Six minutes. That’s approximately how much time the Minnesota Supreme Court spent listening to oral arguments in a disciplinary proceeding against Paul Hansmeier on Monday. Hansmeier, you probably recall, is the Twin Cities attorney who redefined chutzpah a few years back as he raked in millions in settlements by threatening to sue internet subscribers for supposedly downloading adult films in violation of copyright law. The kicker: Hansmeier and his accomplices were the ones who uploaded the films to illicit file sharing sites in the first place.
One explanation for the brevity of Monday morning’s court hearing: Hansmeier was not present. That’s because he is incarcerated at the minimum security prison in Sandstone, where he is serving a 14-year sentence for his role as the mastermind of the audacious scheme. At sentencing last June, U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen also ordered Hansmeier to cough up $1.5 million in restitution to his victims.
Despite those severe sanctions, Hansmeier has not yet been stripped of his law license. That looks like it’s about to change.
In her presentation to the Supreme Court, Susan Humiston, director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, advocated for disbarment, as the court-appointed referee Jon Maturi recommended. While not disbarred, Hansmeier hasn’t been able to practice law since 2016, when he had his license indefinitely suspended, with no right to petition for reinstatement for four years, in connection with the aforementioned copyright trolling scheme.
The current disciplinary petition focuses on Hansmeier’s multiple “knowing misrepresentations” during a personal bankruptcy proceeding.
Humiston told the justices that Hansmeier did not file a brief contesting the referee’s findings.
Associate Justice Lillehaug asked Humiston what the appropriate discipline would be, without considering Hansmeier’s prior disciplinary record but taking into account his “lack of remorse and selfish motive.”
Based purely on Hansmeier’s lies to the bankruptcy court, Humiston said a year to a year and a half would be appropriate.
“In light of his prior history, the recommended sanction of disbarment is warranted,” she added.