Risk Update

Conflicts Allegations — Judicial Edition

“‘Not a Close Question’: 5th Circuit Trump Pick Faced Recusal Bid in Voting Case” —

  • “Judge S. Kyle Duncan, appointed by former President Donald Trump to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, appears to have stepped aside Friday from hearing a dispute between Texas and voting rights lawyers over nearly $7 million in attorney fees in a major civil rights case.”
  • “In the case Veasey v. Abbott, lawyers for a number of state and national civil rights and voting rights organizations filed a motion just 24 hours earlier in which they called on Duncan, appointed to the bench in 2018, to recuse because of his prior participation in the case as a private lawyer at a law firm in Washington. The original litigation was a challenge to a Texas voter ID law.”
  • “‘This is not a close question,’ Ezra Rosenberg of Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote in the recusal motion. ‘Judge Duncan was a lawyer who advocated against [the plaintiffs] in this case. He cannot also be a judge in this case. Given the standard—requiring disqualification in close cases—disqualification is mandatory here.'”
  • “Lawyers for Texas on Friday had opposed the request that Duncan recuse, arguing essentially that Duncan was not presiding in the identical matter in which he had earlier participated. The dispute now is over legal fees, and not the merits of the voter ID law.”
  • “Besides citing the judicial recusal statute and the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges as reasons for recusal, Rosenberg wrote that Duncan, during his Senate confirmation hearing, had committed to recuse from any matter in which his former firm had submitted an amicus brief. The motion also stated that recusal was warranted to avoid the appearance of partiality.”

Ex-Littler Client Wants Substitute From Judge’s Old Firm” —

  • “After lies from a Littler Mendelson PC partner to an Alabama federal judge resulted in a five-figure sanction for the employment powerhouse and an Atlanta partner being scrubbed from the Littler website, the firm’s former client is seeking to substitute in a lawyer from the judge’s old law firm.”
  • “In a defense filing Wednesday, steel mill operator Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC asked U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Beaverstock of the Southern District of Alabama to let it to be represented by an attorney from Burr & Forman LLP after the court kicked out its former lead counsel, Littler partner Gavin S. Appleby.”
  • “The reason: Judge Beaverstock practiced at Burr & Forman, of Birmingham, Alabama, before being tapped for the bench and taking over the case three years ago.”
  • “Moreover, Outokumpu acquired a facility at issue in still-pending litigation from ThyssenKrupp Stainless USA LLC. Burr & Forman has also represented that company ‘extensively,’ according to a plaintiffs filing in 2018, as well as Outokumpu in various other litigation. And Judge Beaverstock himself was listed as a Burr & Forman counsel on two active cases for Outokumpu at the time he went on the bench, according to court filings.”
  • “At that time, the plaintiffs agreed that the judge’s work for Outokumpu and the company’s ongoing relationship with Burr & Forman did not represent a conflict of interest or necessitate Judge Beaverstock’s recusal. But following Appleby’s misconduct and the Thursday substitution bid, they changed their tune, saying that hiring the Burr firm ‘creates a very significant, and very obvious, issue about potential recusal’ for the judge.”
  • “In a revised position filed Thursday, plaintiffs’ counsel then softened that position, saying it would only object to the substitution if Judge Beaverstock decided on his own that his recusal ‘would be a consequence of that substitution… If there is no recusal, then plaintiffs do not oppose the substitution of counsel. Plaintiffs’ position reflects the substantial delay that would result from recusal and reassignment,’ the filing states.”
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