Wife of controversial attorney now running his business

The wife of a controversial Twin Cities attorney is running her husband’s business under a new name, following his law license suspension.

Paul Hansmeier’s license was suspended last fall, after he became notorious in the legal world for a pornography copyright scheme.

Hansmeier was partner in a firm called Prenda Law that orchestrated a scheme where it placed pornographic videos on file sharing sites, then sent letters to people who downloaded them threatening lawsuits or public exposure. Most settled and Hansmeier reportedly made millions.

When the operation was shut down, Hansmeier set up a non-profit called the Disability Support Alliance. The group threatens to file lawsuits against businesses that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They often settle out of court for thousands of dollars.

While the practice is legal, it is frowned upon by many as a form of “legal extortion”.

Padraigin Browne, Hansmeier’s wife, started Browne Law LLC around the same time that her husband’s license was suspended. She is using the same plaintiffs and same strategy as her husband, without the Disability Alliance name.

In a statement to Fox 9, she said Hansmeier does work for her firm but in a non-lawyer capacity.

The Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) says with limited state funding and a small staff, they welcome the practice. However, while they didn’t want to name specific lawyers, they question whether some of them are in it for the right reasons.

“They give the American with Disabilities Act a bad name and they give the disability community a bad name. There are thousands of other individuals who just want access,” said David Fenley with MSCOD.

In a statement to Fox 9, Browne  said:

“Although the ADA was passed over 25 years ago, my clients still run into accessibility issues on a daily basis. Their goal is to be able to patronize businesses on a full and equal basis.  Violations which may seem insignificant to those who are not affected by them can, and often are, the difference between my clients' being able to access a business and being stuck on the outside looking in.”