I came across this article from October 2007 on Blogonaut. I was looking up Heller Ehrman because they were involved in an education case.
What surprises me about this article is that everyone acts surprised. This is exactly how Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz has behaved during litigation in which I was involved.
Is hiding evidence truly unusual, or is everyone just pretending to be shocked?
Federal Court Brings Written Charges of “Exceptional Misconduct” Against 14 Lawyers in California Qualcomm Suit, Heller Litigators Among Those Cited
A federal district court has ordered 14 California lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for their “exceptional misconduct” on behalf of Qualcomm in a lawsuit that the San Diego wireless company lost. All of the lawyers subject to the order were from the Cupertino law firm of Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder or the Heller Ehrman law firm's offices in Menlo Park and San Diego, the San Diego Tribune is reporting.
Five additional lawyers have been drawn into the proceedings since the order was issued, so the fate of 19 attorneys rests on the outcome of an October 12, 2007, 9:30 a.m. hearing before U.S. Magistrate Barbara Major, the newspaper reports.
“I do not recall any case in which so many individual attorneys have been ordered to come before a judge in this kind of situation,” said Kenneth J. Withers, director of judicial education at The Sedona Conference, a nonprofit law and policy institute told the news service.
“Something obviously went very, very wrong here,” said George Socha, a Minnesota legal consultant who agreed with Withers that the case is highly unusual”, the Tribune reported.
The sanctions proceeding arose from a case Qualcomm filed in 2005 against rival Broadcom, which alleged the Irvine chip-maker was infringing on two patents held by Qualcomm for video compression technology. The jury took just 6 hours to reject Qualcomm’s claims, and also made advisory findings that Qualcomm improperly withheld key information that could have weakened its patents from a standards-making body and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
To make matters worse, the existence of 21 e-mails requested by the defense in pretrial discovery did not come to light until the last day of testimony in the trial. Not good.
But it gets worse, because the 21 e-mails were inconsistent with facts that Qualcomm's lawyers presented in the case. This would possibly allow inferences that not only were the e-mails intentionally withheld, but that the case presented was less than honest. Indeed, San Diego federal Judge Rudi Brewster later described the alleged misconduct as “an organized program of litigation misconduct and concealment”, the Tribune reports.
Brewster, who presided over the patent trial, detailed the misconduct in an Aug. 6 ruling that waived Qualcomm's patents and ordered the San Diego wireless giant to pay Broadcom's attorney fees, currently estimated at $8.5 million.
Among other things, Brewster found that the Qualcomm engineers had “blatantly” lied while under oath. The judge also found that Qualcomm and its attorneys knowingly failed to produce more than 200,000 pages of e-mails, memoranda and other electronic evidence that directly contradicted the legal arguments made by Qualcomm before, during and after the trial.
Brewster referred the findings presented in his 54-page ruling to Major, who issued an order in August for the Qualcomm lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for “exceptional misconduct.”
In statements filed last week, the lawyers maintained that they acted in good faith and never sought to conceal evidence from Broadcom or mislead anyone in the case...
[From The San Diego Union Tribune and The Wall Street Journal]