Once, the road rose up to meet Paul Duffy and the wind was always at his back. The sun shone warm upon his face and rains fell soft upon his fields. But lately his luck seems to have gone dry.

If Duffy celebrated St. Patrick's Day this week with a pitcher of green beer, you can bet he didn't enjoy the colored quaff as much as he has in years past. It's becoming increasingly obvious, even to an indomitable Irishman like him, that the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow is likely to be empty when he finally reaches it.

But Duffy is nothing if not pugnacious, and so he fights on as the odds worsen.

The Chicago attorney teamed up with two colleagues, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier, in a cunning plan to punish illegal downloaders of internet pornography. Ostensibly representing porn peddlers (and in some cases having pecuniary interests in the obscene operations), they demanded user addresses from ISPs with the expectation that the users' fear of exposure would make them amenable to a quick settlement.

Their tactics were highly questionable, but their reasoning solid. Such users would presumably prefer to pay a premium to prevent having their peculiar predilections publicized.

But a federal judge in California sanctioned Duffy and associates and referred their names to the Internal Revenue Service, the U. S. Attorney in Central California, and the state and federal bars in which they practice.

The road has not risen up to meet Paul Duffy in St. Clair County either.

Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson recently ordered Duffy, Steele, et al. to show why they shouldn’t be held in contempt, sanctioned, and obliged to pay cable provider Comcast $26,280 for producing the identities of 300 subscribers.

Characteristically, Duffy and comrades responded by denying all the obvious implications of their activities.

Duffy may set Guinness World Records for audacity and perseverance, but he can forget about that pot of gold.


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