The Patel case in Georgia shows that perfectly. They Doe-sued in DC (in the court of former RIAA lawyer Beryll Howell) to get the info, then sent a demand to Patel here in GA. When he didn't pay up (or reply), they filed a case in Georgia. Then when he didn't respond, they filed for a default judgement which they got. However, within a week of filing for and getting the default judgement, Patel hired a lawyer, who then filed asking for consideration to litigate with a reason for the non-response. Since it was timely and courts prefer litigation over a default, it looked like the court would re-open the case. So Prenda dismissed the case before the judge could set aside the default.
If there's one thing that get's a judge's attention, it's a case where the plaintiff's are so eager, they push for a default judgement, but when they had it and might lose it, they'll actually dismiss the case rather than risk losing. It means they knew they had absolutely no case, and judges (especially Senior (and former Chief) Judge O'Kelley don't like that at all. (He also doesn't like the internet, but that's another story, and probably related to the fact he was appointed to this court by Nixon in 1970)
but that's why it's extortion. There's no good-faith effort to litigate to right a wrong. it's litigation purely for the purpose of identification, and to collect money from those who are apt to pay up, or who ignore it and hope it'll go away (and so get defaults). Demanding money with threats is extortion, because threats are all they have - they have no facts.
Also, if they were going to go for 'nutso judge', they would have to claim that in the appeal, they didn't (and in fact not a single mention was made of the references (which means I won the twitter pool). Finally, any 'nutso judge' claim would also have to look at the hearing transcripts, which do NOT have such references.
Finally, TV lies. Law and order is nothing like being in an actual court hearing (I've sat at the defense table for one of the other Prenda cases referenced in the hearing - Patel in Georgia). Just as CSI/NCIS is complete crap when it comes to forensics (although it seems the FBI is too) and tech in general (you don't want to know about an episode I was asked to consult on 10+years ago - it was so bad I turned it down because it would have killed my integrity and soul).
Other examples include a judge ordering a game of rock-scissors-paper on both counsels to decide where a deposition hearing would take place, it did its job of chastising the lawyers. And as someone who reads WAY too many legal briefs, the star trek order here was a refreshing break, as well as limited to the plain-language sections, leaving the legalese alone, for you, the purist.
Here's one three-line example:
"Third, though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage."
That's 5 references in 2 sentences.
Prenda also astonished the judges by welcoming the idea of a criminal contempt hearing, which Legal blog Popehat thinks is likely to happen, on top of the sanctions being sustained.