Tuesday, June 10, 2008

9th Circuit Appoints Special Prosecutor To Determine Attorney Discipline in Nicaraguan Pesticide Case

The Recorder (via Law.com) reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appointed a special prosecutor to determine sanctions for two Los Angelese attorneys' conduct in the Nicaraguan pesticide cases.  Thomas Girardi and Walter Lack were involved in the class action lawsuit against several American businesses for using pesticides in Nicaragua which allegedly caused sterility and cancer. 

A Nicaraguan judge awarded the plaintiffs a roughly $489.4 million judgment against five defendants, which were supposed to include Dole Food Co. and Shell Chemical Co. But the complaint instead named the Dole Food Corp. and Shell Oil Co., seemingly superficial errors that have become one enormous problem for Girardi, Lack and some of their subordinates.

In March, acting as a special master, Senior 9th Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima recommended sanctioning the two a combined $375,000 for making false statements about their case and filing a frivolous appeal. Tashima also made disciplinary recommendations in a separate, sealed filing.

In his 65-page report, Tashima said Lack had a personal role in asserting repeatedly that a writ of execution made by the Nicaraguan judge to enforce the judgment in America was corrected to name Dole Food Co. and Shell Chemical Co. Girardi, meanwhile, allegedly allowed the misstatements to continue on his behalf without becoming directly involved.

The name of the special prosecutor has not been announced.

UPDATE:  A copy of Tashima's report and the Ninth Circuit's opinion are available at California Punitive Damages.



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