Petition filed to disbar lawyer who sues copyrighted porn downloaders

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A Minneapolis lawyer notorious for suing people across the country for downloading Internet porn is facing suspension or disbarment following a petition from an ethics board.

The Star Tribune reports the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board filed a complaint against Paul Hansmeier last month, recommending discipline related to his "porn trolling" cases in which the suits he filed against individuals were characterized as "vexation litigation designed to coerce settlement."

More recently the 34-year-old University of Minnesota alum has been plying his trade filing "nuisance lawsuits" against small businesses across Minnesota – many of them in rural areas – for failing to provide adequate disability access as set out under federal law, the paper notes.

But the Pioneer Press notes he built his practice by buying the rights to certain pornographic content through several different companies, and then suing those who illegally downloaded their copyrighted material.

FOX 9 reports Hansmeier and his collaborators would plant links to the pornography on file sharing sites and then trace the IP addresses of those who downloaded it, threatening public exposure through litigation.

Hansmeier and his partners would make whole suits go away for settlements in the region $4,000, according to MPR News, with one California court referring to them as "attorneys with shattered law practices."

The complaint filed by the ethics board accuses Hansmeier of making false statements in court, failing to pay attorneys' fees, and launching frivolous litigation that "lacked a basis in fact," was "without merit," or was "for an improper purpose," MPR News notes.

Speaking to the Pioneer Press, Hansmeier said his first priority in response to the petition is to "make sure the process is fair and allow me to respond to the merits of the allegations."

"A lot of them are based on an order out of California," he said. "It's like dominos: You get one bad order and it affects every other case. At the same time, I want to be clear that I respect the board's decision to bring the complaint; I understand why they did it."

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