want to skip this in any way shape or form...

        That is correct. They are not going to 'skip' this. They will probably try to avoid it, by getting the best settlement they can get in advance of the hearing... but if they don't settle, they will show, and I can't imagine them disobeying any aspect of the order.

        • by Hierarch (466609)

          Out of a morbid sense of curiosity, what happens if they don't follow it to the letter? Contempt of court, presumably, but I don't know what that means for the RIAA's officers, or the organization itself.

          • Re:If only... (Score:5, Informative)

            by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <rayNO@SPAMbeckermanlegal.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:35AM (#27048245) Homepage Journal

            Out of a morbid sense of curiosity, what happens if they don't follow it to the letter?

            It would never happen, but if it were to happen, the judge would throw the case out and grant the defendant her attorneys fees and costs.

            • That's really the worst that could happen? Why this then? I can't imagine them disobeying any aspect of the order.

              Toss a couple of bucks to the defendant instead of winning is not exactly an eternity having your liver eaten while chained to a rock*. I still don't get what's so intimidating here.

              *Also known as "justice", around these parts.

              • by torkus (1133985)

                Actually, I think the judge would find for the defendant instead of throwing the case out. While the outcome for the defendant would effectively be the same either way, the impact on OTHER cases is huge.

                The MAFIAA have cornered themselves, they'll probably sing and dance and offer any kind of settlement that doesn't set a precedent in case law against them.

              • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                by chiguy (522222)

                Toss a couple of bucks to the defendant instead of winning is not exactly an eternity having your liver eaten while chained to a rock*...

                *Also known as "justice", around these parts.

                You're from Greece?

                ....
                Some would consider Prometheus' punishment for giving fire to humans an injustice.

              • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:50AM (#27048685)
                What's at stake is their own entire intimidation scheme... or a large part of it. They don't dare lose in court because the precedent would blow big holes in the way they go after people. If they think there is an appreciable danger of actually getting a judgment against them (other than a "confidential" settlement), they will probably drop the case like a hot potato. Because that way they will be free to try the same tactics again. But if the judgment went against them, that would set a precedent and likely they would have to either stop or make major changes to the ways they go about the whole thing. Changes that are not in their favor.

                And the judge in this case is making it clear that he is tired of their games, and that he wants the principles involved (not just their hired guns) to come to the table and pony up, or go away. Three cheers for the judge.

                I am not a lawyer, but that is my armchair analysis of the situation.
            • Everyone is talking about what will happen if they don't show. My question is... why wouldn't they? What have they got to lose by appearing in court? It's not like they'll be personally convicted, right? What's the issue?

        • by mlwmohawk (801821)

          That is correct. They are not going to 'skip' this. They will probably try to avoid it, by getting the best settlement they can get in advance of the hearing... but if they don't settle, they will show, and I can't imagine them disobeying any aspect of the order.

          Which begs the question, if you were the defense lawyer, would you hold out a settlement for actual and treble damages? i.e. $0.99 and $2.97 per song? I mean, come on, that's pretty standard in other areas of law, right?

          And if that were the settleme

  • by wwwillem (253720) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:21AM (#27048161) Homepage

    No matter if this is good or bad news against the RAFIAA, but when I read ...

    "Lest there be any doubt ... the toxic effect [...] have had on the judicial process ... the decision-making process ... in the clearest possible terms ... can be no misunderstanding ... the extraordinary 2-day settlement ... who has corporate, decision-making, power ... with any limits or range attached to it", etc.

    Oh bloody hell, don't know who did it, but this /. summary must have been written by a lawyer, or at least someone who desperately wants to become one! Not a good sign....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Other than the fact that the settlement conference will be with Judge Davis instead of a magistrate, this order is completely standard.

    For comparison, here is the relevant portion of a notice of settlement conference in another recent Minnesota federal district court case:

    "Counsel who will actually try the case and each party, armed with full settlement discretion, shall be present. If individuals are parties to this case, they shall be present. If a orporation or other collective entity is a party, a duly

  • Either you have someone at the settlement meeting that can make decisions, or you have a dozen settlement meetings with a few days in between while the person reports back to whomever can make decisions, which would be an enormous waste of the court's time. I think it's also fair to say if you're going to sue someone/etc. and say you're willing to settle you honor that and actually have someone who can settle at the meeting. Not rocket science. How they got away with this before is beyond me.
    • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Informative)

      by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <rayNO@SPAMbeckermanlegal.com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:30AM (#27048221) Homepage Journal

      How they got away with this before is beyond me.

      It's beyond me too. In Brooklyn several years ago the Magistrate Judge ordered the "principals" of the record companies to attend an in-person settlement conference. When the day came, however, the only person who showed was Matthew Oppenheim, who is not even an employee of any of those companies. If I was the judge I would have thrown their case out, due to their flagrant disobedience of his order. Instead, the judge said "okay" and said he was accepting Oppenheim as a "principal" of all of the companies, and the judge claimed that Oppenheim was the only person in the world who had authority to settle on behalf of all 4 companies. Go figure.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Atario (673917)

        Go figure.

        Yeah, it makes me wonder what kind of figure was involved.

      • by mlwmohawk (801821)

        the judge claimed that Oppenheim was the only person in the world who had authority to settle on behalf of all 4 companies. Go figure.

        Just remember half of every class or profession is probably less than average of that class or profession.

        Also, while I'm not a lawyer, I unfortunately know a few of them. There is an arrogance with corporate lawyers who do not deal with the "unwashed masses." There is an assumption, at least from what I see, that lawyers who represent corporations have a higher degree of int

  • Talk about a long slog.
  • by sdhughes (235715) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:52AM (#27048507)

    Looks to me like the record company execs are ordered to go to the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, not Duluth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smchris (464899)

      Lucky Californian bastards. Minneapolis should be 10 degrees warmer than Duluth by March 30. Could break 50 here in the afternoon and they won't have the opportunity to savor the wind off Lake Superior.

  • Duluth? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ragzouken (943900) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:24AM (#27048791)
    What is that, a Black Metal band?
  • Whenever I read that, in this case for Capitol Records, why do I just assume they will rely on dubious tactics?

    The world would be a significantly better place if the US Government were to send out the cruise missiles to every building listed as a corporate HQ in Delaware, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Jersey, Guernsey, Monaco, Lichtenstein, Zug...when you start in business with an intention to defraud, the omens are not good.

    • by cheros (223479)

      Yeah, right. Following your reasoning you can keep your missiles at home and nuke Washington and Wall Street instead. I vaguely recall that that is where quite a bit fraud started - how much tax money has been converted into private equity via the purchase of weapons?

      AFAIK no tax haven has even plunged the world into a financial crisis, which is the bit that all those fine governmental words are trying to hide when they go after the rich.

      • The British crisis started when it emerged that the Northern Rock mortgage lender had in fact hidden 60 billion of assets off balance sheet in an offshore fund called "Granite". Just as thieves would find life a lot harder if there were no fences, corporate criminals would find life a lot harder if there were no tax havens to conceal their activities. However, my point was a little different. When a corporation vests itself in eitgher a tax haven or a US State with low standards of corporate governance (Del
  • Hope they send trophies worthy of your wall. Good hunting Ray (NYCL)!
  • From the court order:

    "A settlement conference will be held in the above-referenced matter on March 30,
    2009 and March 31, 2009 beginning at 9:00 a.m., in Chambers, Suite 15E, U.S.
    Courthouse, 300 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota, before Chief Judge Michael
    J. Davis."

    Nice editing job, kdawson.

  • I know this judge (Score:5, Informative)

    by cenc (1310167) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#27050491) Homepage

    I know this judge. My father was an attorney that tried many cases in front of him including his own divorce.

    My father described him for the most part as a by the book sort of judge, as far as the book would go, but tended to side with the underdog when there was no specific rule dictating how he needed to rule.

    My father also described his rulings as a bit irrational. Which in this case I would take to not be a good thing for record executive or their lawyers trying to game the system to punish the little guy basically using loop holes in the law.

  • To those readers here at Slashdot and on my blog who brought this error to my attention, I express my profound gratitude.

    And to all of you who may have been misled by my post, I apologize profusely.

    As it turns out....the order is a standard form commonly used in Minnesota's federal court for settlement conferences. Although I have almost 35 years of litigation experience, none of that experience has been in Minnesota.

    Again, sorry, folks, for my mistake.

    Meanwhile, as to the substance of the order, it's still a great order; I wish the courts in which I do practice had been using it. It still requires each of the record companies to produce one of its 'officers' or 'managing agents' with decisionmaking 'power'. That means Mr. Oppenheim and the lawyers are not in control.

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