Hollywood Docket: Lawyer Who Battled Led Zeppelin Says Judges Conspired to Suspend Him

Plus, Comcast won't get a refund on a tax payment, and studios can't dodge a patent suit over Blu-ray extras.
Ashley Cullins
Francis Malofiy

The attorney who led the charge in the copyright suit against Led Zeppelin wants the Supreme Court to take his case — but it's not the one against the iconic band.

Shortly after the rock band prevailed in the "Stairway to Heaven" trial, the plaintiff's attorney, Francis Malofiy, was suspended from practicing law for just over three months. The court found Malofiy violated "various rules of conduct" during a copyright infringement lawsuit over Usher's "Bad Girl" — including tricking unrepresented co-defendant William Guice into signing an affidavit without consulting a lawyer.

Malofiy says not only is he innocent but also the judges conspired to rule against him and held to that predetermined three-month suspension despite a special prosecutor's recommendation that a private reprimand was the appropriate penalty.

"At my disciplinary trial, the allegedly neutral judges who suspended me were caught on the court's own electronic recording system secretly agreeing to suspend me — before a single witness had taken the stand to testify," writes Malofiy in a statement. "In other words, my disciplinary trial was nothing more than a show, a meaningless 'kangaroo court' with a preordained conclusion."

Malofiy says his due process rights were violated and is asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to vacate his suspension and dismiss any discipline or, alternatively, impose only the private reprimand that had been recommended by the special prosecutor. (Read his full filing here.)

In October, Malofiy filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it has been distributed to the justices to consider whether they will give the case further review.

In other entertainment legal news:

— The major studios can't escape a patent claim on DVD and Blu-ray bonus content for films including Frozen and The Matrix. MonkeyMedia sued 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Disney and others in 2010, claiming the studios infringed on its patented viewing method in which an onscreen pop-up prompts someone watching digital content to view extras and will pause the main content if the user chooses to do so. A Texas federal judge largely denied the studios' motion for summary judgment, dismissing only a claim that DVDs infringe a "cue container" patent because MonkeyMedia has failed to identify a single infringing disc. A similar claim related to Blu-rays still stands. (Read the full decision here.) It's also worth noting that the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a case regarding where patent lawsuits should be filed to address concerns of jurisdiction shopping. The Eastern District of Texas is a hot spot for patent suits and is known to be a favored venue for patent trolls because of plaintiff-friendly case law. 

— Comcast isn't entitled to a refund of corporate franchise taxes assessed in connection with a failed merger in the late 1990s, according to a California appeals court. ComCon Production Services, a Comcast subsidiary, in 2012 filed an action for a more than $27 million refund from the California Franchise Tax Board for the 1998-99 tax years, alleging it should not have been taxed on income and apportionment factors for QVC, its then majority-owned subsidiary, or on a $1.5 billion termination fee from a failed merger with MediaOne Group. The trial court ruled in Comcast's favor on the QVC claim, but found in favor of the tax board on the merger termination fee. A three-judge California appellate panel on Wednesday affirmed the decision in its entirety. (Read the full unpublished opinion here.)

— Veteran attorney Jay Rakow is joining litigation boutique Miller Barondess as a partner in its media, entertainment and intellectual property group. Rakow is a former general counsel to MGM and Paramount Pictures and, most recently, was CEO of ProCon.org. "We are excited to continue the growth of Miller Barondess, LLP by adding Jay Rakow to our top-tier team of lawyers,” said Skip Miller in a statement announcing the hire. “Jay’s vast experience, not only in high-stakes litigation and entertainment deals, but as a public company General Counsel, CEO of a leading website, and advisor to prominent business leaders, will prove to be a great resource for our clients and colleagues.”

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