Risk Update

Conflicts Considerations — Dentons Demands Do Over, Amazon Attorney Evades DQ, Judges Face Covid Conflict Calls

NYC Teachers Target Third Judge in Vaccine Case Over Drug Stocks” —

  • ” New York City teachers want a third federal judge off their pandemic vaccine case over potential stock ownership conflicts, this time for what they say are stakes in Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.”
  • “The teachers asked Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in the Southern District of New York to recuse herself from their challenge to the city’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for education workers after she was assigned to the case on Tuesday.”
  • “Two other judges at the Manhattan court were off the case after the teachers requested they recuse themselves for similar holdings.”
  • “The moves come as judicial stock holdings are under increased scrutiny. A Wall Street Journal report that found at least 131 judges heard cases in which they or a family member had a stock conflict prompted a new federal law requiring judicial financial disclosures be publicly accessible online.”

Amazon Atty Survives DQ Bid, But Court Questions Credibility” —

  • “A California federal judge on Monday declined to disqualify a senior in-house patent lawyer at Amazon from infringement litigation brought by MasterObjects Inc., though the judge did say that the attorney’s failure to bring up that he previously worked at a firm that represented MasterObjects “undermines” his credibility somewhat.”
  • “U.S. District Judge William Alsup refused to disqualify lawyer Scott Sanford or Amazon.com Inc.’s outside counsel at Hueston Hennigan LLP, both of whom MasterObjects had hoped to boot from the case. While Judge Alsup didn’t knock the potential for a conflict of interest, he said he couldn’t conclude that Sanford ever personally possessed MasterObjects’ material confidential information while working at Fliesler Meyer LLP.”
  • “That said, the judge noted that Sanford had told the court conflicting things about whether he was aware of a potential conflict of interest. In a February declaration, Sanford said he didn’t realize MasterObjects was a client of Fliesler Meyer until MasterObjects filed its disqualification bid. However, at his deposition, he testified multiple times that he had raised his connection with the firm to Hueston Hennigan.”
  • “After a break, Sanford walked back his testimony, which ‘does undermine attorney Sanford’s credibility somewhat,’ Judge Alsup said Monday.”
  • “Judge Alsup said Monday that a substantial relationship exists between the present litigation and the matters handled by Fliesler Meyer while Sanford worked there. It was during that time that the firm drafted and filed the application that eventually became a patent highly relevant to the litigation, he said. However, Sanford didn’t personally represent MasterObjects during his tenure at the firm, the judge said.”
  • “The big question here is whether Sanford ever received confidential information relevant to the present litigation during his Fliesler Meyer days, Judge Alsup said.”
  • “MasterObjects hasn’t turned up any documents connecting Sanford to the company, per the decision. And the size and structure of the firm doesn’t lead to the conclusion that Sanford would’ve received confidential information regarding MasterObjects while there, Judge Alsup said. Sanford has also said his background in mechanical engineering meant his practice focused on matters related to semiconductors, medical devices and other nonsoftware technologies, the judge added.”

Dentons claims $32 mln malpractice verdict unfairly opens door for plaintiffs” —

  • “Law firm Dentons US has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to scrap a former business client’s $32 million malpractice verdict that the global law firm said will pose ‘serious threats’ to the legal profession if it is allowed to stand.”
  • “Lawyers for Dentons on Friday filed their legal challenge in the state’s highest court, after an appeals court in April upheld the disqualification of the firm’s U.S. arm over its failure to disclose conflicts tied to its counterpart Dentons Canada.”
  • “Dentons contends the appeals court opened too wide a door for plaintiffs to sue over alleged malpractice and that ‘guardrails’ are needed for evidence and damages standards.”
  • “‘At stake is the fundamental nature of the relationship between attorney and client and the need to protect lawyers and law firms of all types against speculative claims for losses they did not cause,’ Yvette McGee Brown of Jones Day, a lawyer for Dentons, wrote in the filing.”
  • “Dentons uses a “Swiss verein” structure in which the firm treats its outposts in other countries as separate entities. Dentons has more than 12,000 lawyers in more than 80 countries.”
  • “In the ruling against Dentons, appellate judge Emanuella Groves said the firm’s structure, ‘with a common conflicts base, that shares client confidential information throughout the organization’ was ‘irreconcilable with Dentons US’ contention that it was separate from Dentons Canada.'”