Thursday, May 1, 2014

More Conflicts in the News

We've been tracking the 3M case for some time now (see previous stories for background). Alas, the saga continues: "Minnesota Supreme Court delays action on 3M suit" --
  • "The Minnesota Supreme Court has delayed action involving the state’s lawsuit accusing 3Mof damaging the environment.The court, asked to decide whether the state’s legal firm should be disqualified, kicked that decision back down to a lower court for more fact-finding."
  • "The attorney general is suing 3M for allegedly damaging the environment with perfluorochemicals, or PFCs. But 3M has argued that the attorney general’s law firm, Covington & Burling LLC, should be disqualified because Covington previously worked with 3M."
  • "A Hennepin County District Court ruled in 3M’s favor in 2012, against Covington and the attorney general. On appeal, the Supreme Court issued its ruling Wednesday that one issue needed more study — whether 3M knew that its former law firm had switched sides."

  • "Report finds U.S. appeals judges have decided cases where they have a financial interest through stock ownership or ties to a law firm. At least 26 federal appeals judges have decided cases where they had a conflict of interest since 2010, the Center for Public Integrity says."
  • "The center, a non-profit investigative journalism group, reported Monday that it compared financial disclosure forms filed by 255 of the 258 judges in the appellate courts. It found 24 judges who decided cases involving companies they owned stock in, and two judges who had financial ties to a law firm involved in litigation."
  • "Judges are required to report conflicts of interest, and the federal courts installed software after a Washington Post story in 2006 to make finding them easy. But there are no penalties for judges who do sit in cases where there are conflicts."
  • [For more detail, see this additional media coverage.]

And hat tip to the Legal Ethics Forum for noting: "A conflict and a waiver claim in the Dewey Four case" --
  • "The WSJ Law Blog reports that a witness against some or all of the Dewey Four will be former Dewey partner, now at DLA, John Altorelli. However,  the  firm that represents him also represents Zachary Warren, whose indictment  has observers puzzled.  Writes the WSJ Blog: 'On Monday Peirce Moser, a prosecutor in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office, told the judge overseeing the criminal case that Mr. Altorelli was a witness for the prosecution. The issue came up because Mr. Altorelli is represented by the same law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, that is defending a fourth person in the criminal case—a young lawyer named Zachary Warren who was previously a client manager at Dewey & LeBoeuf. Mr. Warren has pleaded not guilty."
  • "Paul Shechtman, a lawyer for Mr. Warren, said both his client and Mr. Altorelli had signed conflict waivers with the firm."
  • [More detail at the WSJ.]

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