Judge Covington takes the Bait
In my previous post, I discussed the Bait Productions consolidation in the Middle District of Florida, where 25 cases were consolidated into one. Additionally, a Report and Recommendation to sever, written by Judge Baker, was taken into consideration by the court.
There’s been some noteworthy activity in the lead case, Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-36, No. 8:12-cv-2464.
It would have been a bad thing for the Plaintiff (the trolls!) if Judge Baker’s Report and Recommendation was adopted, as the trolls would be left with only a single Doe defendant in each case! That is exactly what happened. On January 17:
ORDER: The Report and Recommendation is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in part. All claims except those asserted against Doe 1 are SEVERED and DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Bait Productions may re-file separate actions against as many of the Doe Defendants as Bait Productions wishes to pursue, with a new filing fee to be paid as to each Defendant, WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS ORDER.
Good news, right? The defendants have been severed! In addition, any future cases are to be consolidated as well! This was part of the same order:
With the exception of cases 8:12-cv-02465-JSM-TGW and 8:12-cv-02468-JSM-MAP, all Bait Productions cases in the Middle District of Florida (pending and future) shall be assigned to the undersigned District Judge with the Honorable Mark A. Pizzo to be assigned as Magistrate Judge. Signed by Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington on 1/17/2013.
Following the Judge’s order, a status conference was held on January 24. These are the court notes from the conference:
The Court notes there are 45 Bait cases currently filed in the Middle District of Florida (see list attached):
Thirty-seven cases have been assigned to Judge Covington; seven cases have been assigned to Judge Moody; and one case has been assigned to Judge Kovachevich. Currently there has not been any appearance made by any defendants in any of the cases assigned to Judge Covington. Mr. Fee explains to the Court the nature of the cases. Since Judge Baker’s Order, Plaintiff has filed an additional 20 cases against specifically named defendants. Mr. Fee anticipates that Plaintiff will file an additional 50 cases. Mr. Fee anticipates filing discovery as to two of the 20 Doe cases previously identified, as well as the cases still yet to be severed. Approximately 70-75% of the Does are still unidentified, and 3 to 4 of the larger internet service providers are involved. The Court discussed the issue of whether the assignment of all of the Bait cases to one district judge and one magistrate judge was the correct procedure.
I really wish I have a recording or transcript of that hearing. Attorney Richard Fee apparently argued well, because the very next day, the prior order adopting Judge Baker’s Report and Recommendation was VACATED!
ORDER. The Court’s January 17, 2013, Order adopting the Report and Recommendation is VACATED. The Clerk’s Office is directed to reassign all cases on the list attached as Exhibit A to their original District Judge and Magistrate Judge.
That’s not all, though. The Report and Recommendation was again adopted, in part, and the Doe defendants remain severed! However, this time, the court decided that consolidation was not the right way to proceed. Each case is going back to its original pair of Judges, and future cases will not be consolidated! It had appeared that Bait might be done in this district, having encountered a non-troll friendly judge. Apparently, that’s not the case. This paves the way for Bait to file more suits in the Middle District of Florida, and that’s EXACTLY what they’ve done. Yesterday, they filed four suits that appear to have single Doe defendants:
- Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Doe 33, 8:13-cv-00369-MSS-TBM
- Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Doe 24, 6:13-cv-00222-CEH-TBS
- Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Doe 12, 6:13-cv-00221-JA-DAB
- Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Doe 24, 6:13-cv-00220-RBD-TBS
Judge Covington took the Bait, and Bait will continue to troll.