Attorneys with ties to the now-dissolved Prenda Law firm in Chicago are appealing a federal judge’s order requiring them to pay more than a quarter of a million dollars in attorney fees and costs to defendants in a computer hacking case they filed on behalf of their client earlier this year.
Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier and John Steele filed a notice of appeal in the Southern District of Illinois on Thursday from U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy’s order that found the attorneys jointly and severally liable to pay $72,367 to Anthony Smith, $119,637.05 to AT&T and $69,021.26 to Comcast, for a grand total of $261,025.11 with interest.
The attorneys were given 14 days to pay the sanctions, which were due on Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Their appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit seeks relief from Murphy’s Nov. 27 denial of motions to vacate and reconsider, as well as relief from an order Murphy entered Oct. 30 in which he initially granted a defense motion for attorney fees.
The case of Lightspeed Media Corp. v. Smith, et al., was first filed in St. Clair County in August 2012 and was quickly removed to federal court.
Lightspeed sued Anthony Smith for computer fraud and abuse, conversion, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and other civil conspiracy claims, accusing him and his alleged co-conspirators of hacking passwords to gain access to its websites.
The suit also named AT&T and Comcast, as well as one unnamed corporate representative with each of the companies, as defendants, claiming they allowed their subscribers to repeatedly hack into its website and interfere with its efforts to identify thousands of alleged hackers through their Internet protocol addresses.
In March, Lightspeed voluntarily dismissed its suit. The following month, Smith filed a motion seeking attorney fees, in which he asserted the plaintiff’s claims against him were baseless.
In Murphy’s Oct. 30 order, he wrote that he agreed with the defendant.
“Now before this Court is Defendant’s motion for attorney fees because Plaintiff raised baseless claims despite knowledge those claims were frivolous and pressed for a meritless ‘emergency’ discovery hearing….The litigation smacked of bullying pretense.”
Murphy retired Dec. 1.
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(Bethany Krajelis contributed to this report).