Lawyer Who Filed Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven” Suit Could Be Disbarred
Recently, Media, Pennsylvania-based attorney Francis Malofiy scored a small victory against Led Zeppelin in his “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism lawsuit when a Philadelphia federal judge denied the band’s motion to dismiss the case or transfer it to another jurisdiction. But if a disciplinary panel doesn’t decide in his favor, Malofiy could potentially be disbarred from Philadelphia’s federal court thanks to his actions in another copyright case, one he filed against music mogul Usher.
The Usher suit has been winding its way through the federal court system since back in 2011, when Malofiy, seen here in a publicity photo from his website, sued Usher and others on behalf of a no-name Philadelphia songwriter named Dan Marino, who claimed that he never received proper credit for the R&B star’s perfectly unmemorable 2004 song “Bad Girl.” Here is Usher performing the tune with Beyonce.
Earlier this year, the judge in the Usher case, Paul S. Diamond, ripped — and we do mean ripped — Malofiy for his unusual antics, the type of behavior that you might see from some $3,000-suit-wearing defense attorney on Law & Order and then later in the episode you learn that the lawyer was in the middle of a massive coke binge. (Not that we are in any way suggesting that Malofiy has any kind of substance abuse issues. He’s probably just zealous and easily excitable.)
In his 22-page memorandum, the judge accuses Malofiy of being “sexist” and “abusive” and describes his behavior as “flagrantly unprofessional and offensive,” noting that it was “difficult to convey the poisonous atmosphere created by Malofiy’s continual belligerence to opposing counsel.”
Amusingly, and demonstrating Malofiy’s flair for the dramatic (also well-evidenced in his complaint against Led Zeppelin, which he wrote using fonts inspired by Led Zeppelin albums) he also at one point channeled Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, declaring, “You can’t handle the truth.” And he titled one of his filings “Response in Opposition Re: Joint Motion for Sanctions by Moving Defendants Who are Cry Babies.”
In addition to his rude remarks, Malofiy has been accused of deceptively obtaining an affidavit, resulting in an order that he reimburse some defendants’ costs in the case to the tune of more than $25,000. Judge Diamond later ordered Malofiy to submit to interrogatories to determine whether he can pay up. Malofiy has insisted that he has the cash.
The judge also granted a summary judgment in the case in favor of Usher, and Malofiy has said he will appeal both the sanctions and the judgment.
All of this has culminated in disciplinary proceedings against Malofiy, and the matter has turned up in the federal courtroom of Judge John R. Padova, with Padova and two other federal judges tapped to make a final recommendation as to Malofiy’s future. Suspension or disbarment from Philadelphia’s federal court are among the options.
The documents in the disciplinary case have all been filed under seal — standard operating procedure in a disciplinary case, according to the federal court clerk’s office — but Padova’s staff confirms that the proceedings are ongoing. As recently as Wednesday, Malofiy filed a sealed document in that case.
Malofiy’s attorney, Sam Stratton, insists that his client won’t be disbarred but could face other discipline, and he contends that Diamond was wrong to issue the memorandum blasting Malofiy.
“I’ve known Fran a long time,” says Stratton. “He’s a very impressive young attorney, and he’s certainly dedicated to his clients. Yes, he’s got some rough edges here and there, but the legal profession could use a few more eccentrics.”
For Malofiy’s sake, we hope that the judges aren’t huge “Stairway to Heaven” fans.
Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on …
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.