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September 2, 2014

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Righthaven ‘hopeful’ about reaching resolution with disabled blogger

Las Vegas copyright enforcement company Righthaven LLC said Monday it's been in "substantive confidential settlement negotiations" with the attorney for North Carolina lawsuit defendant Brian D. Hill.

Hill's case has attracted attention in Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia because of his assertions he's a hobby blogger and can't afford to fight Righthaven or pay its $6,000 settlement demand because of his disabilities including diabetes, hyperactive attention disorder and mild autism.

Righthaven, which sued Hill over a Denver Post TSA pat-down photo that was posted on his website, told U.S. District Judge John L. Kane in Denver in a status report Monday it's "hopeful" a resolution can be reached.

But Hill's attorney is indicating a dispute has already erupted between he and Righthaven's counsel.

Attorney David Kerr in Fort Collins, Colo., is representing Hill on a "pro bono" or free basis as a public service and made his first appearance in the case Friday.

Kerr filed a motion Monday with Kane asking for a chance to amend the response that Hill filed to the lawsuit in the form of a letter. That letter was received by the court Feb. 22, and was sent before Hill obtained an attorney.

Kerr said Righthaven's counsel has refused to consent to giving Kerr time to file an amended answer.

"Opposing counsel for plaintiff has indicated verbally to the undersigned that it considers the letter as the defendant’s answer, however, issues remain nonetheless," Kerr wrote in Monday's filing.

"As the defendant’s letter explains, defendant Hill apparently has a mental disorder that may, among other aspects, impact his legal status. Additionally, in spite of its heading, the defendant’s pro se (without a lawyer) letter does not reply to each allegation in the complaint and does not raise all desired defenses.

"The defendant’s pro se filing is not adequate as a responsive pleading and its status as an answer is uncertain. This motion is filed to facilitate the filing of a more formal answer, to permit a response to all allegations if appropriate, to allow the raising of certain defenses and to permit any other response issues to be raised," Kerr's filing said.

Given Kane's record of expressing concern that litigants are properly represented in court, look for him to allow Kerr time to file an amended response -- unless Righthaven comes up with a settlement offer that Hill can't refuse.

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Separately, Righthaven may be facing a legal headache over another of its suits over the Denver Post TSA photo -- this one against Pajamas Media Inc., which Righthaven identified as the registrant of the website pajamasmedia.com; and Bryan Preston, identified as its Austin editor, a columnist and contributor.

Denver attorneys Marc Flink and Raj Chohan of the law firm Baker & Hostetler LP, representing Pajamas Media Inc., said in a court filing Monday that Pajamas Media Inc. was wrongly sued as it is a suspended California corporation that is not operating, has no assets and has no connection to the Pajamas Media website pajamasmedia.com.

They said pajamasmedia.com is owned by OSM Media LLC, a Delaware company doing business as Pajamas Media.

Righthaven has not yet responded to these assertions.

The Denver attorneys said they had tried since Feb. 22 to get Righthaven attorneys on the phone to straighten out the apparent case of mistaken identity, but Righthaven didn't respond to their phone messages of Feb. 22 and of Friday -- forcing them to file a motion Monday seeking an extension of time to respond to the lawsuit.

But Righthaven attorneys Shawn Mangano and Steven Ganim in Las Vegas filed a status report in the case Monday saying they'd sent Pajamas Media Inc. a letter asking Pajamas Media to give the Righthaven attorneys a call.

"As of today’s date, neither defendant(s), nor counsel of record for defendant(s), have formally responded to Righthaven’s meet and confer correspondence," the Las Vegas attorneys said in their filing.

At some point, it's likely these attorneys will actually connect on the phone.

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