(CN) - Copyright holders cannot pursue 27 lawsuits against more than 3,500 unknown file-sharers until their attorney proves he is licensed to practice law in Florida, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle consolidated the 27 related cases and halted all proceedings pending a determination of Terik Hashmi's authority to represent them in the Northern District of Florida.
According to the Feb. 16 ruling, three defendants in one of the cases notified the court that the Transnational Law Group attorney lacked qualifications to practice law in Florida.
Attorneys may practice in a federal court if they are members in good standing of the bar in their home state.
Hashmi is licensed as an attorney in Ohio, but lives and practices law in Florida.
Hinkle ordered Hashmi to respond to the allegations by March 9. Until the court rules on his qualifications, Hashmi cannot take action in any of the 27 cases, including trying to reach settlements or collect settlement payments.
If the court concludes that Hashmi is indeed not qualified, Hinkle said he would likely dismiss the cases.
Hashmi is free to find new counsel to represent the plaintiffs, so long as he does not charge a fee for doing so, the order states.
Hashmi represents some of the top studios in the adult entertainment business, including Third Degree Films, Digital Sin, SBO Pictures and Patrick Collins Inc.
More than 250,000 BitTorrent users have been sued since 2009 for allegedly sharing copyrighted material online.
Hashmi did not return requests for comment.