Risk Update

Conflicts News — Amazon IP Conflict Prime for Protest, Judge (Blind) Trust, Judicial Conflicts Rules Review

[Judge] Alsup Calls Amazon In-House Atty’s LinkedIn Gap ‘Suspicious’” —

  • “Mulling a motion to disqualify Amazon’s counsel from litigation accusing the e-commerce giant of infringing MasterObjects Inc.’s search engine patents, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said Wednesday it ‘looks suspicious’ that an Amazon in-house lawyer omitted from his LinkedIn profile a two-year stint at a law firm that represented MasterObjects.”
  • “U.S. District Judge William Alsup didn’t issue a ruling Wednesday on MasterObjects’ bid to boot from the case both Amazon’s in-house lawyer and outside counsel at Hueston Hennigan LLP, taking the matter under submission. He did, however, deny Amazon’s request for sanctions against MasterObjects and its Hosie Rice LLP counsel for bringing the motion, saying he didn’t find it to be frivolous.”
  • “Wednesday’s arguments focused on Scott Sanford, a senior in-house patent lawyer at Amazon.com Inc. who is leading the company’s defense case. He worked from 2000 to 2002 for Fliesler Meyer LLP, a San Francisco firm that handled MasterObjects’ patent prosecution. Sanford was not present for Wednesday’s court proceedings.”
  • “In a declaration, Sanford said he doesn’t pay close attention to his LinkedIn resume and inadvertently left that off. However, his positions before and after his employment at Fliesler Meyer were on his LinkedIn resume, and that’s a red flag, said Diane Rice of Hosie Rice, a lawyer for MasterObjects.”
  • “MasterObjects also submitted a declaration from a lawyer, Karl Kenna, who worked with Sanford at Fliesler Meyer. Kenna said it was a very small law firm, with attorneys working in a small San Francisco office. ‘They were cheek to jowl,’ Rice said, ‘and courts understand that people who work in close quarters talk to each other about their work.'”
  • “While Sanford claims he didn’t do work for MasterObjects during his time at Fliesler Meyer, the lawyer had access to information about the client, Rice argued.”

Judge’s Blind Trust Didn’t Resolve Financial Conflict of Interest, Federal Circuit Strongly Hints” —

  • “The $1.9 billion bench verdict Centripetal Systems won against Cisco Systems Inc. in 2020 is going to be sent back for a do-over. That much was clear following arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Monday.”
  • “The question now will be how much needs to be redone due to U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan’s failure to divest or to recuse himself after finding out midtrial that his wife held $4,688 worth of Cisco stock. Monday’s argument provides a judicial test of an issue highlighted last fall by a series of Wall Street Journal articles about judges or their family members holding stock in companies that appear in the judges’ court.”
  • “Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel partner Paul Andre argued that the verdict should stand because Morgan hired a lawyer who immediately devised a blind trust once the judge learned about the holding. But Federal Circuit Judges Timothy Dyk, Richard Taranto and Tiffany Cunningham sounded convinced that the judicial disqualification laws require actual divestment of the financial interest.”
  • “Cisco argued that the judge’s financial interest in Cisco, however minor, mandated his recusal under 28 U.S.C. 455(b). Morgan ruled that Section 455(b) requires recusal only if a judge has actual knowledge of the financial interest.”

Congressional Democrats propose new rules on recusal, secrecy for U.S. judges” —

  • “Democrats in the U.S. Congress proposed a raft of new rules for the federal judiciary on Wednesday including a formal mechanism to remove judges from hearing cases in the event of a conflict of interest and another intended to reduce secret court filings.”
  • “The bill comes as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has faced calls by some Democrats to recuse himself from any cases involving the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, citing the activities of the justice’s wife Virginia Thomas, a conservative political activist. read more.”
  • “Under current practice, the nine Supreme Court justices individually decide whether to recuse themselves from a case because of a conflict of interest. Under the proposed legislation, the full Supreme Court would be required to review requests for recusal.”
  • “In addition, the legislation would require the Supreme Court to provide live video of its oral arguments on the internet as well as other ethics guidelines for judges. The Supreme Court has not allowed video of its arguments but began allowing live audio in 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued that practice.”