Risk Update

Conflicts Fights — DeSantis Disney Judicial DQ Debate, Witness + Confidential Information Conflict Allegation

DeSantis asks that judge be disqualified from Disney’s free speech lawsuit” —

  • “Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking that a federal judge be disqualified from the First Amendment lawsuit filed by Disney against the Florida governor and his appointees, claiming the jurist’s prior statements in other cases have raised questions about his impartiality on the state’s efforts to take over Disney World’s governing body.”
  • “DeSantis’ motion said Walker referenced the ongoing dispute between his administration and Disney during hearings in two unrelated lawsuits before him dealing with free speech issues and fear of retaliation for violating new laws championed by DeSantis and Republican lawmakers. One of those was a First Amendment lawsuit filed by Florida professors that challenged a new law establishing a survey about ‘intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity’ on state campuses.”
  • “Walker, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama and is now chief judge of the district, tossed out that lawsuit on the grounds that the professors didn’t have standing to challenge the law championed by DeSantis and Florida lawmakers.”
  • “In the first case, Walker said, ‘What’s in the record, for example — is there anything in the record that says we are now going to take away Disney’s special status because they’re woke?'”
  • “In the second case, the judge said, ‘And then Disney is going to lose its status because—arguably, because they made a statement that run afoul—ran afoul of state policy of the controlling party,’ according to the DeSantis motion.”
  • “Disney filed the First Amendment lawsuit against the Florida governor and the DeSantis-appointed board last month in federal court in Tallahassee, and it landed in Walker’s court. The DeSantis-appointed board earlier this month sued Disney in state court in Orlando seeking to void the deals the company made with the previous board.”

Prosecutors Push To DQ Jones Walker In $1.2B Fraud Case” —

  • “Prosecutors said Friday that Jones Walker LLP cannot represent an asset manager charged with participating in a $1.2 billion scheme to embezzle money from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, arguing that the firm has shown it cannot be trusted to refrain from using confidential information gleaned during its previous representation of a witness.”
  • “In a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres, prosecutor Kurt Lunkenheimer told the court that ‘disqualification is really the only adequate remedy’ to ensure fairness, given that Jones Walker partner Edward Shohat — who now represents defendant Luis Fernando Vuteff — previously represented a person described as Witness 1 in the government’s investigation.”
  • “During his representation of Witness 1, Shohat was privy to confidential information in a joint defense agreement with Witness 2, now revealed as Alvaro Ledo Nass, who pled guilty earlier this year to taking $11.5 million in bribes.”
  • “‘I don’t see how backup counsel would be able to come in without talking to Mr. Shohat,’ he said. ‘The trial strategy has been tainted by Mr. Ledo Nass’ confidential information. We think the joint defense agreement confidential information has permeated the whole case.'”
  • “Lunkenheimer pointed out that there has been no waiver of conflict of interest by either Witness 1 or Ledo Nass.”
  • “Shohat told the court that he has not spoken with his former client in years and said Witness 1 and the joint defense agreement are irrelevant in this case.”
  • “‘What they’re asking you to do is disqualify us on speculation that somehow, someway Witness 1 will become relevant,’ Shohat said, pointing out that Witness 1 has filed an affidavit in this case saying he has no knowledge of it.”
  • “David Weinstein, who joined Jones Walker after Shohat’s representation of Witness 1, said this is not a direct conflict and that Ledo Nass’ testimony ‘is only a corner of the criminal case’ and does not even touch on the money laundering allegations.”