Judge awards nearly $289K as sanction for conduct of BigLaw firm and its former partner

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has awarded $288,900 in attorney fees and expenses to human-rights plaintiffs as a sanction for litigation conduct by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and one of its former partners.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled on April 14, report, Reuters and Law360. Lamberth awarded the fees for time spent on sanctions litigation and a deposition in which a Paul Weiss client provided evasive answers and wasted time by reading long answers directly from his notes.

That deposition “kicked off the present sanctions litigation,” Lamberth said. The firm representing the human rights plaintiffs, Cohen Milstein, moved for sanctions for the evasive answers. Paul Weiss partner Alex Oh filed a cross motion for sanctions that claimed the the Cohen Milstein lawyer was “agitated and combative” during the deposition and had become “unhinged.”

Lamberth said he still considers Oh’s cross-motion “astonishing” because it wasn’t supported by the evidence. He admonished Paul Weiss and Oh in May 2021 for the claims.

Oh had abruptly resigned from her job as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s new enforcement chief when Lamberth first revealed he was considering sanctions.

Lamberth awarded $288,900 after reducing the fee request for some block billing and billing that was not contemporaneous with the work.

Paul Weiss represented ExxonMobil in the underlying litigation. The human rights plaintiffs had contended military personnel providing security for Exxon facilities in Indonesia had sexually assaulted, kidnapped and tortured nearby residents.

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