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Trials & Litigation

Judge Rebukes Company and Its Lawyers, Orders More Records Be Produced

Posted Sep 25, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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In what Corporate Counsel describes as a "scathing" ruling, a Mississippi judge has taken to task Ohio-based Eaton Corp. and its lawyers for knowing more than they let on about attempts to influence a previous judge in the case.

The 123-page ruling also accuses them of trying to hide evidence.

Corporate Counsel reports that the ruling implicates Eaton General Counsel Mark McGuire, noting a 2007 email implying he knew of efforts by a former prosecutor, Ed Peters, to influence the judge.

The judge's ruling notes that the email "evidences Eaton’s continued attempts to use Peters behind the scenes ... Notably McGuire denied any knowledge of Peters’ actions in this case, but this email, and [one from a day earlier] clearly indicate otherwise."

The ruling by Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill from last Wednesday is the latest development in a $1 billion trade secrets lawsuit Eaton filed against competitor Frisby Aerospace. The ruling, which orders Eaton to produce more records by the end of the month, was in response to a report by a special master asked to review emails, billing statements and other documents from the company, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which published a copy of the judge's ruling.

Because of prior findings of misconduct, the court has already dismissed the underlying case brought by Eaton, though that ruling and $1.5 million in sanctions are being appealed by the company. The current matter involves counterclaims brought by the defendants.

The Plain Dealer notes that Judge Weill isn't satisfied that Eaton has "dismissed or cut ties with several attorneys" involved in the case.

"It seems likely that Eaton will try to blame these blatant misdeeds on its now-fired attorneys," Weill wrote. "However, the court will not accept any such 'finger-pointing' at such a late juncture."

The company has said in the past that it hired Peters to do legitimate work and didn't know he had clandestine communications with the judge. Peters has since surrendered his license to practice law and the judge, Bobby DeLaughter, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and disbarred for his role in an separate case.

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