Remember Kiwi Camara? He’s the legal Doogie Howser who graduated from Harvard Law School at the tender age of 19, reportedly making him the youngest graduate in the school’s history. But K.A.D. Camara, as he’s also known, may be best known for a youthful indiscretion: referring to African Americans as “nigs,” in a class outline that was posted to an HLS website. (For more background on the controversy, see here.)
Well, everyone’s favorite Flip — present company excluded — is back in the news. From p2pnet news (via Slashdot):
I’ve just spoken with a jubilant Jammie Thomas, the woman Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music’s RIAA tried to nail to the wall with a bill of almost a quarter of a million dollars.
She’s over the moon because only days after learning Brian Toder, her previous legal representative, had decided discretion was the better part of valour, leaving her fend for herself against the Big 4 music labels, another lawyer has come forward with an offer of pro bono help.
He’s K.A.D. Camara from Camara & Sibley in Houston, Texas, says Jammie. And, “He’s the youngest person in history to graduate from Harvard Law school with honors,” she points out.
Nor will her trial — or, rather, her retrial — be delayed, as was expected. It’ll now go forward on June 15, as slated. “I’m so happy!” Jammie said.
And so is Kiwi. We chatted over the phone with our fellow Filipino-American lawyer — about the Thomas case, how he plans to prepare for a trial less than a month away, and his new law firm, Camara & Sibley (which is hiring, by the way).
Read about our conversation, after the jump.
Here’s some background about the Jammie Thomas case, from Copyrights & Campaigns:
Camara has now thrust himself back in the national spotlight — this time as trial counsel to accused peer-to-peer infringer Jammie Thomas, who faces a June 15 re-trial in Duluth, Minnesota. (The record label plaintiffs won the first round in 2007, convincing a jury to award them $222,000 in statutory damages, only to have that verdict overturned when the judge decided one of his jury instructions was faulty.)
Today Thomas’ current counsel Brian Toder filed a motion to substitute out of the case and be replaced by Camara, now a partner at Houston’s Camara & Sibley, and Garrett Blanchfield of Reinhardt, Wendorf & Blanchfield of St. Paul. The motion indicates that Thomas will not request a continuance of the June 15 trial date….
It’s not clear to me whether either Camara or Blanchfield has previous copyright experience. Blanchfield’s firm specializes in plaintiffs’ class action work, and his own bio does not mention any copyright matters.
Camara may not be a copyright specialist per se — but specialization is not what his firm is about. In February of this year, he and partner Joe Sibley started Camara & Sibley, a Houston-based firm that will handle a wide range of litigation and corporate matters. Camara described the firm’s caseload as “commercial litigation, and commercial transactions with contested acquisitions.”
“We’re generalists who handle the most complex, unique, one-off matters,” explained Camara. “If you take a complex matter to a big firm, you’ll be routed to twenty different hyperspecialists. You’ll end up settling for partial advice — ‘Do this, but we haven’t considered this aspect’ — or you’ll end up paying huge fees, because you’re getting specialized advice from twenty different people who don’t work well as a team.”
Camara & Sibley’s model is different, according to Kiwi: “The idea here is that you get generalists who learn the intricacies of your one-off, unique case. You don’t want a hyperspecialist. You just want a good lawyer.”
But good lawyers are all over the place (and all over the street, thanks to rampant lawyer layoffs). Camara added that his firm takes cases earlier and pays attention to business as well as legal considerations: “We target people with business problems who want lawyers to help solve them. That has been good in this business climate, because companies are shopping around [for less expensive legal services].”
Okay, enough PR for KAD; let’s look at the Thomas case. We asked Camara how he got involved. He explained that the firm is litigating against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in three matters: the Thomas case, in Minnesota; the Brittany English case, in Ohio; and the Joel Tenenbaum case, in Massachusetts.
Camara’s colleague, Timothy Nyberg, read last week about Jammie Thomas’s prior counsel withdrawing from the case. Over the weekend, the firm reached out to Thomas, offering to represent her pro bono. She agreed, and the court granted a motion to substitute them in as counsel.
What is Camara’s theory of the Thomas case, as well as illegal download litigation more generally? Here’s what the firm had to say about the Brittany English case, from Copyrights & Campaigns:
Armed with the threat of $150,000 in statutory damages per illegal download (a $1.5M judgment in a small, 10-song case, where the actual damages are about $10, the price of 10 songs on iTunes), the recording industry has obtained more than $100M in settlements from individuals like Brittany. We are asking the courts to declare that statutory damages like these — 150,000:1 — are unconstitutional and that the RIAA’s campaign to extract settlements from individuals by the threat of such unconstitutional damages is itself unlawful, enjoin the RIAA’s unlawful campaign, and order the RIAA to return the $100M+ that it obtained as a result of its unlawful campaign.
The Jammie Thomas case was — and is — scheduled to go to trial on June 15. Camara & Sibley agreed not to seek a continuance when it entered the case. Having just joined the litigation, will the firm be ready by trial time?
Camara did not seem fazed. He cited the firm’s involvement in the English and Tenenbaum cases, whose issues substantially overlap with those raised in the Thomas case. “And we don’t sleep,” Camara added.
At the same time, he acknowledged, “it’s going to be an all-hands effort at the firm.” Camara & Sibley’s two summer associates — see, not everyone is killing their summer program — will be pitching in.
“If you’re a summer associate at a big firm, you might have a bowling party,” he said. “If you’re a summer associate here, you have a jury trial in Duluth.”
If this sounds exciting to you, take note: Camara and Sibley are hiring. They are especially interested in junior corporate lawyers, with one to four years of experience, to help build the transactional side of the firm. But they are also open to hiring exceptionally talented litigators. To learn more, check out their website.
If you’ve garnered some unwanted attention early in your legal career — e.g., for an ill-considered email, a la the Quinn associate, or the Stroock associate, or the granddaddy of them all, Jonas Blank — then the rise, and fall, and rise again of Kiwi Camara should be encouraging. It is possible to live down your misspent youth and find professional success after scandal. Good luck to Kiwi Camara and his colleagues as they gear up for trial.
Jammie Thomas has a new lawyer! [p2pnet news]
RIAA Victim Jammie Thomas Gets a New Lawyer [Slashdot]
Jammie Thomas gets new counsel; Kiwi Camara back in the spotlight; a Nesson connection? [Copyrights & Campaigns]
Camara & Sibley [firm website]
Kiwi Camara [Wikipedia]