General

There are a lot of pissed off law students and recent grads out there …..

December 28, 2009

I considered tagging this under “humor,” but that wouldn’t be right.  Several more of these at the author’s Youtube site

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Judge Fabricant's Preliminary Injunction Decision in HRH v. Sheppard

October 28, 2008

Attached below is Judge Judith Fabricant’s lengthy decision in Hilb Rogal & Hobbs v. Sheppard, decided by Judge Fabricant in the Suffolk Business Litigation Session early this year. To my knowledge, this decision and order became publicly available only recently. This restrictive covenant case is interesting in one unusual respect: it involves what some lawyers like to call “employee raiding” – a perjorative term that one sometimes hears when a large group of employees leaves to join a new firm. Here, the group was unusually large, consisting of 24 employees who resigned en masse, leaving Hilb Rogal & Hobbs (HRH) identical resignation letters and advising HRH to contact the same lawyer in the event any legal communications were necessary. HRH filed suit and moved for a preliminary injunction, presenting Judge Fabricant with a complex set of facts (the employees did not all have the identical agreements), and factual variations in their circumstances. The decision breaks no new ground in Massachusetts noncompete law, but it’s worth making a few observations about how the Judge approached the case: Employees whose agreements were entered into in connection with a business that had been sold to HRH earlier were treated much more strictly than the “rank and file” employees, as one would expect given Massachusetts law. The Judge viewed HRH’s claim of interference with contractual relations favorably, given that the new employer offered it’s…

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Supreme Court Will Decide Whether Ignorance is a Defense to the Federal Crime of Identity Theft

October 21, 2008

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to decide this issue: Whether an individual who used a false means of identification but did not know it belonged to another person can be convicted of “aggravated identity theft” under 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1). The case involves an illegal alien who was prosecuted for use of false identity papers. It must be hard enough to be arrested as an illegal alien, but much worse to discovery that your punishment will not be deportation, but rather indictment and trial for aggravated identity theft, a felony punishable with two years imprisonment with no probation allowed. Your defense: you may have purchased false identification in order to work, but you didn’t know that you were using another person’s social security number, as opposed to a purely fictitious SSN. This is the situation that Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa faced when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the government was not required to prove that Mr. Flores-Figueroa knew that he was using another person’s ID, and upheld his two year sentence under 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1). This was the second time that the Eighth Circuit had ruled this way on this issue. Surprisingly, another federal appellate court saw it differently, and held that knowledge is an element of the crime. Thus, the Supreme Court was presented with a split of authority between the federal circuits which it…

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Judge Gants' Decision in NERA v. Evans

October 15, 2008

One of the great benefits of the Suffolk Business Litigation Session (the BLS) is that the judges tend to write detailed opinions explaining their decisions. This tends to be less true elsewhere in the Superior Court. Recently-retired Superior Court Judge Allen van Gestel created a tradition of written jurisprudence while he headed the BLS, and his successors are keeping up the tradition. While these decisions are not published in an official reporter, and they are not binding precedent in the strict legal sense, they are often made available on the Internet, on legal search engines such as Westlaw and in the unofficial Mass. Law Reporter. In this way attorneys and the public are informed on how the BLS judges tend to see issues that come before them. And of course, any given judge is likely to be greatly influenced by a decision he or she has authored on a particular issue; there’s nothing better than citing a judge back to herself. The extensive and detailed opinion in The National Economic Research Associates, Inc. v. Evans, decided by Judge Ralph Gants in early September 2008, shows that the new BLS judges are continuing Judge van Gestel’s tradition of written decisions. In NERA v. Evans Judge Gants was asked to decide (on summary judgment) a claim that David Evans had violated a covenant not to compete with NERA, his former employer. The…

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Zealous Advocacy, or Abuse of Advocacy?

October 11, 2008

In the Medtronic v. BrainLab patent litigation in U.S. District Court in Colorado, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch has sanctioned Medtronic Navigation, Inc. and its lawyers $4.3 million, an amount which represents part of the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by BrainLab in defending this case. This order is a follow-up to his decision last February ordering that Medtronic be sanctioned, but not deciding (at that time) the precise amount of the sanction. Unusual circumstances led to this disaster for Medtronic and its counsel. As many readers of this blog know, the judge, not the jury, determines the scope of the patent claims in patent litigation. This is done by the judge before trial, in what is often referred to as a “Markman hearing.” The name of the hearing is based on the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Markman v. Westview, which held that patent “claim interpretation” is the province of the judge, not the jury. After the judge determines the scope of the patent and the meaning of the claims, he or she instructs the jury accordingly, and the lawyers are expected to honor the judge’s rulings and tailor their case to the judge’s pre-trial claim interpretation. So, what went wrong in the Medtronics case? Apparently, during the jury trial on infringement the lawyers for Medtronic (the plaintiff), argued outside of the scope of claim interpretation…

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Chief Judge Paul R. Michel, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit:

September 26, 2008

. . . the Supreme Court can only decide a couple of patent cases even in a banner year. And, many important patent issues may be so obscure as to discourage its generalist judges from addressing them. The rest, necessarily, are left to us. We have the expertise and the will to resolve doctrinal problems. What we lack is mainly the opportunity. Why for example did it take a full decade to revisit State Street? Because no one asked us to until recently. The same can be said of the central issue decided in KSR. It was never simply presented to us in a petition for en banc treatment. Oddly, we receive over a hundred a year. Yet few raise such fundamental issues as eligible subject matter under §101, or the Teaching-Suggestion-Motivation test, or the proper methodology for assessing requests for the permanent injunction, or barring them, future damages. Speaking at the Harvard Law School Conference On Intellectual Property Law, September 9, 2008. Click here for full text of speech.

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