Motion for Sanctions

Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

In our last story about Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, we noted the acrimonious nature of the dispute: “The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.”

When we last checked in on the case, Marchuk’s lawyers announced their intent to seek sanctions against the defendants. The basis for that move: the defendants’ counterclaims against Marchuk, alleging that she defamed the defendants by creating or helping to create an anonymous Gmail account that was used to disseminate her lawsuit over email. Marchuk’s lawyers denied that their client emailed her complaint around and said that they would seek sanctions from the defendants for the “frivolous and abusive” counterclaims — which sought a whopping $15 million from Marchuk.

Until now, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher. But today brings word of a possible de-escalation in this hard-fought battle….

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Many discrimination cases brought against law firms end in quiet settlements. But I suspect that Alexandra Marchuk’s lawsuit against Faruqi & Faruqi and one of its top partners, Juan Monteverde, could go the distance and make it to trial.

Why? The case just seems so heated and so personal, and both parties are litigating it in a no-holds-barred style.

Consider the latest move in the case, a declaration of intent to seek sanctions….

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If you’ve been representing someone in a knock-down, drag-out, decade-long divorce action, with no end in sight, it’s understandable that you’d be a little pissed off. And while some attorneys prefer to write “not so sincere” letters calling opposing counsel “a**holes,” others find more creative ways to channel their anger for the sake of poetic justice.

And while poetry may be the best way to make passive-aggressive complaints about your case, the next time you’re considering writing a four-page, 60-line email riffing on a classic holiday poem, you might want to consider your audience. Some people might not be fans of your rhyme scheme….

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* LSAC might start auditing the LSAT scores and GPAs that law schools report to the ABA. Now, which agency is going to handle their too good to be true employment stats? [National Law Journal]

* Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s lawyer asked a judge to ban the word “bomb” from his trial. The judge denied it, because, well, he’s called the Underwear Bomber. Duh. [New York Daily News]

* “Don’t sanction me, bro!” Paul Ceglia’s lawyers are begging the court to pass on Gibson Dunn’s request for discovery sanctions after multiple delays. Like. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* In a continuing battle over the market for slutty children’s dolls, Quinn Emanuel may have scored a big one for Barbie with this tentative ruling to toss MGA’s antitrust suit. [Washington Post]

* Apparently it’s unprofessional to put your colleagues on blast for allegedly having “sexual torture chambers” in their basements. Who knew? [Chicago Tribune]

* It’s also unprofessional to slap a man in the face during a deposition. And to think, this came after a confrontation about the impropriety of finger-pointing. [The State]

ALL YOUR DOCS ARE BELONG TO US.

Litigators at large law firms spend an inordinate (and depressing) amount of time on discovery disputes. They bombard poor magistrate judges with motions to compel. They bicker over deposition timing and location. They compile massive privilege logs. They file letter briefs with the court, explaining their entitlement to certain documents that opposing counsel is withholding, without justification.

Partners who work on such matters often say to their associates, “Find me a case in which a judge sanctioned a party for failure to comply with discovery obligations — preferably a case in which the non-compliance is exactly what opposing counsel is doing here, and ideally featuring soaring rhetoric about the importance of following discovery rules.” The associate spends several hours on Westlaw or Lexis, then returns empty-handed; there was nothing quite on-point. There was certainly no soaring rhetoric.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Do you think successful lawyers give up the practice of law in order to keep dealing with discovery-related headaches, for a fraction of what they earned in the private sector? Of course not. Federal district judges prefer to write published opinions about Sexy Constitutional Issues, leaving their magistrates to oversee the discovery playpen. In the rare discovery-related cases that do go up on appeal, federal circuit judges affirm as quickly and summarily as possible, so they can get back to the fun stuff. [FN1]

If you’re a Biglaw litigator searching for a published opinion addressing discovery issues, well, today is your lucky day. Check out this great opinion, just handed down — not by a mere magistrate or district judge, but by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit….

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The alleged foot tapper

A pair of motions are bouncing around email inboxes this week, thanks to the “foot-tapping lawyer.” (This has nothing to do with Larry Craig, so read on without fear.)

It all started in July, when Florida law firm Rasco Klock sent a paralegal to Wilmington for a deposition. The firm is representing a plaintiff suing an insurance company, but one of their lead attorneys, Juan Carlos Antorcha, had to remain in Miami and conduct the deposition by video, with the paralegal handling the exhibits in person.

During the deposition of a witness for the defense, a strange noise caught the attention of the Perceptive Paralegal. After hearing clicking, he peeked beneath the table and saw a defense attorney’s foot tapping the foot of the deponent. He snapped a photo with his smartphone and sent it to Antorcha, who confronted the defense and halted the deposition. Rasco Klock then filed a very angry motion for sanctions, accusing the defense attorney of coaching the witness through foot tapping.

From the motion:

Before accusing a lawyer of acting in an unethical and unprofessional fashion, a fellow lawyer must think long and hard. Was the breach intentional? What were the circumstances? Was there any sense of contrition? Could the offending lawyer believe that his conduct had been appropriate?

The lawyer accused of foot-tapping is Brown Sims shareholder Kenneth Engerrand. On every single page of the 13-page motion for sanctions against him is the incriminating footsie photo…

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