Good morning. Everyone is waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion and gun rights, but the court just took up another case that could have important consequences for whistleblowers who sue under the False Claims Act. Plus, Littler is working toward a resolution in its trade secret suit against rival firm Polsinelli, and Pfizer is fending off a patent suit over its COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid. We’ve got your legal news – get scrolling!
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While we wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue some major opinions, it announced it would take up another case that could have lasting consequences: the question of whether the government can push for the dismissal of whistleblower suits brought on its behalf.
At least six circuit courts have weighed in on whether the government can move to dismiss cases brought under the False Claims Act without the consent of the whistleblower, writes Brendan Pierson. The government can decide whether to intervene in FCA cases, and whistleblowers can collect a portion of any recovery. A February report from the DOJ said it had collected $5.6 billion in settlements and judgments under the FCA since September 2021.
The government has argued that tossing cases could help it conserve resources and avoid bad precedents, while whistleblowers have said the government can’t move to dismiss a case after it declined to intervene. The justices granted a petition from Daniel Geyser of Haynes and Boone, representing a former employee of UnitedHealth subsidiary Executive Health Resources. Covington’s Mark Mosier, representing the subsidiary, urged the justices not to take up the case.
Read more about the case and what it could mean for FCA suits.
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Allen & Overy’s Patrick Pearsall is advising Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on reparations issues, according to a disclosure at the Justice Department. Pearsall’s work is being done through Columbia Law. (Reuters)
Law firm Polsinelli is "actively" working to resolve a lawsuit accusing it of trade-secret theft over its hiring of a team in Atlanta last year from rival firm Littler Mendelson. Littler sued Polsinelli last year in federal court after the firm hired the home healthcare team. A judge has extended Polsinelli’s deadline to respond to the complaint. (Reuters)
- South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who struck and killed a pedestrian while driving in 2020, was removed from office after the state Senate held an impeachment trial. Ravnsborg, who was impeached by the state House earlier this year, was also barred from holding office in the state. (Reuters)
- Wall Street firm Cleary Gottlieb is growing its Northern California presence, adding dealmaker Christopher Moore, who earlier was managing partner of the Silicon Valley of Hogan Lovells. In November, Cleary brought on WilmerHale’s San Francisco partner-in-charge to spearhead the firm’s Bay Area launch. (Reuters)
That’s the number of overall cases against Bayer alleging its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer. The U.S. Supreme Court without comment rejected a bid from Bayer’s lawyers at WilmerHale to dismiss legal claims from customers, as the German company seeks to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages. Bayer said in its March annual report that it had resolved about 107,000 cases. President Joe Biden's administration had urged the high court not to hear the Bayer appeal. Read more about how many cases Bayer has won, and lost, so far.
A new securities fraud class action by an investor in the collapsed stablecoin TerraUSD will test a novel theory of liability against six crypto venture capital firms that pledged to support Terra tokens in the months before they imploded. Alison Frankel dives into the intriguing new case, which claims that under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Terra’s backers are on the hook for “scheme liability.”
"Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation."
–Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who dissented from a majority opinion that sided with two Christian families who challenged a Maine tuition assistance program that excluded private religious schools. The 6-3 ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts held that the program "operates to identify and exclude otherwise eligible schools on the basis of their religious exercise," a violation of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. Justice Sotomayor countered that the ruling upends the constitution by requiring Maine’s taxpayers to “subsidize religious indoctrination with taxpayer dollars.” Read more about the ruling.
Californian Nicholas John Roske, who is charged with attempted murder after he was arrested near Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Maryland home with a handgun, ammunition and a crowbar, is up for arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ajmel Ahsen Quereshi in Maryland federal court. Roske, who told authorities he was upset about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade and a potential ruling expanding gun rights, is facing a charge of attempting to kidnap or murder a U.S. judge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, according to prosecutors.
Lawyers for Donald Trump ally Sidney Powell will ask a Texas court to dismiss an ethics complaint from the Texas bar accusing her of professional misconduct for her role in failed lawsuits contesting the 2020 presidential election. Powell’s lawyers, including Robert Holmes in Dallas, have called the ethics allegations “baseless” and argued the case infringes constitutional rights to free speech. The bar’s lawyers contend "an attorney's speech rights within the confines of litigation are not absolute." Other lawyers in former Republican President Trump’s orbit, including Rudy Giuliani, are also facing bar regulatory actions tied to lawsuits that claimed pervasive fraud marred the last presidential election.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a hearing on several of President Joe Biden's judicial nominees, including Florence Pan for the D.C. Circuit and Rachel Bloomekatz for the 6th Circuit. Pan, now a federal district court judge in Washington, D.C., would succeed Ketanji Brown Jackson on the D.C. Circuit after her elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bloomekatz, formerly of Gupta Wessler, is a public interest lawyer in Ohio. Watch the confirmation hearing on the committee’s site.
The 9th Circuit will reconsider a decision by a panel of three Republican-appointed judges holding that a California county's mandates forcing gun shops to close to combat the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional. U.S. Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke, a Trump appointee, predicted the court’s decision to rehear the case when he wrote the court’s January ruling holding that Ventura County’s order closing the shops violated people’s right to keep and bear arms. VanDyke wrote a concurring opinion to his own ruling that noted the liberal-leaning circuit would likely vote to rehear the case.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan face a deadline to submit their proposed sentence for Ghislaine Maxwell, after the British socialite last year was convicted of sex trafficking. Maxwell, a onetime companion of deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28 before now-U.S. Circuit Judge Alison Nathan, who presided over the trial before her elevation in March to the 2nd Circuit. Earlier this month, Maxwell's lawyers told Nathan that certain factors justified deviating from the federal sentencing guidelines of 292-365 months and the 20-year sentence recommended by the probation department.
Court calendars are subject to last-minute docket changes.
A California jury found that comedian Bill Cosby sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl in 1975, awarding her $500,000 in damages. Judy Huth, now 64, said the assault happened at the Playboy Mansion after Cosby invited her there; Cosby denied it. (Reuters)
Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid violates an Enanta Pharmaceuticals patent for its COVID drug still in development, according to a new lawsuit. Enanta, which is represented by Barbara Fiacco and Donald Ware of Foley Hoag, says it got a patent for its antiviral medication last week, for which it had applications in the works since 2020. (Reuters)
A divided Federal Circuit panel ruled against Swiss drugmaker Novartis in a patent infringement dispute concerning its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya. The panel found Novartis' patent was invalid, reviving Chinese drugmaker HEC Pharm’s bid to make a generic version of the medicine. Paul Skiermont of Skiermont Derby argued for HEC, and Jane Love of Gibson Dunn represented Novartis. (Reuters)
A Black former elevator operator at Tesla’s flagship California assembly plant rejected a $15 million award in his lawsuit alleging racial abuse by coworkers, opening the door for a new trial after a federal judge slashed a $137 million jury verdict. Lawyers for Owen Diaz said the award was unjust and would not deter future misconduct by Tesla. Tesla did not immediately comment. (Reuters)
- Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis rejected a motion by the parent of Fox News to dismiss Dominion Voting Systems $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit over the network's 2020 presidential election coverage. Davis said the voting machine company can also sue Fox Corp on a theory it was directly liable for statements on the network. (Reuters)
BakerHostetler added intellectual property partner Melody Drummond Hansen in San Francisco. She was former chair of the automated and connected vehicles industry group at O’Melveny. (BakerHostetler)
- Dechert said En-Min Chua joined the firm’s New York office as a global finance partner. She arrives from UBS Securities. (Dechert)
- Willkie Farr brought on Los Angeles-based partner Tilda Shin to the corporate and financial services department. She previously worked at Loeb & Loeb. (Willkie)
- Wilson Sonsini said Neel Maitra joined the firm’s Washington, D.C., office as a corporate partner. Maitra earlier served as senior special counsel in the SEC’s trading and markets division. (Wilson Sonsini)
- Liz Lindquist jumped from King & Spalding to Arnold & Porter, where she joined the firm’s life sciences and healthcare regulatory practice in Denver. (Arnold & Porter)
- Foley & Lardner said Michael Crosbie joined the firm in Orlando as a litigation partner. Crosbie earlier practiced at Shutts & Bowen. (Foley & Lardner)
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission isn’t waiting for Congress to pass legislation governing digital assets to begin regulating the space. Daniel Stein, Matthew Kluchenek and Anna Easter of Mayer Brown write about how the CFTC is claiming jurisdiction over digital assets like cryptocurrency and seeking to police fraud in the space. Read about what the regulator is doing.
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