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Qwest vs. Yontef - Corporate Giant Targets the Single Mom. (Part 2)

April 17 , 2005
By Jim Parker

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Well, it looks like this massacre may be a whole lot more entertaining than we first thought.

As we left it, Qwest's battery of attorneys, led by Senior Attorney, Christine Payne Searls, supported by local counsel Jeffrey H. Greenberg of the Tucson law firm Leonard, Felker, Altfeld, Greenberg & Battaile and Kurt S. Lewis of the Denver law firm of Lewis, Meyers & Scheid, LLC had filed suit against "Ma-Bell" Michele Yontef, a self employed single mom in Tucson, claiming that her web site infringed upon their "Ma Bell" trade mark.

In furtherance of their efforts to beat Ma Bell Michele into submission, Qwest Attorney Kurt Lewis filed a Motion to Enforce Settlement Agreement [3]. In this Pleading, Attorney Lewis states that, through negotiations with Ma-Bell Michele's former attorney of record, Tony Chen, the parties had reached an agreement to settle the case.

Bearing in mind that Attorney Lewis is an Officer of the Court, and therefore a person of significant credibility, things weren't looking good for Ma-Bell Michele.

I have been talking to Michele on a regular basis since this situation began, and I can tell you that she has felt terribly overwhelmed by this whole experience. Several times, she has asked me, "How can they be doing and saying these things when they know they aren't the truth?" Ma-Bell Michele can be a little naive.

Unfortunately for Qwest, the tremendous outpouring of encouragement and support that Ma-Bell Michele received from her peers buoyed her spirits up and motivated her to "fight the good fight." For those who don't know her, Michele is a deeply religious person who genuinely believes that a little guy with a sling could fell Goliath with a stone if supported by righteous conviction.

Ma-Bell Michele lets fly with a rock!

I contacted Bill Branscum, a former federal agent who has custody of his four children and asked him what he thought about this case. After reading through the documents and researching the trade mark issues, Investigator Branscum had a great deal to say, and he said it in the form of a Declaration [5] which was filed with the court as an exhibit in support of Michele's Opposition to Motion To Enforce Settlement Agreement [4].

I think you will enjoy reading this Declaration. Investigator Branscum is not known for mincing words, but you will note that he didn't actually call Qwest liars . . . no, "disingenuous" was the word he used in pointing out that Qwest did not own the trademark or any other claim to "Ma-Bell." In fact, he pointed out that the "Ma-Bell" trademark had been issued to a number of non-Qwest related entities over the years and the best claim to the trademark is the current applicant on file with the US Patent and Trademark Office, none other than [ . . . drum roll . . . ] our very own Ma-Bell Michele.

I'll leave it to your imagination how that happened!

If that is not enough, Ma-Bell Michele has also offered into evidence the Declaration of Attorney Tony Chen [6] - the California Attorney that she went to for advice but could not afford to retain. You may recognize the name - Attorney Lewis, the Officer of the Court who represents Qwest represented to the Court that he and Attorney Chen had reached an agreement that should be binding upon Michele, and moved the Court to bind her accordingly.

In reviewing the Declaration of Attorney Chen, you will note that he didn't call anyone a "liar" per se, he simply said that ". . . since the parties could not agree on all the terms and conditions of the last draft of settlement agreement, no formal settlement agreement was ever executed by both parties."

In his Declaration, attorney Chen also makes it clear that the ". . . settlement negotiations were made with the understanding that they were not admissible as evidence against either party in any further proceedings."

Simply put, according to attorney Tony Chen, Qwest attorneys were attempting to use privileged, non-disclosable, settlement related negotiation information to their advantage.

Ouch!! . . . when an objective, third-party attorney who has no stake in the case, and no reason to lie, writes something like that, it has to hurt. Insofar as the "who to believe" issue, there is none -- we have obtained copies of the documents related to these settlement negotiations, including Qwest's own exhibit, and they are actually stamped with a notice that they are confidential.

By all appearances, Goliath is a dishonest dirty fighter who just got beaned with a stone. I'm thinking that Qwest better be careful because Michele is something of an Old Testament kind of girl and 1st Samuel is pretty clear that for his next trick, David cut off Goliath's big fat ugly head.

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We will continue to report Michele's progress as this case unfolds. If you would like to be notified when this article is updated, please email me, and I will add you to the list.

Your comments are greatly appreciated. If you wish to leave a comment for Ma-Bell Michele or read the existing comments, please use the buttons below:

Attachments included in this article:

  1. Michele's response to Qwest's original offer (PDF - 53kb)
  2. Qwest's Complaint filed with the District Court of Arizona (PDF - 485kb)
  3. Qwest's Motion to enforce nonexistent settlement agreement (PDF - 134kb)
  4. Michele's Opposition to Motion To Enforce Settlement Agreement (PDF - 164kb)
  5. Bill Branscum's Declaration (PDF - 65kb)
  6. Attorney Chen's Declaration (PDF - 25kb)
  7. "Confidential" settlement documents (PDF - 100kb)

All attachments are in PDF format, and require the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded free from the Adobe web site by clicking the button below. Attachments will open in a new window - simply close the attachment to return to this page.

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