In just a few years, New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz filed over a thousand copyright infringement lawsuits.
The vast majority of these cases were filed on behalf of photographers who accuse companies, including mainstream media outlets, of using their photos without permission.
When we first spotted this emerging trend in 2016, Liebowitz told us that he was helping independent photographers to protect their rights. All too often, companies would exploit their work without paying, he said.
Liebowitz’ Repeated Misconduct
While that argument still holds true in many cases, the attorney himself has trouble sticking to the rules too. In his relatively short career, courts have reprimanded and sanctioned him for various types of misconduct.
Last year, these missteps led to a severe sanction. After reviewing the lawyer’s track record, the Grievance Committee of the Southern District of New York decided to suspend Liebowitz until further order.
That order was just the start though. While Liebowitz continued to be active as a lawyer elsewhere at a lower frequency, his options have become limited as other courts took over the suspension order.
The Eastern District of New York was once of the first to issue a suspension order based on the Southern District’s findings, and federal courts in Tennessee, Colorado, and Illinois followed suit.
This week, the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court expanded the suspension even further. Reuters reports that, after reviewing the available evidence, the Court banned Liebowitz from practicing in the State of New York.
“Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that an immediate suspension is warranted. The respondent’s misconduct in litigation has at times endangered his clients’ prospects of recovery, and put his adversaries to needless expense,” the ruling reads.
The order specifically references the disrespect Liebowitz has shown in the Berger case, where the lawyer repeatedly misled the court while questioning the authority of District Court Judge Cathy Seibel. The lawyer also misrepresented his grandfather’s date of death in that case.
‘Recurrence is Likely’
The disbarred lawyer indicated that he has learned from his mistakes. However, the appellate court is not convinced and points out that he minimized his wrongdoing by framing it as “sloppiness” and “administrative failures.” As such, future missteps can’t be ruled out.
“The existing record from the Southern District supports its conclusion that, given respondent’s history of repeated disregard for court orders, recurrence of his misconduct is likely.
“We find that the respondent has engaged in conduct immediately threatening the public interest and his immediate suspension from the practice of law is warranted,” the appellate court adds.
The Court’s order, which is signed by five judges, suspends Liebowitz from practicing law in the State of New York, effective immediately.
Responding to the decision, Liebowitz’s attorney Michael Ross told Reuters that his client is “disappointed” that the Court took this measure before the case is fully heard by the Southern District of New York, where the suspension is being opposed.