Monday, March 30, 2020

Lawyers behaving badly during crisis

Yesterday I posted a link to advice on how to behave responsibly during the crisis.  Today I bring you two examples of the opposite.

In two separate opinions, judges chastised lawyers for making unreasonable requests in litigation during the pandemic.

In the fist one, a company that creates life-like images of fantasy subjects such as elves and unicorns asked the court for an emergency hearing in a trademark infringement case.  In what has now come to be known as "the unicorn order," the judge denied the request, stating
Plaintiff recognizes that the community is in the midst of a “coronavirus pandemic.” . . . But Plaintiff argues that it will suffer an “irreparable injury” if this Court does not hold a hearing this week and immediately put a stop to the infringing unicorns and the knock-off elves. . . . 
. . . .  
Thirty minutes ago, this Court learned that Plaintiff filed yet another emergency motion.  They teed it up in front of the designated emergency judge, and thus consumed the attention of the Chief Judge. . . . The filing calls to mind the sage words of Elihu Root: “About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” See Hill v. Norfolk and Western Railway Co., 814 F.2d 1192, 1202 (7th Cir. 1987) (quoting 1 Jessup, Elihu Root 133 (1938)). 
The world is facing a real emergency. Plaintiff is not. The motion to reconsider the scheduling order is denied. 
You can read the full order here; and more details here and here.

Similarly, in another case the plaintiff unilaterally scheduled a deposition and defendants filed an emergency motion for a protective order.  The judge denied the order as follows:

The entire world is in the midst of a pandemic. Thousands of people worldwide have contracted the Corona virus and there have been hundreds of virus-caused deaths in the United States. Millions of Americans have been ordered to remain in their homes. Millions more have lost their jobs in the past two weeks. The stock market has taken a brutal beating in the last two to three weeks. Many people are scared. Others are panicked. Everyone is unsure about the future. Cruises have been canceled and all the major airlines have severely curtailed their flights.
We are living in an unprecedented situation.
Nevertheless, the lawyers in this case have been exchanging snippy emails over the past two weeks over the scheduling of a corporate representative deposition. Moreover, defense counsel certified that this routine discovery dust-up is so important that it merits “emergency” status.
No, it doesn’t.
Moving past the incorrect and, frankly, reckless designation of this dispute as an “emergency,” the Undersigned is shocked that counsel could not on their own resolve the issue. Given the health and economic crisis we are in, not postponing the deposition scheduled for next week is patently unreasonable.
If all the issues we are currently facing were to be organized on a ladder of importance, this deposition-scheduling dispute would not even reach the bottom rung of a 10-rung ladder.
For more on that story, go here.

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