Plaintiffs Seek Sanctions Against Alleged Poker Cheat Mike Postle10 months ago
The latest developments in the expanding legal saga centered on alleged poker cheat Mike Postle now include a new wrinkle: The alleged cheat is now formally accused of using an attorney, likely William F. Portanova, to craft at least one of his initial defense briefs in the case.
As a result, in a motion made on behalf of the case’s 88 alleged plaintiffs by their primary counsel, Maurice “Mac” VerStandig, the plaintiffs will seek formal sanctions against Postle in a hearing now slated for June 1, 2020. The motion proposes that an appropriate sanction is for the court hearing the case to either strike Postle’s initial filing -- which exists in both original and amended versions -- or to have Portanova, a Sacramento-based attorney, make an official appearance in the case within three days.
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Postle has claimed to be a pro se litigant, meaning he represents himself, while Portanova has claimed publicly to California media outlets to represent only Postle’s criminal-defense interests. However, in information first published by this writer, including here at PokerTube, Portanova’s fingerprints are all over Postle’s civil filings to date, belying Postle’s pro se claims.
Not only was Postle’s first defense filing actually submitted to the court by Portanova, the filing itself contains large swaths of text copied verbatim from another of Portanova’s cases, filed a few weeks earlier. Though the document itself displayed a high degree of legal professionalism, as VerStandig acknowledged, it still contained a couple of cut-and-paste errors that made it appear as though the other Portanova client, Owen Hughes, was actually Postle’s civil-defense attorney.
An amended defense filing submitted on Postle’s behalf in mid-April was sent in by Postle’s mother, who also lives in the Sacramento area. However, it retains much of the legal boilerplate that appears to have come from another Portanova case.
Observers throughout the poker world have noticed the incongruities in Postle’s defense. As famed Hendon Mob pro Barny Boatman tweeted:
As for why it’s important to find out if Postle has been using unauthorized legal help, it goes to the matter of what’s fair as all sides trade information and claims. Court systems generally frown upon such “ghostwriting” by attorneys on behalf of pro se clients.
“Sanctions should be imposed herein because Mr. Postle's utilization of one or more attorney ghostwriter(s) contravenes the rules of this Honorable Court, deprives all involved of the opportunity to meaningfully interact with counsel concerning the arguments being made, and runs afoul of governing case law. Ghostwriting serves to undermine the normative litigation process, disadvantages all other parties and their respective counsel, and evidences a flouting of pertinent law.”
VerStandig casts an extra bit of shade both Postle’s and Portanova’s way, writing that:
“While it is certainly common for pro se litigants to make legal arguments, and to use resources like Google Scholar to undertake legal research, their citations are rarely as precise as those of Mr. Postle. Similarly, their papers are not normally adorned with certificates of service signed by legal counsel.”
The motion for sanctions does not seek monetary sanctions, but instead begs for clarity as to whether Postle is self-representing or not. The filing does note that the distinction matters, including as to whether procedural delays -- which invariably occur in tangled legal matters -- are largely legitimate or instead a form of tardiness. Postle has previously been accused of dodging legal service following the initial filing of the $10 million case, which also names the parent company of Sacramento’s Stones Gambling Hall and Stones employee Justin Kuraitis as co-defendants.
VerStandig has also published an online page at his law firm’s site, Mbvesq.com, where he plans to post all important documents filed in the case.
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