MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An attorney who blindsided small businesses by suing them has been indefinitely suspended from practicing law for the way he handled past copyright cases. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a recommendation to discipline Paul Hansmeier. It found Hansmeier filed frivolous lawsuits and lied in court.
Business owners outraged by the legal maneuverings of Hansmeier applauded the action by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
"He's a perpetual victimizer of people who are innocent that didn't do anything wrong," Amy Roland, owner of Bulldog NE said.
Hansmeier first made waves in the Twin Cities when he filed a flurry of lawsuits on behalf of a group of people with disabilities, claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some were valid, but Rowland claims he was after a payday through a settlement.
"He said it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars if we didn't settle, in legal fees," Rowland said.
Rowland filed an ethics complaint in her case, but it's Hansmeier's prior lawsuits that resulted in his license being suspended. His former firm was part of a copyright trolling scheme that sued thousands of people for downloading online porn, and then settled for nominal amounts. Documents show he made millions.
Ted Sheu, an attorney for one of the victims in the trolling case, said Hansmeier caused significant harm by misusing the court system.
"When his scheme was discovered, he adamantly denied any wrongdoing and tried to cover his tracks, shutting down his law firm, opening others and moving money around. He was sanctioned, refused to pay the sanctions and was deceitful in attempts to collect the sanctions, going so far as to lie under oath, file for bankruptcy and even hide over $100,000 in a box in his closet to avoid collection," Sheu said. "He made threats he would sue me and my firm and even file an ethics complaint against me for trying to collect the sanctions judgments."
The court found Hansmeier committed misconduct.
"We take this very seriously, particularly lying to the court, the waste of judicial resources," Susan Humiston, Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility said.
Humiston's office filed the petition for disciplinary action and said Hansmeier disgraced the profession.
"When attorneys engage in frivolous litigation and they're not candid, they lie - that does reflect extremely poorly," Humiston said.
Hansmeier can't practice law for at least four years. That's when he can petition the court, through a rigorous process, to be resinstated.
"That would be another crime that he would be able to go and perpetuate this," Rowland said.
Hansmeier has 14 days to turn open cases over to other attorneys.
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