FORMER FRIENDS Alec Peters and Robert Meyer Burnett stood together defending Axanar in the landmark copyright infringement lawsuit brought by CBS and Paramount Pictures. Today, they’re bitter enemies. Image/Axanar Productions

MAY 30, 2019 | 3 MIN READ

Peters Claims Spurious Victory in Burnett Lawsuit

AxaFact Checker

Has Alec Peters really won his case against former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett? While Peters has made that claim, Georgia state law says something different. Here’s our analysis.

MOSTLY FALSE. AxaMonitor’s three-Mudds rating is for statements that may be technically correct but so taken out of context as to significantly mislead.

Alec Peters claims he’s won a default judgment in his lawsuit against former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett, in which his primary goal is getting the digital assets he needs to produce the Axanar short films.

Default Judgment

Even if Peters has obtained a default judgment, the case is far from resolved; it doesn’t mean he’s won the case.

Failure to respond

Peters says Robert Meyer Burnett failed to respond to his legal complaint, filed in Georgia state court, before the deadline, so he thinks he’s won.

FACT CHECK is an AxaMonitor series examining claims made with regard to Axanar, chiefly Alec Peters’ blog posts, interviews and public announcements. Read the series »

However, the Georgia court’s online database is undergoing extensive maintenance, so confirmation on the case’s status must wait for business hours. Meanwhile, it’s possible Peters has miscounted how many days Burnett had to file a response and is assuming he’s entitled to a default judgment.

But under Georgia law, Burnett’s lack of response does not immediately equal a default judgment. Peters’ attorney has to file for the judgment, and it has to be issued as a ruling by the judge. And even if he’s obtained a default judgment, the situation isn’t as cut-and-dried as Peters indicates in his blog.

Under Georgia law, Burnett is entitled 15 days after the default judgment was entered to re-open the case; the court is then required to hear Burnett’s case.

Alec Peters

Not Dead Yet

Burnett has plenty of grounds to reverse a default judgment and reopen the case, even if he does miss the 15-day window to get it heard automatically. Of the three possible grounds under Georgia law, Burnett may be able to claim two:

Robert Meyer Burnett
  1. Lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. This means the defendant subject to the judgment is not a resident of Georgia and has no significant ties to Georgia. This has been an issue with Peters’ suit from the start, and none of his court filings have demonstrated why a Georgia court would have jurisdiction over a California resident over actions that didn’t occur in Georgia.
  2. Lack of a valid claim. This option requires the defendant to show that plaintiff’s original pleadings did not actually state a valid claim under Georgia law and the defendant should not be liable.

Years to Vacate Judgment

Under Georgia law, once a defendant becomes aware of a default judgment, he must file a motion to vacate it within a reasonable time. “Reasonable time” apparently means three years. A court can vacate a judgment within three years from the original entry of judgment.

The Mudds
Learn more about AxaMonitor’s fact-checking system, the Harcourt Fenton Mudds.

Fact Check Rating

Peters’ blog is based on some accurate legal concepts — that Burnett has to have responded to the lawsuit by a certain deadline, and that if Burnett missed the deadline Peters is entitled to seek a default judgment, but that’s not the same as winning the lawsuit. By making that claim, he’s deliberately and significantly misleading the public, hence our three-Mudd rating, Mostly False.

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