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RIAA Lobbyist Becomes Federal Judge, Rules On File-Sharing Cases 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-call-it-a-new-strategy dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: "Last week, Washington, DC federal judge Beryl Howell ruled on three mass file-sharing lawsuits. Judges in Texas, West Virginia, and Illinois had all ruled recently that such lawsuits were defective in various ways, but Howell gave her cases the green light; attorneys could use the federal courts to sue thousands of people at once and then issue mass subpoenas to Internet providers. Beryl Howell isn't the only judge to believe this, but her important ruling is especially interesting because of Howell's previous work: lobbying for the recording industry during the time period when the RIAA was engaged in its own campaign of mass lawsuits against individuals. The news, first reported in a piece at TorrentFreak, nicely illustrates the revolving door between government and industry."
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RIAA Lobbyist Becomes Federal Judge, Rules On File-Sharing Cases

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  • Enjoy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659058)

    Enjoy your Corporate States of America!

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659060) Homepage
    The alternative to the "revolving door between government and industry" seems to mostly be regulators who don't know anything about what they're regulating. Fun stuff either way! :)
  • by Red_Chaos1 (95148) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:44PM (#35659066)

    but this is ridiculous. I honestly don't think that cases of this nature should be allowed to come before, or be judged by someone who has spent so much time fighting on one side of a cause like that.

    That's like asking an ice cream man to preside over a case or cases where someone is suing an ice cream company for them being fat or something (probably not the best analogy, but as close as i could think of). In short, this is retarded, and that judge shouldn't have been allowed to have anything to do with this stuff.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:47PM (#35659110) Homepage Journal

    That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:49PM (#35659126)

    How can any judge with even a sliver of a conscience not recuse themselves from this case?

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:50PM (#35659162) Homepage Journal

    It's because we say corporations are "people." When they have the "same" rights as people they essentially have more rights than people since they can amass so much power.

    They shouldn't have the same right as people because they aren't people. Giving the the exact same set of rights means the rights of real living, breathing people are lessened.

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:52PM (#35659184)

    How can any judge with even a sliver of a conscience not recuse themselves from this case?

    This was an RIAA lawyer. I'd check your expectations at the door.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:57PM (#35659252)

    Yes, I am pretty sure it would be grounds for appeal.

    Like it would do any good

    I have given up. America is no longer free - political nor economically free. We're at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to Western countries.

    We're no longer egalitarian nor is there any upward mobility anymore. Really there isn't.

    We're a class based society and there's no way out of it.

    For those of you who believe that there is, prove it - with yourself. Don't point out someone who made it big 40 years ago or someone who used his Harvard contacts to make it big, point out someone from East Butt-Fuck Idaho who went to Butt-Fuck State who made it big - show me him. No contacts. Someone with imagination, hard work, and intelligence - that's all.

    Nope. Right?

  • Re:Enjoy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tsiangkun (746511) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:59PM (#35659290) Homepage
    Fascism, with its merging of corporate, political, and military power, is almost complete in America. Too much 'rah rah USA, we so free, we so great, god just loves United States !', from a young age. Brainwashed people don't see it coming. Those who do go crazy trying to get others to see it. Even today, people who own a car, or a home, or even a business think they are part of the ownership class. They cheer the corporations on as if they will benefit. They believe they are part of the people who own enough wealth to create international policy, national policy, and military support of that policy. Silly people, they think they are part of the rich, when all they make is hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. If you aren't making governments bend to your desire, you are not part of the ownership class.
  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:03PM (#35659346) Homepage Journal

    Under most usages *I'm* a liberal. I don't like Obama. He *isn't* a liberal.

    Only in the minds of crazy right wingers and tea party activists involved in fighting shadows is he a liberal.

  • Hopefully these rulings will be overturned by the supreme court and this judge will be sanctioned for having a beyond obvious bias and not recusing herself from these cases.

    Unlikely, judges just don't get sanctioned, brotherhood of the robe and all that rot. However; it would make sense to recuse oneself when there is such a perception of impropriety.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:11PM (#35659430)

    Even if that weren't a false dichotomy I'd prefer a meddlesome regulator who follows the laws to the letter because he didn't "know anything about what he was regulating" to the lazy one that "knows which regulations don't need to be followed".

    Red tape may be annoying, but it's often there for a reason.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:12PM (#35659438)

    You think a republican majority would not have done the same?

    They are all bought and paid for.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:14PM (#35659466) Homepage
    Well, all you YRO types who voted for Obama, this is what you get.

    It was pretty obvious Obama was not going to be particularly progressive where it counted. McCain, however, after his rightward lurch during the election would probably have gone to war with Iran, would have appointed right-wing nutjobs to the EPA, Department of the Interior, etc., and would have emboldened the Republican party for generations --"look how much we screwed the country up with Bush, and we still got re-elected, we can do anything!" So he was still worth voting for.
  • by Hooya (518216) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:17PM (#35659500) Homepage

    When they were given the "rights", they should have also been given the same liabilities as people:

    - lifespan of 80 years.
    - incarceration (everyone in the company gets locked up) for wrongdoing.

    (i know it doesn't work. just pointing out HOW corporations aren't people and therefore shouldn't have rights as such).

    Right now, it's much better to be an incorporated entity than it is to be an individual. They get all the rights, and get to enjoy it for far longer than any person and without the possibility of incarceration if the entity starts enjoying it's "rights" a little too much by violating the rights of others.

  • Re:Enjoy! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ckeo (220727) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:18PM (#35659520)

    If something can be taken away from you, then you truly do not own it. Thus, we own nothing it is just in our possession.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:26PM (#35659620)

    This isn't possible. President Obama said that the era of revolving doors at the white house (corporations hiring away whitehouse appointees and whitehouse appointees with conflicting interests being hired away from private industry) was over. Yet, that's all I've seen here. From a company hiring out nearly the entire IRS to help it pay zero taxes to a guy with no history or experience or knowledge in anything becoming the country's "CTO" to . . . this.

    I can only surmise that this has somehow slipped under Obama's radar and that as soon as someone brings it to his attention, he'll make sure some heads roll. And I'm sure the next president will totally not allow this to happen. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. This is totally not the way government has operated for most of our two centuries and change. This is toooootally a rare exception. Yep. I'm sure of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:33PM (#35659740)

    That's a false duality. There is no reason that regulators can't listen to the industries they regulate as long as the industries aren't buying them trips, cars, vacations, etc...

    your attorney is fucking your spoiuse. I'm sure you'd agree that your divorce will be equitably handled so long as they no longer have sex....

  • by metlin (258108) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @06:53PM (#35660042) Journal

    Welcome to fascism. Benito would be proud.

    Those that do not learn from history...

  • Re:Enjoy! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metlin (258108) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:05PM (#35660188) Journal

    What on earth are you talking about? Fascism is pretty much the ultimate representation of corporatist ideals.

    If you think otherwise, you need a lesson in history and political ideologies.

  • Re:Enjoy! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:14PM (#35660306)
    Dear slashdot poster,

    Although you may disagree with GP, he illustrates his opinions on the current status of US government. If you went by the actual definition of fascism, as opposed to the everyone-I-hate-is-fascist definition, an argument could be made for the US trending towards a fascist government. It could be made against it as well. Do not pander for mods to mark the posts you disagree with as a troll. Instead, present an argument as to why he is wrong, if you believe so.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:25PM (#35660446) Homepage Journal

    If Congress truly wanted to prove themselves to the American people to be above it all they would ban any contribution of any kind from K-Street to any member of Congress or their families. Further more, they would forbid the same from ever working for such organizations. However I doubt this will come, it will take influence outside of the Democrat or Republican parties.

    Yet both are deft at playing people off each other, getting people to focus on the other party, which thereby keeps them in power. When groups rise up outside of their control you can tell as the media will line up and protect their investment, along with all the powers on Wall Street. The American public are only allowed to rise when commanded and when they dare do so on their own the entire establishment comes down in force. Unfortunately too many buy into it and side with the very people keeping them under the thumb of two political parties corrupt beyond repair.

    If you voting for a party your voting for your loss of freedom

  • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhoegl (638955) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:36PM (#35660536)
    Isnt this a conflict of interest and grounds for appeal?

    WTF?
  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @07:42PM (#35660576)

    Actually, shocking as it may seem, virtually all U.S. Federal Judges (and indeed, the vast majority of U.S. judges generally), were once lawyers, "fighting on one side of a case."

    Most lawyers have never been lobbyists. This judge was a lobbyist employed by the RIAA. You see, the issue here is that she was recently a lobbyist. Not that she is a lawyer.

    I just told you what you could have learned on your own with a little reading comprehension. The information necessary to determine that your post is a waste is contained in the SUMMARY. Fuck man, it's contained in the headline and in the titlebar of your browser. You remind me of the people who have no comprehension of the issues and no understanding of civics who for some reason still insist on voting.

    The only real question is whether you are really that clumsy and careless or whether you have some kind of pro-RIAA bias yourself, some kind of sympathy for their cause that makes you want to whitewash the whole affair.

    Lots of judges who hear criminal cases in the U.S. were once prosecutors or defense lawyers. Should they be excluded because of potential bias?

    No. The purpose of a defense lawyer is to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial, even if the accused is guilty. As an officer of the court a lawyer is expected to do this job professionally, whoever their client may be. Even scoundrels who are guilty as sin deserve a fair trial. That is how the system is supposed to work. Defense attorneys are an important part of making this happen. It is a higher ideal than whether they happen to like the client personally. It is based on principle, not fleeting sentiment.

    Should a judge who once made a career as a plaintiff's attorney in medical malpractice suits be barred from hearing cases in that arena?

    If they spent years lobbying Congress on behalf of that plaintiff, and were well-compensated for it, then yes the judge should recuse herself from the next medical malpractice case involving that same plaintiff. Not all medical malpractice cases, but the ones involving that particular plaintiff. That's because in this case, the judge's bias is known and has a demonstrable history. It is not hearsay or supposition.

    This judge has ties to the RIAA. This is demonstrable history. Unlike legal representation, no one is entitled to lobbyists. The state does not pay for a lobbyist if you are unable to afford one of your own, like the state would pay for a public defender. This judge would have had to favor the RIAA or else she'd have refused to be their marketer before Congress. There is no higher ideal that would motivate someone to lobby.

    A judge with any integrity wouldn't want there to be even the question of bias. This case involves the very same organization for whom she lobbied Congress. Not a different organization with the same vague type of "case in that arena" (your attempt to muddy the waters has failed). The exact same one. If it were entirely up to me, this judge would be impeached and a new trial would take place. I take the prospect of overwhelming state power being used against citizens that seriously. If it needs to be done, it needs to be done correctly with no obvious questions of bias.

  • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:07PM (#35660828)

    You know, I think the judge recruitment pool would be rather low if you didn't allow those that have either stood as plaintiffs or defendants as lawyers. Because if they're biased then so is the EFF lawyer too, right?

    Do you really not see the shift you just made? You go from talking about the "judge recruitment tool" in a frankly ridiculous way, then somehow shift to lawyers to take a shot at the EFF.

    Of course the EFF lawyers are biased. So are the lawyers they're going up against. That's not a failing of the system, that's the point. These lawyers are their clients' advocates, and we have an adversarial system. They should both be as biased as humanly possible.

    A judge, on the other hand, is supposed to be not only capable of making an impartial decision, but to do so in ways and cases that remove even the potential appearance of an improper or biased decision. A former RIAA lawyer ruling on whether or not you can file against thousands of John Does is hardly impartial. It may be one of the gray areas where she technically does not have to recuse herself from the case, but should have, or it may be outright misconduct. In either event, she should not have been the judge ruling on this case.

    No, that does not mean the "judge recruitment pool" shrinks nor does it mean that she can't be a judge and can't rule on other federal cases. The same goes for those EFF lawyers you brought up. Nobody has a problem with them being judges, but they probably shouldn't be making any rulings on file sharing cases.

    It's like a fencing match and there's no such thing as unsportsmanlike [. . .] if your client won then you did your job.

    This is tangential to the point, but that's actually only partially true.

    Yes, if you know the law better than your opponent you're simply a better lawyer. But as a lawyer, you also have an obligation to the court and the legal system and there are quite a lot of things you cannot do.

  • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @08:49PM (#35661202) Homepage Journal

    It is 100% a conflict of interest, and the judge should automatically be recused from ALL file-sharing lawsuits as a result.

    All rulings made should be immediately and retroactively reversed.

    Then the judge herself needs to pay a HEAVY fine for such inexcusable behavior. The kind of fine that will BREAK HER POCKETBOOK and give incentive for other judges to behave.

    It is time our judicial system got a dose of accountability.

  • Re:Payroll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkpixel2k (623900) <aaron@heyaaron.com> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:06PM (#35661834) Homepage

    It is 100% a conflict of interest, and the judge should automatically be recused from ALL file-sharing lawsuits as a result.

    All rulings made should be immediately and retroactively reversed.

    Then the judge herself needs to pay a HEAVY fine for such inexcusable behavior. The kind of fine that will BREAK HER POCKETBOOK and give incentive for other judges to behave.

    It is time our judicial system got a dose of accountability.

    But who would hold a judge accountable? Another judge? Surely you jest. There's a reason the second amendment is a part of the united States Constitution...

  • by Lord_Jeremy (1612839) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @10:20PM (#35661940)

    Lawyers and judges. I think it's notable that it seems only those with skill in manipulating others are exhibiting upward mobility. What about the poor texas kid who's got a great mind for algorithms and math but can't go to college because of . In some parts of the country there is decent public education and a whole slew of leg-ups (scholarships, competitions, etc) for students to make their way forward, but it is still really hard to achieve more than the "average" quality of life through application of math, science, and technology skills. The applied "public relations" field of employment (lawyers and politicians) seems to have a disproportionately greater share (as compared to technology workers) of the wealth distribution. It should be obvious: people's who's job is to manipulate the decisions of other people come out way ahead of people who's job is to improve society. Oh and because we're all greedy bastard humans, it's no surprise that those manipulative people on top using their own strong powers of influence to make sure they stay on top.

    Electrical Engineer Average Salary [payscale.com]

    Software Engineer Average Salary [payscale.com]

    Average Lobbyist Salary [payscale.com]

  • Re:Payroll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @12:55AM (#35663100)

    "Surely you jest. There's a reason the second amendment is a part of the united States Constitution..."

    We are well past hope of peaceful change, but still far too comfortable for the masses to act.

  • Re:Payroll (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eternal Vigilance (573501) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 @01:13AM (#35663228)

    We are well past hope of peaceful change, but still far too comfortable for the masses to act.

    Indeed - western tyranny's sweet spot.

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