- Federal Circuit court of appeals says government can’t deny trademark as “disparaging” just because it frowns on its expressive content, implications are favorable for Washington Redskins in their legal case [Eugene Volokh, Paul Alan Levy, In Re Simon Shiao Tam opinion, case won by past Overlawyered guestblogger Ron Coleman]
- Mentally ill man walks into San Diego county recorder’s office, submits properly filled-out deed transferring major sports stadium to his name, chaos ensues [San Diego Union Tribune]
- Lawsuit against prolific California class action firm includes details on how it allegedly recruits plaintiffs, shapes testimony [Daniel Fisher]
- New Jersey: “Man Sues Because Alimony Checks Were Mean To Him” [Elie Mystal/Above the Law, ABA Journal]
- Blustery Texan Joe Jamail, “greatest lawyer who ever lived” or not, was no stranger to Overlawyered coverage [Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly (“We only overpaid by a factor of five, and that felt like a win”), Daniel Fisher (city should have cut down beloved oak tree in road median because “it isn’t open season on drunks”)] Jamail’s best-known case gave me chance to write what still might be my all-time favorite headline, for a Richard Epstein article in what is now Cato’s (and was then AEI’s) Regulation magazine: “The Pirates of Pennzoil.”
- Hotel security camera footage may help decide whether Eloise tainted-sandwich tale will end up shelved as fiction [New York Post]
- Your War on Drugs: shopping at garden store, throwing loose tea in trash after brewing combine with police goofs to generate probable cause for SWAT raid on Kansas family’s home [Radley Balko] More: Orin Kerr.
The Houston Chronicle has more on Joe Jamail’s defeat of John O’Quinn in the expense-ethics battle earlier detailed in this space (Jul. 19, etc.). Several of the experts quoted seem at pains to minimize the seriousness of O’Quinn’s ethical lapse, but there’s a good quote at the end from Dallas legal-malpractice lawyer Randy Johnston: “When John O’Quinn goes up against Joe Jamail, I promise you, it isn’t all about the money.” Why? Because it’s about the ego too. (Mary Flood, “Legal trend of leveling suits against fellow litigators likened to cannibalism”, Houston Chronicle, Jul. 21)(via ShopFloor).
As we reported in April, trial lawyer John O’Quinn is subject to a potential contempt hearing for allegedly improperly withholding $18.9 million of settlement money from his breast implant clients. It turns out that this wasn’t the first mention of the scandal in Overlawyered. In August 1999, Walter reported:
As one of the wealthiest and most successful plaintiff’s lawyers ever, Houston’s John O’Quinn has been known to call press conferences at which he’s leveled charges highly damaging to his opponents’ reputations, accusing them (for example) of conspiring to “remain silent, conceal or suppress information” about problems with their products and operations. So what happened June 4 when O’Quinn was himself sued by a group of unhappy former breast-implant clients seeking class-action status against him? As Brenda Jeffreys reported in the June 14 Texas Lawyer, O’Quinn “didn’t hesitate before pummeling the class action lawyers with a libel suit” charging the lawyers with “encourag[ing] the news media to disseminate false, slanderous and libelous comments about Plaintiff” — said encouragement consisting of their press release about the lawsuit, and the press conference they were planning that would have explained it further.
Had the lawyers challenging O’Quinn succeeded in holding their press conference, interesting questions might have been aired. Their suit charges that a group of women numbering at least 2,000 were wrongfully overcharged tens of millions of dollars in claimed expenses, and that the firm of O’Quinn and Laminack breached its fiduciary duty to them; it sought a fee forfeiture totaling $580 million. But O’Quinn’s firm rushed to court to ask for a temporary restraining order to prevent the lawyers from holding a press event, and on June 7, while a judge was considering that motion, they agreed to a gag order and called off the conference they’d scheduled for that day. The whole process — from the first public notice of the suit to the gag order in hand — had taken only three days. “O’Quinn’s quick action may have prevented a firestorm of public attention to the class action suit,” writes the Texas Lawyer’s Jeffreys. It is not recorded whether any of the defendants O’Quinn has sued have ever tried, let alone succeeded in, such a tactic against him.
Here’s an entertaining wrinkle we haven’t reported: the case was sent to an arbitrator, because trial lawyer O’Quinn had required his clients to sign a binding arbitration agreement in the event of disputes! (The irony here is far greater than any Judge Bork personal injury suit.)
The Houston Chronicle reports that the three Houston attorneys on the arbitration panel determined in March that O’Quinn’s deduction was not authorized by his contracts with his clients, and that they are now deciding damages. The former clients, now represented by Joe Jamail, are asking for O’Quinn to completely disgorge all of his fees, a legitimate possibility under the Burrow v. Arce decision, which would be over half a billion dollars. Arbitration decisions are generally not appealable. It’s unclear what has happened to O’Quinn’s countersuit against his clients alleging libel. (Mary Flood, “O’Quinn’s law clients win round against him”, Houston Chronicle, Jun. 9 (h/t W.F.)).
Arbitration is generally quicker than litigation, but O’Quinn seems to have successfully stalled this case for over seven years, not to mention avoid any publicity from it. To date, we are the only media source that has even mentioned the contempt hearing.
It may not quite reach Jamail-esque depths — almost nothing can survive that far down other than those curious tube worms that live on volcanic sulfide fumes — but the lawyerly unpleasantness in the case of Redwood v. Dobson (PDF) was plenty bad enough, as recounted in Judge Easterbrook’s entertaining opinion. Discussion: Evan Schaeffer’s Illinois Trial Practice, Prof. Bainbridge, Legal Ethics Forum.
The notorious Joe Jamail/Edward Carstarphen deposition video (Apr. 8, Apr. 27) has been getting another round of attention thanks to new links from Andrew Sullivan and Dale Carpenter. Among a number of interesting reader comments at the latter site is this from John Steele (excerpt):
…For years now, I’ve been having my students do dramatic readings of both the famous Jamail depos. The reaction is usually a mixture of laughter and disgust. If anyone wants the two transcripts, shoot me an email….
A belated viewing of the now infamous deposition video (see Apr. 8) stirs memories for Prof. Bainbridge of a few highlights from the suave and distinguished career of zillionaire Houston litigator Joe “You could gag a maggot off a meat wagon” Jamail (Apr. 20). In comments, “Thief” of “Thief’s Den” points out that famously civility-challenged lawprof Brian Leiter holds the “Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law” at the University of Texas, Austin.
Dignity of the profession dept.: this YouTube video of the famed Texas lawyer and UT benefactor in action is making the rounds (warning: offensive everything). It’s discussed by BrainWidth, Froomkin, Childs, Hurt, Kirkendall, Caron, Metafilter, etc. One of those present
The man in the chair is named Edward Carstarphen. [note: a commenter says we erred in initially reporting that Carstarphen was the witness being deposed; see also David Stone, Apr. 11]. For more on Mr. Jamail’s record as a paladin of civility, see Apr. 19, 2000 (“gag a maggot off a meat wagon”). Update: link changed to working YouTube location, see Jan. 9, 2007.