Law Firms

Lawyer seeking sanctions 'descended into schoolyard antics' at deposition, Quinn Emanuel says

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AP Alex Spiro 1

Attorney Alex Spiro emerges from a courtroom at the Palm Beach County Courthouse in April 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Dove/ via the Associated Press)

Alex Spiro, a partner with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, may have given some responses that "were pointed at times" during a deposition of his client Tesla CEO Elon Musk. But it was in response to the opposing lawyer’s "insults, shouting, interruptions and violations" of a court order, according to the law firm’s opposition to a sanctions motion.

Sanctions against Spiro are unwarranted, and his client should be granted fees and costs for fighting the motion, according to the April 18 document filed by Quinn Emanuel in Travis County, Texas.

The opposing lawyer who sought sanctions, Mark Bankston, was also acting badly at the deposition, the motion says.

Bankston “descended into schoolyard antics, like yelling, interrupting the witness and insulting opposing counsel in exceedingly personal terms—a tactic he deploys again in his motion for sanctions, calling Mr. Spiro, an accomplished trial lawyer, a ‘celebrity attorney,’” the motion for Spiro says.

Law360, Reuters and Bloomberg Law have coverage.

Bankston was one of the lawyers who successfully sued Infowars host Alex Jones for his false claims that the December 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a “giant hoax.” Bankston obtained a verdict of nearly $50 million in the case.

Bankston represents plaintiff Benjamin Brody, who has filed a defamation lawsuit against Musk, the CEO of Tesla who bought Twitter and renamed it X. Brody had alleged that Spiro appeared at the March 27 deposition, even though he did not yet have pro hac vice status to participate in the case in Texas, where he is not licensed.

Bankston had claimed in his April 8 motion that Spiro was “astonishingly unprofessional, as he continually interrupted the deposition with commentary, gave numerous improper instructions not to answer, berated opposing counsel, insulted plaintiff’s claims, mocked counsel’s questions, and generally acted in the most obnoxious manner one could contemplate without crossing into parody.”

Quinn Emanuel alleges in its motion that a Texas judge had limited the subject matter of the deposition, but Bankston “apparently decided that the court’s order was optional.” Bankston questioned Musk “about a range of other controversial matters in a manner unabashedly designed to generate headlines,” according to the document filed on behalf of Spiro.

According to the Quinn Emanuel motion, Bankston’s claim that Spiro engaged in the unauthorized practice of law ignores a controlling decision “and fails to discuss persuasive guidance of the American Bar Association permitting an attorney to defend a deposition and otherwise represent a client in this jurisdiction where he or she reasonably expects a pending pro hac vice motion to be granted.”

Spiro had sought pro hac vice permission to defend Musk in Texas in January.

Brody alleges that posts on X wrongly claimed that he was an undercover agent posing as a member of a neo-Nazi group in a brawl. Brody claims that Musk amplified the false claim in a post.

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