Risk Update

Risk Roundup — Conflicts Waiver Revoked? Judge Stock Ownership Scuffle, Lawyer Conflict Disclosures & GDPR

Gov. Kate Brown’s Former Counsel Gets Bounced From Three High-Profile Cases Involving the Oregon State Hospital” —

  • “In October, the Oregon Department of Justice took an unusual step: It told a prominent lawyer he could not represent the state’s largest hospital systems in three interlocking cases at the heart of the state’s dysfunctional mental health system.”
  • “The lawyer, Misha Isaak, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP, has carved out a prominent practice since stepping down as Gov. Kate Brown’s general counsel in 2020.”
  • “In a frosty Oct. 20 letter, a senior DOJ lawyer withdrew earlier consent for Isaak to work on the cases. ‘We ask that you withdraw as counsel in these matters, due to the conflicts that are raised by your representation,’ wrote Sheila Potter, DOJ’s deputy chief trial counsel. Isaak says his role in the litigation is insignificant.”
  • “What happened? In the spring, documents show, Legacy asked Isaak for advice on how to deal with its patient crunch. Isaak asked Gov. Brown’s office to waive any potential conflict of interest regarding OHA. Isaak wanted Brown to consider whether he might have acquired knowledge while working for the state that could be used against it.”
  • “Brown granted the waiver. Isaak then sued the state in September on the hospitals’ behalf. The hospitals also sought to intervene in the Mink and Bowman cases. Having previously granted him a waiver, the state now objected.”

Supreme Court Won’t Revive $2.75B Judgment Over Judge’s Stock Ownership” —

  • “The Supreme Court of the United States has passed on a chance to weigh in on federal judges’ financial conflicts of interest.”
  • “The justices on Monday let stand a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that threw out a $2.75 billion judgment for patent infringement because the trial judge’s spouse owned $4,687.99 of stock in one of the parties.”
  • “U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan of the Eastern District of Virginia, now deceased, discovered the conflict near the end of the bench trial in Centripetal Networks v. Cisco Systems, and directed that the investment be placed in a blind trust. The Federal Circuit ruled that that did not cure the conflict.”
  • “Judicial conflicts of interests over stock ownership have taken on more salience since The Wall Street Journal published an in-depth look last year at more than 100 judges who ruled in cases where they held stock in a party.”

[Irish] Circuit Court: Conflict of interest disclosure by barrister did not breach GDPR” —

  • “The Circuit Court has dismissed an appeal from a decision by the Data Protection Commission that a verbal disclosure by a barrister regarding a conflict of interest did not breach their GDPR obligations. The appeal was taken by a former client of the barrister who claimed that the disclosure breached her data protection rights.”
  • “Delivering judgment in the appeal, His Honour Judge John O’Connor held that a verbal communication was not a communication for the purpose of GDPR and that the DPC was correct to determined that the disclosure by the barrister satisfied the legitimate interest test (Rigas Case (C13/16)).”
  • “The court held that the barrister made the disclosure on foot of professional obligations and any issue of acting in conflict of interest did not give rise to GDPR concerns.”
  • “Prior to acting in the case, the barrister engaged in a conflict of interest check. It was disclosed that they had acted for Ms Scott previously in an unrelated despite and that they no longer held papers in that case, having returned them to the instructing solicitor.”
  • “Ms Scott was unhappy that the barrister was acting against her and was not satisfied with the disclosure provided to the solicitors’ firm. As such, she lodged a complaint with the DPC. It was alleged that the barrister disclosed personal information to the firm without permission and that the information was gained through privilege.”
  • “The DPC determined that the disclosed information constituted personal data but held that the disclosure did not come within the material scope of the GDPR. It was held that data must be recorded in electronic or manual form to come within the scope of GDPR, but the communication in this case was verbal. As such, GDPR did not apply (David Scott v LGBT Foundation Ltd [2020] EWHC 483 applied).”
  • “Further, the DPC considered the issue of legitimate interests under Article 6(1) GDPR. It was submitted by the barrister that the legitimate interests exception applied because they were required to provide the information to comply with their professional obligations under the Code of Practice for Barristers. The barrister was under a duty to allow the instructing solicitors consider whether a conflict of interest arose.”