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Texas Judge Sues Lawyer for Defamation

Gregory D. Jordan, an experienced Austin business litigation attorney, Austin business attorney and Austin defamation lawyer, offers commentary on an unusual suit.

Judge Carlos Cortez, an elected judge for the 44th State Civil District of Dallas County, Texas, filed suit in Dallas’s 298th District Court on Nov. 1 against Dallas attorney Coyt Randal “Randy” Johnston alleging defamation and extortion. Cortez alleges that Johnston defamed him when he e-mailed a copy of a concocted complaint before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to members of a Dallas trial advocacy group, the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).

The suit alleges that three other state district judges who are fellow state district judges of Cortez – Judge Craig Smith of 192nd District Court, Judge Lorraine Raggio of 162nd District Court, and Judge Martin Lowy of 101st District Court – started rumors with Johnston against Cortez to create a political opponent against him had leaked damaging allegations against him in attempt to unseat him during the elections. Those rumors, which later allegedly included Cortez hiring prostitutes and using drugs, formed the basis of Johnston’s judicial complaint.

“This is a lawsuit about what we as a profession are going to tolerate and whether it is acceptable for a lawyer and three judges to meet, create rumors about a fellow judge, file a complaint with the judicial conduct commission about the rumors they themselves created then intentionally and knowingly publish that into the public domain to generate a political opponent,” said Cortez, a Dallas County civil court judge, in an interview.

Austin business litigation attorney, Gregory D. Jordan, notes “This is a highly unusual case. Proceedings before the State Commission on Judicial Conduct are often cloaked in secrecy. Now much may be revealed in public. This will be an interesting case to follow.”

“Just as with much of the litigation we handle, you have two determined and apparently motivated litigants in this dispute. In cases such as these, it is crucial to have a top lawyer on your side. Obviously, judges recognize this need,” said Austin business attorney Jordan.

“If the State Bar of Texas and the Judicial Conduct Commission do not remove these people from our profession then we indeed are no better than the lawyer jokes they tell about our profession,” Cortez said.

To learn more visit, http://www.theaustintriallawyer.com.

Practicing and Training the Golden Rule Can Prevent Discrimination Suits

It is common sense that if supervisors treat employees with the same respect they would like to receive, the company will not likely face discrimination suits. Supervisors who are not sensitive to an employee’s age, national origin, physical disabilities, sex, race or national origin are likely going to pay in the long run. Therefore, clearly setting forth a well-defined job description is a good approach.

Unfortunately, common sense will only go so far and supervisors may not always use it. It is a good idea to have an anti-discrimination policy in place and make sure managers and employees are trained to know what is expected and what should be done if discrimination is encountered.

It is almost imperative that, as a business owner, you should get the message out that discrimination will not be tolerated by anyone in your organization. One of the best ways to “get the message out” is to have a well-written anti-discrimination policy that outlines what is expected. Your policies should also identify to whom complaints of discrimination should be made, and all managers should be trained on what to do if they receive a complaint.

It is especially important to train your decision-makers. Supervisors and managers should be trained to identify and understand discrimination in its many forms, such as claims based on disability, gender, age or other protected status. Supervisors should be made to understand that it is important to document events and carefully maintain that documentation. If a situation appears serious, you may want to consult counsel.

It is also important to train managers about making personnel decisions. A poorly planned and poorly documented job termination or hiring is sometimes an invitation to a charge of discrimination. Therefore, documenting everything is also imperative, including things such as an employee’s work performances. All documentation should be based on facts and should be done in a timely and pertinent manner.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you want to take proactive steps to avoid discrimination suits, consider hiring an experienced attorney to assist you with your antidiscrimination policies and employee training.

Gregory D. Jordan is an Austin business attorney, Austin employment lawyer, and Austin business litigation lawyer. To learn more, visit Theaustintriallawyer.com.

Multibillion Dollar Patent Infringement Judgment Under Attack

In June 2009, a federal jury in Marshall, Texas, found that Abbot Laboratories infringed a patent jointly issued to Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor unit and New York University.

Robert Wood Johnson, a New England druggist, went in business with his brothers, James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson. They began making medical dressings in 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Today, Johnson & Johnson is internationally known to be one of the largest and the most diversified health care firms. They operate in three business segments: pharmaceuticals, medical diagnostics and devices, as well as the consumer business segment.

The jury found that Abbott Laboratories owed Johnson & Johnson $504 million in patent royalties based on the sales of Abbott’s Humira arthritis drug and an additional $1.17 billion for decreased sales of Johnson & Johnson’s competing treatments. An additional $175.6 million was later added by the trial judge for interest, bringing the total judgment to $1.84 billion.

In early November, Abbott’s lawyers appeared in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to argue that the judgment should be overturned, at least on the basis that the underlying patent issued to New York University and Johnson & Johnson’s Centocor unit is invalid. Abbott’s contention is in part that Johnson & Johnson’s patent doesn’t cover the human antibodies used in Humira and that it is invalid because scientists in 1994 (the date set as the time of invention by the court) could not make fully human antibodies in a laboratory against TNF, supporting the argument that no one could claim an invention because no one knew it even existed. (TNF is the abbreviation for Tumor Necrosis Factor and it has been found that too much TNF in the body causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue that leads to inflammation. Humira blocks action of TNF, which causes the inflammation.)

While the size of the judgment in the Abbott case is unusual, Abbott’s defense is not. Whether a patent infringement verdict is worth $1 million or $100 million, defendants in patent infringement cases will almost always attack the validity of the plaintiff’s underlying patent. Whether Abbot will succeed is something we will likely not know for some time.

Gregory D. Jordan is an Austin business attorney, Austin employment lawyer, and Austin business litigation lawyer. To learn more, visit Theaustintriallawyer.com.

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