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Lightspeed Media Corp. v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 5, 2015

ANTHONY SMITH, et al., Defendants.


DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.


This matter is before the Court on defendant Anthony Smith's ("Smith") Motion to Reconsider (Doc. 189) the Court's November 18, 2014 order denying Smith's Motion for Contempt (Doc. 135) and his Motion for Sanctions for Obstructing Discovery (Doc. 153) against Paul Duffy ("Duffy"), John Steele ("Steele"), and Paul Hansmeier ("Hansmeier") (collectively, "Lightspeed's Counsel").

The Court previously found the claims asserted by plaintiff, Lightspeed Media Corporation ("Lightspeed), were frivolous and baseless. Accordingly, the Court imposed attorney fees and costs on Lightspeed's Counsel totaling $261, 052.11 ("Fee Order"). Lightspeed's Counsel did not timely pay the Fee Order and made various representations to the Court regarding an alleged inability to pay. Accordingly, defendants issued third-party subpoenas in an effort to obtain information pertaining to Lightspeed's Counsel's financial status.

Eventually, defendants filed a Motion for Contempt (Doc. 135) and a Motion for Sanctions for Obstructing Discovery (Doc. 153). The motions alleged Lightspeed's Counsel made various misrepresentations regarding their ability to pay the Fee Order and actively sought to obstruct discovery. Although the Fee Order was eventually paid, questions remained regarding (1) the veracity of Lightspeed's Counsel's statements regarding insolvency and (2) Lightspeed's Counsel's alleged obstruction of discovery.

On November 18, 2014, the Court issued an order denying the motions for contempt and sanctions (Doc. 188). The Court found Lightspeed's Counsel's conduct was highly suspicious. However, the Court concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of contempt or to impose sanctions for obstructing discovery (Doc. 188). Thereafter, Smith filed the present motion for reconsideration (Doc. 189). In his motion for reconsideration, Smith argues newly obtained and previously submitted evidence warrant the imposition of sanctions. Accordingly, Smith asks the Court to revisit the issue of sanctions relating to Lightspeed's Counsel's alleged misrepresentations and obstruction of discovery.

The matter has been fully briefed (Response Hansmeier Doc. 191; Response by Steele Doc. 192; Reply Smith Doc. 193)[1] and is ripe for consideration.

Smith has also filed three motions to supplement (Docs. 194, 195, and 197). With regard to the motions to supplement, the Court rules as follows: (1) Smith's request for the Court to take judicial notice of an order filed in a related proceeding (Doc. 194) is GRANTED[2] (2) Smith's motion to supplement the record with documents received on February 13, 2015 pertaining to Steele's divorce (Doc. 195) is GRANTED; and (3) Smith's motion to supplement the record with recently obtained evidence pertaining to Hansmeier (Doc. 197) is GRANTED.

The Court considers Smith's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 189) below.


A. Overview

On December 14, 2011, plaintiff, Lightspeed Media Corporation ("Lightspeed"), filed suit in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial District in St. Clair County. Lightspeed owns or operates one or more paid-subscription adult entertainment websites. In its first complaint, Lightspeed alleged John Doe and more than 6, 600 "co-conspirators" had gained unauthorized access to its website. On December 16, 2011, the circuit court granted an ex parte motion for leave to obtain discovery by subpoena, from dozens of Internet Service Providers ("ISPs"), of information personally identifying the defendants. AT&T and Comcast subsequently filed motions to quash the subpoenas and/or for a protective order. On May 22, 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court directed the circuit court to vacate its order denying the motion to quash.

On August 3, 2012, Lightspeed filed an amended complaint. The amended complaint substituted "Anthony Smith" for "john Doe." In addition, the amended complaint added AT&T, Comcast, AT&T Corporate Representative #1, and Comcast Corporate Representative #1 as defendants (collectively, "ISP Defendants"). In the amended complaint, Lightspeed contended that Smith used hacked passwords to access content from Lightspeed's websites without authorization. Lightspeed asserted the ISP Defendants improperly opposed Lightspeed's discovery, failed to act to protect Lightspeed's websites, and conspired with their customers to Lightspeed's detriment. Shortly thereafter, on August 9, 2012, AT&T removed the action to federal court.

Seven days after removal, Lightspeed filed an emergency motion for discovery (Doc. 9). In the emergency motion, Lightspeed asked the Court to order the ISP Defendants to provide information personally identifying ISP subscribers who were allegedly using hacked passwords to gain unauthorized access to Lightspeed's content. Judge G. Patrick Murphy held a hearing on the issue and denied the motion (Doc. 23). Smith and the ISP Defendants filed motions to dismiss (Docs. 26, 28, 36). On March 21, 2013, prior to the resolution of the motions to dismiss, Lightspeed entered a notice of voluntary dismissal.

On April 5, 2013, Smith moved for attorney's fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1927 (Doc. 61). Smith asked the Court to enter an order requiring Lightspeed's Counsel to satisfy personally the excess attorney's fees Smith reasonably incurred because of their unreasonable and vexatious multiplication of the proceedings. Subsequently, the ISP Defendants also moved for attorney's fees (Docs. 78, 82).

On October 30, 2013, Judge Murphy granted Smith's motion for attorney's fees (Doc. 65). Lightspeed's Counsel sought reconsideration of that order (Docs. 66, 68, 74). On November 13, 2013, Judge Murphy held a hearing on the motions for reconsideration and the motions for attorney's fees by the ISP Defendants (Doc.96) in which he deferred ruling.

On November 27, 2013, Judge Murphy denied the motions to vacate, or in the alternative, reconsider the order granting Smith's motion for attorney fees, granted the ISP Defendants' motions for attorney's fees, and ordered Lightspeed's Counsel to pay attorney's fees totaling $261, 052.11 ...

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