Senior Judge Slams File-Sharing Law Firm, Orders Costs Payout

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Today, Judge Birss QC authorized UK law firm ACS:Law to be pursued for "wasted costs" in connection with their controversial attempts to squeeze cash settlements from alleged file-sharers. The judge slammed the firm, describing owner Andrew Crossley of engaging in improper conduct that has brought the legal profession into disrepute.

Following a ruling by a senior judge in the Patents County Court today, law firm ACS:Law and owner Andrew Crossley can indeed be pursued for so-called “wasted costs” relating to more than two dozen abandoned cases.

The decision follows the law firm’s campaign of threats against individuals accused of sharing movies, many of them pornographic, on BitTorrent networks.

Recipients of ACS:Law letters were told to pay cash settlements of around £500 or face being taken to court by Media C.A.T, a client of ACS:Law. While many resisted, thousands paid up. ACS:Law owner Andrew Crossley, Media C.A.T and other clients together collected around £1.5m in the scheme.

Always accused of not wanting to bring any cases to court, in the end ACS:Law was effectively forced to deal with 27 cases they had filed earlier with the Patents County Court in London. Few observers were surprised when they tried to abandon them all at the 11th hour.

However, the defendants and their lawyers had run up significant bills dealing with Crossley’s accusations. They called for ACS:Law and Media C.A.T to pay “wasted costs”, something that Judge Birss has been considering since the cases were dismissed last month and has ruled on today.

“I am quite satisfied to the standard necessary for this stage of a wasted costs application that Mr Crossley is responsible for the Basic Agreements [the licence agreements between Media CAT and original copyright holders] and has thereby acted in breach of the Solicitors Rule 2.04,” said Judge Birss, as reported by Ralli Solicitors, a law firm in court today representing some of the defendants.

“In my judgment the combination of Mr Crossley’s revenue sharing arrangements and his service of the Notices of Discontinuance serves to illustrate the dangers of such a revenue sharing arrangement and has, prima facie, brought the legal profession into disrepute. It may be better placed under the revenue sharing heading in this judgment but it is, prima facie, improper conduct in any event,” Birss added.

The language being used by Birss will undoubtedly damage Crossley’s prospects of continuing his career in the legal profession. Having your conduct described by a senior judge as both “chaotic and lamentable” and “amateurish and slipshod” is damning.

Both ACS:Law and Media C.A.T, who were previously accused by Judge Birss of doing everything they could “to avoid judicial scrutiny”, pulled their departing stunt at the end of January 2011, by quietly closing down both of their businesses.

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