In the News Law360

Law360's Weekly Verdict: Legal Lions & Lambs

This week's legal lions were found in the Garden State, which became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriages, as well as in Texas, where legal teams won a significant Dodd-Frank Act decision and a big-ticket wireless patent case. Our legal lambs include a Reed Smith LLP lawyer who mis-Tweeted a U.S. Supreme Court blog, and some Bank of America counsel who got out-hustled in a DOJ toxic mortgage suit.

Legal Lions

Bells rang for lawyers repping a marriage equality advocacy group and same-sex couples in New Jersey this week. On Monday, the state withdrew its appeal in Garden State Equality v. Dow, following a ruling last month that struck down the state’s civil union law and a more recent refusal by the state Supreme Court to stay an order to effectuate same-sex marriages. In denying the stay, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner called the harm caused to gay couples by the civil union law "real, not abstract or speculative.” The plaintiffs are represented by Lawrence Lustberg, Portia Pedro and Benjamin Yaster of Gibbons PC and Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal.

A duo from Kirkland & Ellis LLP landed a notable dismissal for Siemens AG when a New York federal judge ruled that the Dodd-Frank Act's anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers don't cross U.S. borders. A former Siemens China Ltd. compliance officer had accused the company of a scheme to float inflated medical equipment bids and pay kickbacks to officials in China and North Korea, but the judge said the U.S. Congress had made “no indication” it meant for the anti-retaliation provision to apply overseas. Siemens is represented by Brant Bishop and Ragan Naresh of Kirkland & Ellis, and in-house lawyer Eric Liebeler. The plaintiff is represented by David Mair of Kaiser Saurborn & Mair PC.

Attorneys for ParkerVision Inc. didn’t land a sought-for $500 million damages award, but a Florida federal jury did decide on a respectable $173 million for the company in its circuit patent case against Qualcomm Inc. The verdict, which included a ruling that Qualcomm didn't infringe willfully, came after the same jury said in the first trial phase that four ParkerVision patents for radio frequency technologies were valid and that Qualcomm was infringing. ParkerVision is represented by teams from McKool Smith PC and Smith Hulsey & Busey. Qualcomm is represented by Timothy Teter and Stephen Neal of Cooley LLP, Keith Hummel and David Greenwald of Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP, and John DeVault III and Courtney Grimm of Bedell Dittmar Devault Pillans & Coxe PA.

In another high-profile patent case, counsel for Apple Inc. secured a jury verdict that the computer giant didn’t infringe wireless communication patents held by Wi-LAN Inc. After a weeklong trial, the jury also found Wi-LAN’s patent claims invalid and awarded the tech licensing company zero compensation in the suit, which initially sought $248 million. Apple is represented by Mark Scarsi, Jennifer Miremadi, Miguel Ruiz and Ashlee Lin of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP, Robert Appleby, Jeanne Heffernan and Akshay Deoras of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and Melissa Richards Smith of Gillam & Smith LLP. Wi-LAN is represented by Sam Baxter, Robert Cote and Laura Handley of McKool Smith PC.

The firm of the late John M. O'Quinn and attorney Russell T. Lloyd also had a good week in the Lone Star State, where they were cleared of a massive malpractice claim stemming from failed pollution cases against Chevron USA Inc. Following his decision clearing John M. O’Quinn & Associates of responsibility in the suit brought by Gulf Coast Asphalt Co. LLC, the judge declared a mistrial and dismissed jurors. Lloyd and O’Quinn are represented by David Louie, Donald McFall and Kenneth Breitbeil of McFall Breitbeil & Smith PC, Scott Link, and Constance Pfeiffer, Chad Flores and Gretchen Sween of Beck Redden LLP. Gulf Coast is represented by Donald Hudgins, Michael Hudgins and Steven Hudgins of The Hudgins Law Firm PC.

Our final legal lions are lawyers who won a Fourth Amendment victory for three brothers who were arrested after being tracked by law enforcement with a GPS device. In finding that such devices can’t be used without a warrant based on probable cause, the Third Circuit said the FBI had violated constitutional protections of the three robbery suspects, calling police actions “highly disconcerting” under the physical intrusion theory. Harry Katzin is represented by Thomas Dreyer. Michael Katzin is represented by William DeStefano of Stevens & Lee. Mark Katzin is represented by Rocco C. Cipparone Jr.

Legal Lambs

A year after the federal government sued Bank of America Corp. subsidiary Countrywide Financial Corp. for selling nearly 30,000 low-quality loans to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, a New York federal jury unanimously decided the company and former executive Rebecca Mairone had committed fraud by pushing through toxic loans in a program known informally at Countrywide as the “hustle.” The suit was the first the U.S. had brought over mortgages sold to the government-sponsored enterprises and packaged into securities. Bank of America is represented by Kannon Shanmugam, Brendan Sullivan Jr. and Enu Mainigi of Williams & Connolly LLP. Countrywide is represented by Richard Strassberg and William Harrington of Goodwin Procter LLP. Mairone is represented by Marc Mukasey, Michael Hefter, Marvin Lange, Ryan Philp and Seth Cohen of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP.

Attorneys from Fish & Richardson PC and Grimwood Law Firm PLC lost another big round for client W. L. Gore & Associates Inc. with a ruling finding the company willfully infringed a patent owned by C.R. Bard Inc., opening it up to $1 billion in damages. Following an appeals court ruling that Bard's blood vessel graft patent was valid and infringed, U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia sided with Bard on a remand decision, saying Gore’s “incautious and arguably reckless defenses were not objectively reasonable.” The ruling tacks $205 million onto an $854 million award not subject to the appeal. Gore is represented by Juanita Brooks, Roger Denning and Michael Florey of Fish & Richardson and Helen Perry Grimwood and N. Douglas Grimwood of the Grimwood Law Firm. Bard is represented by Steven Cherny of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Maximilian Grant of Latham & Watkins LLP, and Andrew Federhar of Fennemore Craig PC.

Lawyers for tobacco company Liggett Group LLC got smoked in a $110 million settlement deal that extinguishes nearly all outstanding product liability cases sparked by the Florida Supreme Court’s landmark Engle ruling. Under the terms of the pending deal, Liggett parent company Vector Group Ltd. will cough up a $61 million lump sum and exhale $49 million more over 15 years. In return, more than 4,900 individual plaintiffs are to snuff personal injury and wrongful death claims. Liggett was represented by Karen Haynes Curtis of Clarke Silverglate PA and Kelly Anne Luther of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP in its failed bid to have the Florida Supreme Court revisit the Engle class action.

Delaware's Chancery Court and its lawyers found little respect for secrecy in the Third Circuit, which ruled that the confidentiality of some proceedings violated the First Amendment's right of access to the courts. A majority of the three-judge panel upheld a district court decision last year to halt a program that allows Chancery Court judges to arbitrate business disputes of more than $1 million in private proceedings with little paper record. The Chancery Court and its judges are represented by Andrew Pincus of Mayer Brown LLP, Andre Bouchard, Joel Friedlander and Jeffrey Gorris of Bouchard Margules & Friedlander PA, and Professor Lawrence Hamermesh of Widener University School of Law. The plaintiff, Delaware Coalition for Open Government Inc., is represented by David Finger of Finger & Slanina LLC.

And finally, a Reed Smith LLP attorney in Pittsburgh found himself among the lambs when he engaged in a Twitter fight with SCOTUSblog, telling the popular high court bloggers to "Go f--- yourself and die" after they criticized his post saying there is "no such thing as greenhouse gas" — an apparent response to the high court deciding to review a case involving the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and greenhouse gas emissions. A Reed Smith representative described Steven Regan's exchange with the blog as “inconsistent” with the firm’s social media policy.