A Pennsylvania federal judge has ordered sanctions against the attorney preparing to sue Led Zeppelin for “Stairway to Heaven,” claiming that the lawyer behaved “in a flagrantly unprofessional and offensive manner” over the course of a different case. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Francis Malofiy recently attracted the judge’s consternation while bringing a lawsuit against Usher and 19 other defendants for copyright infringement.
Malofy represented a songwriter named Dan Marino, who claimed that he had created the basic melody, chord progressions and tempo for the Usher song “Bad Girl” while working with his former songwriting partners William Guice and Dante Barton, who were also named in the suit. According to Judge Paul Diamond’s sanctions memorandum, Malofiy misled Guice into believing that he was only a witness in the suit rather than a defendant, and persuaded Guice to sign an affidavit admitting to elements of the Plaintiff’s complaint without representation from a lawyer. “Malofiy’s discussions with Guice are the paradigm of bad faith and intentional misconduct,” Judge Diamond wrote, and later concluded, “Defendants have shown clearly and convincingly that Attorney Francis Malofiy has acted disgracefully: lying to an unsophisticated, impoverished, unrepresented Defendant, thus convincing that Defendant to expose himself (probably baselessly) to substantial liability.”
Moreover, the judge says that Malofiy made “sexist, abusive” remarks during the case, including telling the other lawyer, “Don’t be a girl about this.” He also reportedly declared that “Usher has $130 million … I’m going to take every penny of it,” and told someone else involved in the case, “You’re like a little kid with your little mouth.” As to the copyright infringement lawsuit, the judge did not find that Usher or his fellow defendants acted improperly.
In a press release, Malofiy objected to the judge’s conclusions and stated that he was “upfront and honest with Mr. Guice.”
In the meantime, Malofiy has claimed that Led Zeppelin stole the intro for their 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s 1968 track “Taurus.” Malofiy said that he will file a copyright infringement lawsuit and seek an injunction to block the release of the Led Zeppelin IV reissue, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The recent sanctions against Malofiy could distract from that pursuit, however. “Whether Malofiy should be removed from practice is a question properly answered in another forum,” Judge Diamond wrote.