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Legal Ethics

Judge Finds No Bad Faith by Qualcomm Lawyers, Lifts Discovery Sanctions

Posted Apr 7, 2010 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal magistrate has lifted discovery sanctions against six outside lawyers for Qualcomm, finding insufficient evidence of bad faith.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major made the finding after the lawyers were allowed to break attorney-client privilege to defend their actions, the Recorder reports. In an April 2 order (PDF posted by the Recorder), Major said there had been "an incredible breakdown in communication" but lawyers had not made mistakes on purpose.

In 2008 Major had sanctioned the lawyers and ordered Qualcomm to pay its opponent’s legal fees of $8.5 million. She had ruled after finding that the company had withheld tens of thousands of e-mails in litigation.

The lawyers originally sanctioned included five attorneys from Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder: James Batchelder, Adam Bier, Kevin Leung, Christian Mammen and Lee Patch. A sixth lawyer, Stanley Young, was from Heller Ehrman.

“The fundamental problem in this case was an incredible breakdown in communications,” Major wrote in the April 2 order. “The court was not presented with any evidence establishing that either in-house lawyers or outside counsel met in person with the appropriate Qualcomm engineers … at the beginning of the case to explain the legal issues and discuss appropriate document collection.”

Another problem, Major said, was that none of the lawyers took supervisory responsibility to verify that the necessary discovery had been conducted. “These failures were exacerbated by an incredible lack of candor on the part of the principal Qualcomm employees,” the judge said.

The employees misled Leung, an associate who signed the discovery responses, according to the order. And Young lacked involvement in the discovery violations, the judge said. None of the lawyers acted in bad faith, Major concluded.

Despite the lifting of sanctions, the litigation has already taken its toll, the Recorder says. “Day Casebeer struggled and then merged with Howrey,” the story says. “Two associates, Leung and Bier, and two partners, Mammen and Patch, left big firm practice altogether. And the case was paraded around as an example of what not to do during discovery.”

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