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RIAA Lawyer Jumps Ship 181

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's top litigation lawyer, who has been personally leading the RIAA's litigation campaign for the past several years, Richard Gabriel, will be leaving his law practice after getting a job as a state court judge for a 2-year term in Colorado. What this will mean to the RIAA's litigation machine is anyone's guess. Mr. Gabriel has personally argued all of the RIAA's main cases, including Elektra v. Barker, Atlantic v. Howell, Atlantic v. Brennan, Capitol v. Foster, Atlantic v. Andersen, UMG v. Lindor, and London-Sire v. Doe 1, and personally tried the Capitol v. Thomas case, the only RIAA case that has ever gone to trial. He was working directly under the supervision of the RIAA's mysterious 'representative' Matthew Oppenheim."
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RIAA Lawyer Jumps Ship

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:27PM (#23356614)
    A good start.
  • by Adriax ( 746043 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:28PM (#23356626)
    It means they'll file to get every case moved to his courtroom.
    • by actionbastard ( 1206160 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:31PM (#23356660)
      It means they'll file to get every case moved to his courtroom.

      So that every defendant moves to have him recuse himself from the proceeding.
    • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:34PM (#23356726) Journal
      That would sort of depend on why he left. If he left due to any acrimony, the RIAA would likely go out of their way to stay well clear of his courtroom (and it would only affect Colorado residents anyway)

      Also, he may have left after sniffing the wind and seeing that other judges are starting to find the RIAA's tactics to be questionable at best... and likely wants to be well clear of the RIAA if/when it finally (okay, hopefully) implodes.

      Finally, even if he did hear any of these cases, he's have two fears constantly on his mind: Appeals, and the possibility that not recusing himself from an case involving his former employer would likely land him in hotter water than by simply recusing himself in the first place.

      Just idle thoughts - standard disclaimers pply, etc. :)


      • by m.ducharme ( 1082683 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:09PM (#23357000)
        Also, he may have been bucking for a seat on the Bench for a long time now, and finally got his chance.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jamstar7 ( 694492 )
        So what? He's a judge now. Unseating a sitting judge takes a lot. The old expression of 4 acts of God & an act of Congress come to mind.
        • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:22PM (#23357088) Journal
          Not so sure in his case... he's answerable to the state legislature, not Congress (which means he can find himself on the docket a lot faster, esp. if he makes any local enemies, which his type I'm sure is prone to collecting).

          Also, he was elected for a term, which indicates elections are ahead. While most judges are pretty much re-elected ad-infinitum without so much as a "ho-hum" from the electorate, all it would take is a couple of well-placed commercials and ads touting his prior experiences and current performance (if negative), and he's toast. I don;t think the RIAA would have too much interest in bailing him out, so he'd be pretty much on his own.

          Then again, who knows? :)


      • It's also possible that he left because he always wanted to be a judge and a job finally opened up for him. I may be wrong but I was under the impression that most, if not all, judges start out as lawyers.
        • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:26PM (#23357132) Journal

          ...I was under the impression that most, if not all, judges start out as lawyers.

          Frighteningly enough, so do most politicians...


          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Alien Being ( 18488 )
            And therein lies the horrible though that crossed my mind when I read the headline. "Those scumbag riaa bastards have put a guy on the bench."

            He *might* serve five years, then go back to the riaa for giant buckos.


            Damned weed, three pokes and I figured Iraq might turn into another Vietnam.
          • I've never understood why this isn't classed as a conflict of interest. If you belong to a profession that exists because the laws are too complicated for normal people to understand, how can you possibly be expected to act in their interests when creating new laws?
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @09:22PM (#23357516)
        How about "since the RIAA noticed that judges turn against them, they think it's time that they not only get lawyers but also judges that support their cases"?
      • I have been so on ritter, but have lost all respect for this bastard. If he is putting this guy in as a judge, well, that speaks of ritter's character.
      • by Hao Wu ( 652581 )
        Judges > Lawyers

        He left to be a judge, period.

      • Quite so. Also,he worked for them, for money. That doesn't mean he's an idealogue on the topic. Many lawyers will work for just about anyone. Some take up causes, but most are just making a living.
    • by Cathoderoytube ( 1088737 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:59PM (#23357366)
      Don't you ever watch tv? That won't happen, he'll have to give his former buddies a hard time to show he's not playing any favorites. Then they'll be all like 'Why're you giving us such a hard time?' then he'll be like 'Because I don't want people to think I'm playing favorites. I mean we were practically married before', then they'll be like 'Oh so that's how it is, is it? You know, you left your ipod at our apartment last time you were over. It would be a shame if people found out about your ILLEGAL ABBA MP3's!' then he'll be like 'Yeah you don't scare me, I'll just make file sharing legal!' then they'll be like 'Oh ho ho will you now? What makes you think we'll be filing any cases in your district?' then he'll be like 'What happened to us?' then they'll be like 'You forgot your friends! And you became a complete jerk since you became a judge! We feel like we don't even know you any more!' then he'll be like 'It's true! I've worked so hard to impress the other judges I forgot who my real friends were!'. Then they'll hug and make up.

      So yeah, they'll be filing all their cases in his district.
    • by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @12:07AM (#23358342) Homepage
      No need to worry about this. The summary says he's going to be a state court judge. State courts are not allowed to hear copyright cases. See 28 U.S.C. 1338(a) [].
  • awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty-B-Bad ( 259317 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:30PM (#23356648) Homepage
    so a man that thinks the RIAA is honest and right is now a judge in the United States Courts. Somehow the words just can't describe the feelings of failure that have surfaced when I read this post.
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yeef ( 978352 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:46PM (#23356818) Homepage
      There's always the possibility that he never believed in the RIAA's bullshit and just did it all out of greed, but someone with such loose morals isn't the kind of person you'd want behind the bench. It seems to be a lose-lose situation for the people of Colorado.
      • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

        There's always the possibility that he never believed in the RIAA's bullshit and just did it all out of greed, but someone with such loose morals isn't the kind of person you'd want behind the bench.
        My feeling is that his motivations ran like this:

        1. It was primarily for the money, lots and lots of money.

        2. It made him feel important; he was pretending to be a lawyer. (Never mind that most of the cases were "ex parte" cases and "default" cases, in which there was no opponent at all, and that in the remaining ones, most of the people couldn't afford a lawyer. So he was always "litigating" against either no one, or someone who had no lawyer, or in a few cases against an unpaid or underpaid lawyer. See, e.g. the eloquent opinion of Judge Otero in Elektra v. O'Brien [] in which the Judge, talking specifically about Mr. Gabriel's "cases", decried the fact that "the federal judiciary is being used as a hammer by a small group of plaintiffs to pound settlements out of unrepresented defendants.") I.e., Mr. Gabriel is a man who has been making his living the past 2 1/2 years suing children, the disabled, the homeless, displaced persons, the elderly, people living on Welfare and Social Security, and other defenseless individuals, and taking money from innocent people simply because they couldn't afford the cost of defending a federal lawsuit.

        And after communicating with him on practically a daily basis for the past 2 1/2 years.... I don't think he feels the slightest bit of shame over it.

        I guess that about says it all.
        • Well Ray (Score:5, Funny)

          by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:40PM (#23357240)
          Ray, this is what I propose: I will assume the role of an alcoholic homeless person living in a carboard box. During my spare time I will build a computer out of coconuts and driftwood. I will then use this computer to post on slashdot and download illegal files. When the RIAA summons me to court I will make a suit out of seaweed and defend myself. Cunningly I will have counsel (you). I will then throw away my disguise and expose my underpants that I wear outside my stockings, proclaim I am superman, and hit them wear it hurts. What are your thoughts?
        • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:46PM (#23357278)

          Unfortunately, it is people like this RIAA lawyer who give the legal profession such a bad reputation among the general public whereas honest and upright lawyers, like our friend NewYorkCountryLawyer, receive much of the ill will associated with that negative reputation and very little recognition for the good work that they do. I for one would like to take this opportunity to thank NewYorkCountryLawyer for the excellent work that he has done in compiling the various briefs, decisions, along with his own original commentary and arguments, and other related materials on his blog to assist in the defense of the ordinary working folks who are being crushed by the RIAA and their unscrupulous attorneys.

          Some of the defendants may have sinned yes, but was their crime (assuming that they are convicted and that is not a certainty) really so great as to merit the complete destruction of their lives and their utter financial ruin? It is really too bad that the RIAA has chosen to take the lowest of the low roads with their lawsuit campaign, but hopefully with interested people like NewYorkCountryLawyer and Slashdot staying on top of things we can eventually compel the RIAA and their members to quit harassing the public in lieu of actually having a business plan.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Fishbulb ( 32296 )
          That's it, I'm printing RAY BECKERMAN '08 bumper stickers.
      • Re:awesome (Score:4, Informative)

        by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:12PM (#23357022) Homepage Journal
        He may have never believed in their specific goal, but it's my understanding that if he believed that they had a legal case and he was willing to take up that case, then he was ethically bound to take all legal measures to support his clients while employed by them. It's also possible that he was assigned the case by his superiors at the law firm, which can be difficult to turn down short of a clear conflict of interest.

        A lawyer cannot throw a case just because he doesn't like his client. There are penalties for that, including those handed down from the bar and possible civil remedies.
        • Well, there is that part about taking up the case in the first place, then doing it repeatedly in subsequent cases...


          • Re:awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @09:54PM (#23357700) Homepage Journal
            This is true, but again, he may have been assigned the cases by his law firm, in which case he may have had little choice other than to resign. This is always an option when presented with a moral dilemma, but he may just not have been torn as much as you or I might have been.
            • by TheLink ( 130905 )
              And now he's a state court judge, where I suppose he'll do the right thing when presented with moral dilemmas.
              • Judges are intended to face moral dilemmas between two parties. They also have more latitude to recuse themselves from cases if there is evidence that they may be biased in one way or the other. For example, since he worked on RIAA cases, he may be asked to recuse himself from related cases.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by r_jensen11 ( 598210 )

        There's always the possibility that he never believed in the RIAA's bullshit and just did it all out of greed, but someone with such loose morals isn't the kind of person you'd want behind the bench. It seems to be a lose-lose situation for the people of Colorado.

        Or he could just think that, regardless of the RIAA's tactics, downloading copyrighted materials without permission of the copyright holder is the wrong thing to do....

        For some reason, and it shouldn't amaze me by now (but it still does,) but I still get shocked by the level of groupthink that goes on @ /. regarding the permissibility of piracy.... I'm not saying that I never download anything, but 99% of the content I do download is not for sale in my continent and the company who owns the works has refu

        • as this has been shown in courts for years(aka fair use), just because the copyright owner does not give permission does not mean by any stretch that fair use doesn't apply,fair use is to restrict copyright.

          downloading copyrighted materials is 100% legal in all scenarios. Forget your wrong or right, this is an issue that is going through courts a lot lately.
          • You're severely mistaken.
            • am I now? making available is a current grey area likely to also be legal, and just because people have been settling out of not wanting to go to court doesnt make something illegal. If downloading is so illegal tell that to TIVOs, dvd burners, any device that will take in audio in any form (not just record) long have people been recording off the radio again?
              RIAA may be fighting hard against but as example downloading a cd you own is not illegal regardless of permission of copyright holders. Fair Us
      • by no-body ( 127863 )
        ... maybe even worse - he may have gotten an extra "leaving" bonus and from now an all RIAA cases go through Colorado.
    • My thoughts exactly. Now the RIAA has a man on the inside... faaaannntastic.
    • now a judge in the United States Courts
      No, he's a Colorado state judge. He is not a judge appointed by President and confirmed by the Senate, therefore he is not a judge in the United States courts.
    • so a man that thinks the RIAA is honest and right is now a judge in the United States Courts.
      No. He's a Colorado State judge. That is not a United States court.
  • THIS JUST IN... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frightened_Turtle ( 592418 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:31PM (#23356668) Homepage

    "RIAA announces they'll be filing all future litigation in Colorado!!!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:33PM (#23356692)
    Apparently Governor Ritter doesn't realize how corrupt this makes him look. Anyone associated with RIAA is tainted, and now that taint just got on the governor. I hope Colorado voters know this happened.
    • He probably doesn't, because it's only to an extremely small minority that it does. Outside of the relatively small number of people reading this website, you'd be amazed at how little awareness there is.
      • And how many people here are from Colorado and know either people in the press or in the opposing candidate's campaign team at the next election? It just takes one to run the story about how Governor Ritter appointed a judge who made his name persecuting children and single parents for minor offences to swing a close election.

        It's time we started remembering what the I in IT stands for.

    • Anyone associated with RIAA is tainted [...] I hope Colorado voters know this
      They don't.
    • by janrinok ( 846318 ) on Saturday May 10, 2008 @03:44AM (#23359114)

      I'm not an American, so please accept my comments in the spirit in which they are intended.

      I don't agree that the RIAA are tainted. Their tactics certainly are and they should be prevented from repeating them. But they have a job to do. There is illegal sharing of copyrighted material taking place and it is their job to protect their interests. Those who simply advocate the sharing should be made legal have, in my view, placed their heads up their arses.

      Now I don't expect my point of view to receive wide acclaim here on /., but take a look at NYCL's post earlier on. He doesn't 'hate' Gabriel for what he has done, in fact if I read it correctly he respects him as a fellow professional. But he does question Gabriel's understanding of his own job. That's fine and is a reasonable attitude to take. Others have explained why Gabriel might have been duty bound to accept the cases in the first place but I, for one, am glad that the legal profession has many such individuals. Otherwise, who would defend the person accused of murder, who would look after the interests of the poor and homeless, and who would defend those accused of illegal file sharing? They all need lawyers.

      The object of your displeasure ought to be the legal system that allows the RIAA to use the tactics that they do (although I think we all sense that this is changing for the better), but not the lawyer who uses the system within the current rules to win his case. I would want any lawyer that I employed to try his hardest to win on my behalf - providing that he did not do something illegal by doing so. If your response is that people cannot afford to fight the big money then that, again, is the system that needs changing, not the fact that some people have more money than others. Change the system so that the poorest can get access to the best legal minds. Make sure that all evidence is collected legally, presented accurately, and judged fairly. That is what NYCL seems to be so good at doing.

      Of course we all feel dismayed when the system is gamed, and the RIAA do seem to have had some success at gaming it over recent years. But change the system - or find a better way of preventing illegal file sharing so that there is no need for the RIAA to have to go to court to try to protect their interests.

      Why do I have the feeling that some will misunderstand what I have written and they are bashing at their keyboards seconds after I have pressed the 'Submit' button.....?

      • take a look at NYCL's post earlier on. He doesn't 'hate' Gabriel for what he has done, in fact if I read it correctly he respects him as a fellow professional.
        Sorry friend. You did NOT "read it correctly". I do hate Mr. Gabriel for what he is done and I have ZERO respect for him as a "fellow professional". He is a "fellow professional" in name only. His concept of what a lawyer is, and mine, bear no resemblance. In my view, and that of many other of my "fellow professionals", he has been an embarrassment to our profession.

        I can't imagine what you were reading of mine that could have made you believe I felt otherwise. This [] what I said about him. What part of that do you think shows "respect"? Then when someone said I shouldn't attack Mr. Gabriel just because he was my adversary, I responded with this [], saying that the reason I hate him has nothing to do with his being an adversary or taking positions contrary to mine.
        • In which case I humbly apologise. I obviously misconstrued the following:

          Some of the best friends I have are people I met as spirited adversaries in contentious, lengthy, hard fought, litigations. If you think I have anything against Mr. Gabriel because he was "upholding the rule of law" or advancing "a legitimate gripe" or because he was on the "wrong" side of legal issues.... you don't know me at all.

          I am wrong and I apologise, and I also appear to have missed your earlier comment when looking at /. from a different computer. All my fault, and no other excuses to offer.

  • He's appointed to state court, not federal court. Copyright cases are in federal court.
    • I wonder if working as a State Judge will give him extra immunity from prosecution?
    • by reiisi ( 1211052 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:48PM (#23356832) Homepage
      Actually, I'm sitting here thinking how copyright has been part of the tide that helped turn the US Constitution upside down.

      Matters of individual and family welfare were supposed to be handled at the bottom level as much as possible. Somehow, the need to monitor the Kluless Klutz Klan and its ikl from above has been an inroad to stretching the normal lines of control. But people who see chances for personal "advantage" in those long lines of control are naturally going to push to extend them further, so it's only natural that matters of personal privacy end up getting handled under "federal" law now.

      So maybe there aren't any privacy concerns that will come up in state court, and this will be a good place to keep the guy where he can't do further damage.

      Somehow, I'm not optimistic.

      (Yes, I am of the opinion that the primary evil in giving IP a legal existence is that it finishes off the erosion of privacy. RMS's essays on the relationship seemed extreme when he wrote them, but the reality of the threat is becoming quite obvious now.)
  • Timing is everything (Score:5, Informative)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:40PM (#23356768)
    As one of my professors used to teach us, it's the smart rat that leaves before the ship sinks.
  • by Kingrames ( 858416 ) on Friday May 09, 2008 @07:48PM (#23356838)
    I KNEW IT!

    I totally knew they were pirates all along!
  • Mr. Gabriel has personally argued all of the RIAA's main cases, including Elektra v. Barker, Atlantic v. Howell, Atlantic v. Brennan, Capitol v. Foster, Atlantic v. Andersen, UMG v. Lindor, and London-Sire v. Doe 1, and personally tried the Capitol v. Thomas case
    And who personally wet himself at the battle of Badon Hill.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 09, 2008 @08:39PM (#23357234)

    The appointments are for a provisional term of two years, and then until the second Tuesday in January following the next general election. Thereafter, if retained by the voters, the term is for eight years.

    The voters of the state of Colorado will have the opportunity to boot Richard Gabriel from the bench in the 2010 general election. Should they fail to do so, their next shot will be in 2018.

    Colorado citizens now have two years to organize to unseat this particular justice should they find fault with the company he's kept and tactics he's used in his years of loyal service to the RIAA.

    Judicial retention elections are almost always ignored but there's ample time to prepare for this one.

    • A sound idea. But do you think the average voter cares? Hardly. People care about unemployment, about crime (the real kind, that affects them), about pollution, about education, about health service, about retirement, about drugs and about plumbing, and THEN, when all this is out of the way and settled, they may consider pondering asking you why this should in any way affect them.
      • by dlim ( 928138 )
        If the average voter doesn't care, are they likely to vote at all one way or another? Usually, I ignore that section because I don't know, don't care, or don't want to take the time to vote on the judges. (Judges don't run big campaigns) Maybe it's irresponsible, but if I have the option between making an uninformed decision and not making one at all, I'll usually choose the latter.

        I live in Colorado. I will be voting to remove him from the bench in 2010. I'll probably also tell everyone I know to do th
        • Maybe it's irresponsible, but if I have the option between making an uninformed decision and not making one at all, I'll usually choose the latter.

          It's not irresponsible at all, in fact, it's the most responsible course of action to take. If you don't have enough information to choose, don't choose!

          This is a huge problem in Australia, where citizens are FORCED to vote (you are fined if you don't). A VERY great number of people are totally apathetic about politics, and so simply pick the name they heard most recently in a positive light. These same people, if they weren't forced to vote, would stay at home on voting day and have a BBQ. Then, eve

          • You are not forced to vote in Australia. You're only required to show up (you can walk straight out after being marked off) or giving even a half-assed excuse afterwards. They don't even bother to chase the fine.

            Of course everyone I know was well-informed going in to the last election simply becuase of where the country was being lead.
            • That's probably true, but it's not what they tell people immigrating to Australia... they tell you that as an Australian citizen, you MUST vote. (I'm speaking from experience here - for some moronic reason, I decided to become an Australian citizen around 2002 or so. I don't even live there anymore now.)

              As for not chasing fines... well, they chased me pretty doggedly when I completely failed to notice a STATE election going on... I can imagine they'd chase a bit harder for a Federal one.

              Also, the last el

  • It suggests that he is fleeing a sinking ship, when really he's using the RIAA's crusade against rationality to catapult himself into judicial office. Woo.
  • I mean, here, if you consider a judge to be for some reason biased in your case, you can file a complaint and, if your complaint has merit (and being an ex-lawyer of the RIAA should be enough merit in a case involving copyright) you can request the judge to be replaced.

    Not possible in the US?
  • This sort of people always finds a good job to land into. Psychopats are extremely charismatic as well as capable of selling the most incredible lie as truth - take Christopher Rocancourt for example. These people leave a trail of destruction in the lives of the people they touch. In this case, the hundreds (thousands?) of people sued by this psychopat, who probably enjoyed in their misery.

    As a judge, he'll be able to cause even more misery. Be afraid.

  • This man of dubious character and questionable ethics is being promoted to Judge?! I'd rather he stay with the RIAA where there's still a possibility of sanctions. He'll do far more damage to hapless victims as Judge than any private litigator.

    Who is he friends with that got him this promotion? The Governor himself or was he recommended? And shouldn't we attempt to bring this mans ethics, judgment and morals to public light and try and stop this? This would be like promoting Jeffery Dalmer to head a
  • I was really hoping this was a more literal headline. Can we please get some better quality on the headline thing? Total letdown on my weekend.
  • and then morons in a state county make him a *JUDGE*???????? Wow, he either had no opponent (common for judge elections) or his opponent in the race should gut and roast their research team.

Loose bits sink chips.