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Litigator of the Week Runners-Up and Shout Outs

Kirkland partners Jeremy Fielding, Michael Kalis and Rebekah McEntire are recognized as runners-up for The American Lawyer Litigation Daily's "Litigators of the Week" contest for their work on behalf of client AMLI/BPMT Towne Square Partnership.

First up among our runners-up for Litigator of the Week this week are the lawyers who successfully turned back the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to force Marlboro maker Altria Group to sell its minority stake in e-cigarette company Juul Labs Inc., or JLI. In a decision issued last week and made public this week, Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell held that the FTC hadn’t shown Altria removed its own e-vapor products from the market because of any agreement with JLI or that the transaction had anticompetitive effects. The ruling follows a three-week trial last summer where Beth Wilkinson at Wilkinson Stekloff handled opening statements for Altria and examined multiple witnesses including the company’s current and former CEO and its general counsel, as well as both sides’ economic experts. Altria’s trial team also included James Rosenthal, Moira Penza and Ralia Polechronis at Wilkinson Stekloff, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz litigation co-chair Jonathan Moses, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer global antitrust group head Debbie Feinstein, partner Robert Katerberg and counsel Justin Hedge. JLI was represented by a team at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton including Dave Gelfand, Jeremy Calsyn, Matthew Bachrack, Linden Bernhardt and Jessica Hollis.

Also getting a runner-up nod this week are the lawyers for current and former members of the United States Women’s National Team at Winston & Strawn and Mayer Brown. They helped their clients reach a landmark settlement in their lawsuit seeking to equalize pay between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to pay an equal rate for all games going forward and to fork over $24 million — a $22 million lump-sum payment to the class, which includes 61 women, with an additional $2 million to fund post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer. The settlement comes just weeks before the Ninth Circuit was set to hear arguments on the players’ appeal of their summary judgment loss on equal pay claims — an appeal where they had amicus backing from the EEOC and players on the men’s team. The Winston & Strawn team was led by Jeffrey Kessler, the firm’s co-executive chairman, and Cardelle Spangler and included David Feher, Jeanifer Parsigian, Diana Hughes Leiden, Lev Tsukerman, Kerrie Edmondson, Scott Sherman and Drew Washington. The Mayer Brown team was led by Nicole Saharsky, the co-head of the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, and included Michael Scodro, Minh Nguyen-Dang and Carmen Longoria-Green.

Latham & Watkins partners Jamie Wine and Michele Johnson previously landed Litigator of the Week honors in May 2020 when a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed the plaintiffs’ equal pay claims on summary judgment, leaving standing only claims for discriminatory working conditions which were settled in the run-up to the appeal. Latham’s work on the appeal and settlement was headed up by Wine, partner Melissa Sherry, who was set to argue the appeal, and counsel Sarah Gragert.

Kirkland & Ellis partners Jeremy Fielding, Michael Kalis and Rebekah McEntire get a runner-up spot for winning a defense verdict in a trial where their client, AMLI/BPMT Towne Square Partnership, was accused of failing to disclose a latent defect in the stucco envelope of a Houston apartment complex it sold to Baron Real Properties Holdings in 2012 for $57 million. The plaintiff claimed the defect resulted in $20 million in costs after a 2015 flood and millions in interest on loans taken out to cover repairs. But a Harris County, Texas, jury last week unanimously found AMLI made available maintenance records that Baron alleged would have allowed it to discover the defect and awarded Kirkland’s client almost $6 million in attorneys fees under a prevailing party provision in the sales contract.

Shout out to a Latham team led by partners Andrew Gass and Gabriel Gross and associates Elana Nightingale Dawson, Carolyn Homer and Raymond Gans. In a case where their client Apple was facing copyright infringement claims from the maker of an app allowing people to send racially diverse emojis, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco granted their motion to dismiss last week finding Apple copied only the idea of diverse emojis, not the plaintiffs’ expression of it.

Shout out to Kecia Reynolds, the leader of the ITC Section 337 Investigations practice at Paul Hastings, who got two wins at the Commission last week. For Stanley Black & Decker, Reynolds and her team turned back an attempt by rival toolmaker Zircon to exclude certain of the company’s electronic stud finders, metal detectors, and electrical scanners from import. For Ikea, the team turned back an attempt by The Regents of the University of California to exclude certain filament light-emitting diodes and products made with them.

Here’s an additional shout out to the team representing Satco, one of Ikea’s codefendants in the LED case. The company had its long-time counsel at Greenberg Traurig including Scott Bornstein, Nicholas Brown, Brian Prew and Cyrus Frelinghuysen and Robert Lynn Jr. of Lynn Gartner Dunne.

Shout out to Julia Beskin, Nicholas Hoy and Deborah Brown of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. They won summary judgment for client Raymond Mirra in a roughly $250 million lawsuit brought by his former wife and business partner Gigi Jordan that’s been pending for the better part of a decade. When the pair split their business interests in 2008, the underlying agreement included a warranty in which both swore they listed all their shared assets. But, in the sole remaining claim in the case, Jordan alleged Mirra deliberately omitted key items and breached the warranty. U.S. District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh of the District of Delaware concluded this week that Jordan couldn’t establish liability for breach for the vast majority of items she complained of as being left off the list and couldn’t establish damages for any of them.

Reprinted with permission from the February 25, 2022 edition of The American Lawyer Litigation Daily. Further reproduction without permission is prohibitted.