After Sanctions Are Lifted, Qualcomm Lawyers React: This ‘Can Happen to Anybody’

Corrected: It’s been a tough 817 days for six outside lawyers for Qualcomm who were sanctioned for discovery violations in January 2008.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major lifted the sanctions in an April 2 order, saying there had been “an incredible breakdown in communication” but the lawyers had not made mistakes on purpose. Four of the lawyers spoke to a Recorder reporter in a videotaped interview about their ordeal, their careers and their reaction to the news.

Major had changed her mind after the lawyers were allowed to break attorney-client privilege to defend their actions. In their briefs, the lawyers blamed Qualcomm employees for misleading them and stonewalling, the Recorder (reg. req.) reports. In her ruling lifting sanctions, Major noted an “incredible lack of candor” by Qualcomm employees and said there was no bad faith by the lawyers.

Kevin Leung, a former lawyer at Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder, told the Recorder he was “ecstatic” when he heard that sanctions had been lifted. “It’s as if a cloud had lifted and I was shocked at how happy I was. I just couldn’t process how unhappy I had been until I heard the news.”

Another Day Casebeer lawyer, Chris Mammen, had a similar reaction. “Yesterday morning my wife said as I was getting the kids ready for school, she said, ‘It’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen you smile.’ ”

Leung was an associate and Mammen was a partner at Day Casebeer when they were assigned discovery responsibility for Qualcomm in a patent dispute with Broadcom. In January 2008, their work was faulted when Major sanctioned them along with four other outside Qualcomm lawyers for discovery violations. The judge said the company had withheld tens of thousands of e-mails, and the lawyers were at the very least willfully ignorant of the problems.

Leung, Mammen and two other lawyers, Lee Patch and Adam Bier, later left Day Casebeer “under strained circumstances” and never landed a job with a new firm, the Recorder says. Leung is doing patent prosecution work for a friend’s firm. Mammen teaches at Hastings College of Law and plans to teach a class on e-discovery. Patch is working as an independent consultant for intellectual property matters. And Bier does corporate work for start-ups.

Leung told the Recorder how the sanctions have changed his life. “Until this case I’d always been going through life pretty happy and successful, just kind of going from one goal to the next goal,” he said. “And it really derailed my path through life and kind of put me on ice.”

Patch told of worries about whether he would be able to support his 13-year-old twins. His sleep and focus suffered as he wondered whether he’d ever be able to restart his career. “I think the take-away is that this kind of thing can happen to anybody,” he told the Recorder.

Updated at 1:50 p.m. to correctly state that Mammen was a partner at Day Casebeer.

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