Senate Judiciary Committee Scheduled To Consider Justice James Graves Nomination on Thursday

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James Graves to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In previous posts, I discussed the Committee hearing on Justice Graves’ nomination.

 

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Complaint and Jury Form From Baker & McKenzie Case

Philip Thomas and Law 360.com have posted links to the complaint and jury form.  They are available here.

Mississippi Jury Hits Chicago Based Law Firm With Staggering $103 Million Dollar Verdict

For the second time this year, a Mississippi jury has awarded a verdict in excess of one hundred million dollars.  Earlier this year, Ford was handed a $131 million dollar verdict in Jasper County, Mississippi.  Last week, a Jones County, Mississippi jury rendered a $103 million dollar verdict against Baker & McKenzie, a Chicago based law firm.  Mississippi blogger Philip Thomas of Mississippi Litigation Review first published reports of the verdict.  The judgment was also entered against one of its partners, Joel Held.   Baker & McKenzie has been ranked by the American Lawyers Global 100 Issue as the largest law firm in the world (based on gross revenue) with 2009 gross revenues of $2.104 billion dollars.

The suit was brought by S. Lavon Evans, Jr. who owned a drilling company.   Evans was introduced to Mr. Held by Reed Cagle who was already being represented by Mr. Held.  The complaint alleged that Mr. Held and his firm represented the two business partners simultaneously but ultimately acted to benefit Mr. Cagle at the expense of Mr. Evans.  As a result of the alleged conflict,  Mr. Evans claimed that his assets were used to obtain millions of dollars in loans for his insolvent business partner Mr. Cagle.  According to the Plaintiff’s allegations, after he discovered the schemed, the Defendants engaged in a litigation strategy designed to destroy him.  He accused the Defendants of working with Mr. Cagle to create separate legal entities which enabled his partner to use his collateral without the knowledge of the Plaintiff.  He sued for actual damages of $150 million dollars.

According to published reports, Baker & McKenzie and Mr. Held disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal.

AFRICAN AMERICAN MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY APPOINTED TO PLAINTIFFS’ STEERING COMMITTEE IN BP OIL SPILL CASE

Mississippi attorney Mike Espy has been appointed as one of the fifteen members of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in the BP oil spill case.  An Order entered by Hon. Carl J. Barbier on October 8, 2010 in In re Oil Spill by  The Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” appointed Espy and fourteen others to the committee.

Among other things, a Plaintiffs Steering Committee is responsible for assisting in the coordination of all of the plaintiffs’ cases within a multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceeding.  Selection is considered highly competitive and can result in lucrative legal fees.

Mike is a former Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture and a former United States Representative from Mississippi’s Second Congressional District.  Espy was the only Mississippi attorney appointed to the steering committee.

NAMWOLF NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

According to a press release on PR-USA.net, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) has announced the appointment of Jason L. Brown as it’s new Executive Director.    Mr. Brown is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and was previously employed byPepsiAmericas, Inc.

Federal Judge Encourages Class Action Lawyers To Include Minorities and Women In Class Action Litigation

Generally, class action litigation is complicated and expensive.  The cases are often intense, intellectually challenging and financially rewarding.   The law firms and lawyers  that litigate class action cases are members of a relatively small club.  The number of minority and female lawyers who handle class action cases belong to an even smaller club.  At least one federal judge wants to change that.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Harold Baer of the Southern District of New York issued an Order in a securities class action case which required that:

  Co-Lead counsel, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP, shall make every effort to assign to this matter at least one minority lawyer and one woman lawyer with requisite experience.  

Judge Baer’s order noted that the class included thousands of individuals who likely had diverse backgrounds and gender.   The order noted that it should be important to all concerned that the Judge consider diversity “in terms of race and gender” when appointing class counsel. 

Judge Baer’s order raises an important issue regarding the exercise of a unique duty a judge must exercise when appointing counsel for a large group of people with various backgrounds, genders and races.  In my view, diversity should be considered when appointing counsel of any type.  The method defining how that consideration is done should be  be fairly debated and reasonably applied. 

The appointment of class counsel is a judicial function on behalf of the  plaintiffs.  There is no similar appointment authority for class action defendants.  On the defense side, diverse attorneys must rely on the goodwill of the defendants and the defense bar to be included in class litigation defense.   Hopefully, the class action defense bar will also recognize the need for diversity and include more minorities and women in the defense of class action litigation.

I have been fortunate.  I have worked with, in my opinion, some of the best class action defense lawyers in the country and I have grown professionally as a result of the experience.  Likewise, I have been able to provide valuable service to the clients in each case.  Increased diversity on both sides of the class action equation is a win-win proposition.

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing For Justice James E. Graves, Jr. Scheduled for September 29, 2010

In June, I wrote about the nomination of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on his nomination for September 29, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.   The proceedings may be viewed via webcast from the Committee’s Website.

On a related note, one of my fellow bloggers, Will Bardwell,  revealed last week that a relatively conservative website called The Volokh Conspiracy published a post criticizing Justice Grave’s votes in three Mississippi judicial misconduct cases.  The Volokh article implied that the distinction between Judge Graves’ vote in two of the cases, which involved white judges, versus the other case, which involved a black judge,  may have racial overtones.  The post on Will Bardwell’s blog contains a good discussion and analysis of the timing  of the Volokh article, the questioned votes and the explanation behind the votes.  Another friend and fellow blogger, Tom Freeland  (NMissCommentor), has also posted a detailed discussion about the matter. 

I won’t rehash the debate in this post because the above referenced posts do a fine job of discussing the matter.  However, I have known Justice Graves long enough to say that I don’t believe his votes were motivated by race and I don’t believe that he will allow any decision he makes as a member of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to be based upon race.   I suspect Justice Graves will confirm this at the confirmation hearing and I hope the Committee will accept his explanation and proceed to send his nomination to the  Senate Floor for confirmation.