Risk Update

Conflicts & DQs in the News (High Profile Edition)

Don’t Do Me Like That: Sheppard Mullin and Venable Litigators Clash in Tom Petty Estate Battle” —

  • “Remember the nasty fight between Tom Petty’s widow and daughters over control of his estate? It just got nastier—and now the mud is splattering the lawyers, too.”
  • “In a 335-page filing on Wednesday afternoon, the late singer’s widow, Dana York Petty, and her lawyers from Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton accused Venable, which represents Petty’s daughters from his first marriage, of having a conflict of interest. Not only that, Dana York Petty asserted the right to fire Venable and demanded that the firm hand over its files.”
  • “One thing is clear: There’s no lost love between Sheppard Mullin’s Adam Streisand, who represents the widow, and Venable’s Alex Weingarten, who represents the daughters. They’ve tangled before. Streisand, for example, represented Alan Thicke’s widow Tanya Callau when she was sued by the late actor’s two sons, represented by Weingarten. In 2017, a Los Angeles judge tossed the suit—a win for Streisand.”
  • “So is this an actual conflict? It’s hard to say based on the information available. Certainly, you can’t disqualify potential opponents just by cold-calling one of their partners under the pretense of teaming up as co-counsel. If so, an enterprising lawyer could use the strategy to knock out dozens of top-tier adversaries. (Hello? Is this David Boies?)”
  • “But there’s a point where a line gets crossed. The key questions here are likely to be whether confidential information was disclosed and whether there was any agreement—written or verbal—to work together.”
  • “Another interesting wrinkle: Weingarten doesn’t just represent the daughters in probate matters. He also represents Petty Unlimited, the initial business entity created by Dana to hold Tom’s artistic property—the one she and her step-daughters are fighting over, in the civil suit.”

Some (Tentative) Good News For Alan Dershowitz… And Some More Bad News” —

  • “It took awhile, but Professor Alan Dershowitz has finally gotten some good news, however tentative, in the looming defamation case brought against him by a sex trafficking victim of Dershowitz’s buddy and former client Jeffrey Epstein. To recap, a few of Epstein’s underaged victims claim that Epstein directed them to have sex with Dershowitz. Dershowitz strenuously denies the claim and goes on television demanding that his accusers take him to court if they really believe these claims. So one of his accusers has taken him to court.”
  • “Dershowitz kicked off the proceedings by immediately moving to have Boies Schiller, the pro bono attorneys for the now-adult woman, disqualified. This move took her attorneys aback since the filing violated all manner of Judge Preska’s individual rules and was promptly struck from the docket.”
  • “Upon hearing from Boies Schiller, Judge Preska has determined that a pre-motion conference would be a waste of her time given the clearly unresolvable conflict and asked the parties to set up a briefing schedule.”

Michael Flynn situation comes into focus with ex-lobbying partner case” —

  • “President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn ‘certainly’ will testify against his ex-lobbying partner Bijan Kian at a trial this summer, a Virginia-based federal prosecutor said in court Thursday.”
  • “The assertion comes amid a week of turmoil for Flynn, after he fired the lawyers who advised him on foreign lobbying issues and helped him cut a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. He hired a bevy of new attorneys this week. Two came to the federal court hearing in Northern Virginia on Thursday to watch the arguments about Kian’s case — which often turned to discussion of Flynn. Speculation has mounted this week over whether Flynn will continue to help prosecutors, given one of his new attorney’s criticisms of the Mueller investigation and willingness to share conspiracies about the Justice Department.”
  • “Kian’s attorneys said Thursday that Covington mistepped by continuing to advise both Flynn and his lobbying group after December 1, 2017, when Flynn pleaded guilty in the Mueller investigation and agreed to cooperate with that and other investigations, like the one into Kian. The firm should have ended its representation of the Flynn Intel Group then, instead of helping both Flynn and the company determine when they could share information with prosecutors.”
  • “Kian’s attorney Mark MacDougall called it a ‘textbook conflict of interest’ when Covington continued to represent both Flynn and the lobbying group. The firm shouldn’t have been able to counsel Flynn on sharing details about Covington’s work for the Flynn Intel Group with prosecutors, MacDougall said.”
  • “At least one attorney from Covington may be called to testify at the Kian trial, if the judge allows it, a prosecutor said Thursday. Covington has declined to comment on the situation and the firm’s representation of Flynn. Prosecutors say the firm lawyers did nothing wrong. It’s likely that Kian’s team could try to attack both the law firm’s work and undermine Flynn’s credibility before the jury.”