Risk Update

Judicial Disqualifications — Sanctions Spurs Concern & A Whirlpool Matter

Miami-Dade Judge Removed From 3 Cases After Sanctioning Bilzin Sumberg” —

  • “The Third District Court of Appeal has agreed to remove Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Beatrice Butchko from three cases over concerns from Miami firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod. Bilzin Sumberg raised concerns that some of the parties wouldn’t receive a fair trial, in light of a sanctions order against the firm in an unrelated case.”
  • “But in a separate case, Butchko wrote a 51-page order in September, sanctioning Bilzin Sumberg attorney Jose M. Ferrer and his firm for allegedly using confidential information obtained via secret phone recordings without their opponents’ knowledge. Bilzin Sumberg has denied any wrongdoing.”
  • “But according to the order, Ferrer and his team used the recordings to launch false and derogatory allegations against opposing counsel, Gunster shareholders Jonathan Kaskel and Angel Cortiñas. The ruling also implicated the firm’s general counsel, who is a witness in one of the cases at issue, according to Wednesday’s opinion.”
  • “That, Bilzin Sumberg argued, meant Butchko wouldn’t be an impartial arbiter in the other three cases in which the firm was involved… On appeal, the Third DCA had to decide whether those fears about an unfair trial were well-founded. And they were, according to the opinion, which consolidated all three cases.”
  • “The panel was careful to note that its ruling didn’t mean Butchko was biased, pointing to case law that said, ‘Such a fear rests in the mind of the litigant and if the attested facts supporting the suggestion are reasonably sufficient to create such a fear, it is not for the trial judge to say that it is not there.'”

All Minn. Federal Judges DQ’d From Whirlpool Defect Suit” —

  • “Minnesota’s chief federal judge on Monday recused himself and all other district and magistrate judges in the state from hearing a proposed class action over allegedly defective Whirlpool cooktops because a retired Minnesota federal judge filed the suit.”
  • “Rosenbaum filed suit Nov. 20, claiming that Whirlpool is well aware that its cooktops, sold under a number of its brands, pose a fire hazard… After the recall, Whirlpool told consumers to turn the cooktops off at the circuit breaker when not in use and to contact the company for replacements, Rosenbaum said… The retired judge said he has contacted Whirlpool multiple times since Sept. 6 to request a replacement, but the company has failed to provide a safe comparable cooktop.”
  • “His suit claims Whirlpool violated the state’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. Rosenbaum seeks to represent a nationwide class of consumers who bought the glass cooking surface, radiant and downdraft radiant models sold under the Whirlpool, KitchenAid and JennAir brands for household use, according to the suit.”