Legal Ethics

Dole Gets Legal Fees as Calif. Judge Details Attorneys' Fraud on Court

Finding that United States and Nicaraguan counsel for plaintiff banana workers participated in a fraud on a California court, Judge Victoria Chaney today ordered that all defendants be reimbursed for their legal costs.

The as-yet-undetermined fees award to Dole Food Company, Inc. and Dow Chemical Co., among other defendants, comes at the conclusion of a 60-page set of findings of fact and conclusions of law that supplement an oral April 23 order dismissing the Los Angeles Superior Court case due to plaintiff-side misconduct. In today’s redacted order (PDF), Chaney describes a “a broader conspiracy that permeates all DBCP litigation arising from Nicaragua,” and involved not only lawyers from at least four firms but a Nicaraguan judge.

Contrary to sworn testimony in the case, “most of the plaintiffs never worked on Dole-affiilated banana farms,” and none were involved in applying the DBCP pesticide that allegedly made them sterile, Chaney writes.

In addition to these plaintiffs and attorneys Juan Dominguez and Antonio Hernandez Ordenana, the judge identifies other counsel in the U.S. and Nicaragua that she says were involved in a conspiracy to present false evidence. She also says an enforcement action concerning one of several fraudulently obtained foreign judgments “totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars” is currently pending before a federal court in the Southern District of Florida.

Chaney has recommended that federal prosecutors and the California state bar investigate Dominguez. Ordenana practices in Nicaragua.

As discussed in an earlier post, Dominguez has been seeking the judge’s recusal.

However, this effort is effectively moot, according to Chaney: She announced from the bench today that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed her to a state appellate court seat, which will require her to step down from the banana worker case, the Associated Press reports.

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