Risk Update

Ethical Screens and “Participation” — Law Firm Disqualification Motions Motivates Rule Review, Judge Removes Self in Amazon Matter

Judge removes himself from Amazon case after questions about financial conflict” —

  • “A judge removed himself from a case involving Amazon after questions about potential financial conflict arose.”
    “U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady removed himself from a 20-month civil case he had been overseeing between Amazon and two former employees after it was discovered his wife owned around $22,000 in Amazon stock, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.”
  • “O’Grady commented in a hearing that the ‘idea that I would steer this case in Amazon’s favor because I felt that my wife’s $22,000 investment in Amazon’s stock would be at risk if I didn’t is literally – is almost insane.'”
  • “…he would do so to remove any hint of impropriety. ‘However, perception of the fair administration of justice-both by the public and by the parties in the case-is of the highest importance to the Court,’ O’Grady wrote.”

Bid To DQ Firm In NJ Malpractice Suit Meets Skepticism” —

  • “A New Jersey state appellate panel on Tuesday challenged a woman’s argument that Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer PA should be barred from representing Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman LLC in her malpractice suit against Mazie Slater on the grounds that a retired jurist and current Wilentz Goldman attorney is a witness.”
  • ” During a remote hearing, the panel expressed skepticism over plaintiff Noemi Escobar’s bid to overturn a trial court ruling denying her motion to disqualify Wilentz Goldman over how ex-state Appellate Division Judge John E. Keefe is a witness after having served as a mediator in an underlying case where a $102 million child abuse judgment was thrown out on appeal.”
  • “The dispute centers on the meaning of the word ‘participation’ in New Jersey’s Rule of Professional Conduct 1.12(b). Under that provision, a firm in such a scenario would be barred unless ‘the disqualified lawyer is timely screened from any participation in the matter.'”
  • “Escobar’s attorney, Robert Solomon of Nagel Rice LLP, argued that the ‘any participation’ language extended to Keefe’s role as a witness and told the panel that Wilentz Goldman must be disqualified since Keefe cannot be screened from participating in the case.”
  • “One of the appellate judges, however, noted that all the RPCs deal with individuals’ activities as lawyers, and indicated that she didn’t see that the rule at issue encompassed serving as a witness.”
  • “In denying the motion, Superior Court Judge Keith E. Lynott in July found that the phrase ‘any participation’ meant taking part in a case as an attorney and not as a witness. Wilentz Goldman also has implemented adequate measures to screen Keefe from acting as a lawyer in the action, the judge said.”