Inspired Solo: Merl Ledford III

From Legal Pad comes this heartwarming – no, really! – story of Merl Ledford, a California solo who took on the litigious monster machine that is the Recording Industry Association of America – and, apparently, won.

What happened was this: Barry Merchant got one of those form bully letters – what Legal Pad calls “milk-money shakedown” to the tune of four grand – from the RIAA. But instead of rolling over and opening up his bank account for the greedy tune-merchants, our Mr. Merchant went to see Inspired Solo Merl Ledford. What did Mr. Ledford do?

Oh. My.

I’ll let it speak for itself in this snippets from the response he sent to RIAA’s lawyer on Mr. Merchant’s behalf:

Your client should carefully consider whether it has probable cause to proceed at this point. Mr. Merchant’s hard drive is available for immediate, carefully supervised inspection by your client; a carbon copy of the drive has been made by technicians to insure that the evidence is well backed-up.

At the time of inspection, we will expect your clients to be prepared to dismiss all claims with prejudice.

Your office has a duty of good faith independent factual investigation and legal research sufficient to support a finding of probable cause to sue.

… <here, Mr. Ledford cites substantial legal precedent on the issue of malicious prosecution and good faith investigation of the facts prior to filing complaints>

I know of no facts on which a good faith finding of probable cause by either your clients or your law firm could be based to support a claim for relief against Mr. Merchant.

Your client take the position that my middle-aged, conservative clients should speculate regarding the identity of persons your clients’ claim used their AOL account to download pornographic-lyric gangsta rap tracks as predicate to possible case resolution. In an age of Wintel-virus created bot-farms, spoofs, and easily cracked WEP encrypted wireless home networks (among other easy hacks), the only tech-savvy response to such a request is, “You’ve got to be kidding.” The extensive press that has been generated over computer security (and the insecurity of Windows XP and its predecessors) underscores the complete absence of facts on which probable cause to sue my clients could be established and your clients’ willingness (even insistence) that others be implicated in Big Music’s speculative, “driftnet” litigation tactics. Sorry: Mr. Merchant cannot and will not expose himself to still more litigation by speculating.

My clients are willing to accept dismissal of the litigation in exchange for

1. Payment of Mr. Merchant’s reasonable fees and costs including retainer of $6,880.25. …

2. Apology on your firm’s letterhead by your supervising partner for inappropriately filing and maintaining an action against Mr. Merchant without probable cause and for the emotional hardship that such litigation caused; and

3. Execution of a mutual general release of all claims in my office’s usual form. The RIAA form of release I have seen will not be used. …

Thank you for your continued professional courtesy. It is no fun becoming a litigation target as the result of your clients’ widely-discredited tactics. Although I have a client to represent, I will do everything I can to keep that aspect of the case at the lowest level possible. You have a hard-nosed client to represent too; and I completely respect that.

I especially compliment Mr. Ledford on that last paragraph. It’s all too easy to vilify opposing counsel. We can help our clients, and ourselves, by maintaining professional civility and courtesy, and by keeping in mind that all of us are simply representing our clients to the best of our ability, as Mr. Ledford demonstrates here.

Oh – the outcome? Voluntary dismissal.
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