Kramer Levin lawyers are sanctioned for 'vitriolic and unsubstantiated' anti-Semitism claims
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A federal judge has sanctioned three lawyers from Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel for “vitriolic and unsubstantiated allegations” that the opposing counsel resorted to anti-Semitic stereotypes to influence jurors.
U.S. District Judge Alan D. Albright of the Western District of Texas ordered the Kramer Levin lawyers to take 30 hours of continuing legal education courses in ethics as a sanction, report Law360 and Law.com. A fourth lawyer from Naman Howell Smith & Lee received the same sanction in Albright’s Dec. 17 opinion.
The four lawyers had represented Israeli company Freshub in an unsuccessful patent infringement case against Amazon.com Inc. over the Alexa voice technology.
In their motion for a new trial, the four lawyers argued that Amazon lawyers “played on the stereotype of greedy Jewish executives of an Israeli company allegedly taking advantage of U.S. companies, to trigger religious biases and deepen the ‘us vs. them’ nationalistic divide in the minds of the jurors.”
The motion also argued that “defendants blew this Jewish stereotype ‘dog whistle’ at every opportunity to unfairly bias the jury.”
Albright denied the motion and imposed the sanction. He said lawyers for Amazon mentioned Israel only when relevant or when needed to rebut Freshub’s statements at trial. And when an opposing lawyer—who is a Jewish woman—asked about Freshub losses in shekels (the currency of Israel), it was only because Freshub financial records were reported in shekels, Albright said.
Albright also noted that Freshub’s lawyers never objected to Israeli references during the trial, and a party can’t raise objections for the first time in a new-trial motion except in exceptional cases. Albright bristled at what he saw as an implicit suggestion that he had ignored prejudicial statements by Amazon.
“The court did not turn a blind eye to any racist or anti-Semitic conduct because indeed there was none,” Albright wrote.
“The court finds that Freshub’s inflammatory allegations are nothing but baseless attacks on the integrity of this court and the reputation of defendants’ counsel,” Albright said.
“A bitter losing party’s difficulty in explaining its loss is never a proper basis for counsel to invoke baseless allegations of racism and anti-Semitism to request a new trial. Such vitriolic and unsubstantiated allegations are not only shocking but also offensive to this court.”
The four sanctioned lawyers are partners Paul J. Andre, Lisa Kobialka and James Hannah of Kramer Levin and John Palmer of Naman Howell. Andre is co-chair of Kramer Levin’s intellection property Silicon Valley group, according to Law360.
Neither Andre nor Palmer immediately responded to requests for comment by the ABA Journal.