Lawyer Could Face Jail for Voir Dire Question
Posted Jul 14, 2009 9:54 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A federal magistrate has found patent lawyer John van Loben Sels in contempt of court and threatened him with a 48-hour jail sentence for a question he asked during voir dire.
Van Loben Sels asked potential jurors in a patent infringement suit whether they had "a problem with a company that puts its headquarters offshore on a Caribbean island in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes," the Recorder reports. He is a partner with Wang, Hartmann, Gibbs & Cauley of Mountain View, Calif.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham IV of Marshall, Texas, had prohibited Van Loben Sels and other lawyers for Beyond Innovation Technology Co., a defendant in a patent suit, from saying anything about the tax motivation for the Cayman Islands home of the plaintiff, O2 Micro.
Everingham said Van Loben Sels would not have to serve the sentence if he behaved for the rest of the case, according to the story. But he granted a mistrial and imposed other sanctions on Beyond Innovation Technology Co., known as BiTEK. It will have to foot the bill for new jury selection, will get half the voir dire time of its opponent and will get two peremptory challenges instead of four, according to the Recorder.
Van Loben Sels had defended his question, saying it was hypothetical and he didn't refer to O2 Micro by name.
Updated on July 17 to indicate that Everingham is a federal magistrate judge and to clarify the restrictions on comments by the lawyers.