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November 26, 2012

Encylopedia Brittanica smacked on legal malpractice case

A huge #legal #malpractice claim lodged by Encyclopedia Britannica against its former lawyers with Dickstein Shapiro has now turned around and smacked the encyclopedia company right in the face.

In a witheringly written decision, U.S. District Judge John Bates on Monday blasted the actions of Encyclopedia Britannica's attorneys and ordered the company to pay some of Dickstein's costs related to part of the ongoing case.

While the underlying legal malpractice case continues, the judge dismissed with harsh words Encyclopedia Britannica's efforts to sanction the Dickstein Shapiro attorneys.

Citing "bad faith that unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied these proceedings" as well as a "careless approach to the substantive law and local rule obligations, and a disregard of this Court’s warning against filing unnecessary discovery motions," Bates further warned the encylopedia company's attorneys against further missteps.

The original, eye-popping lawsuit filed by Encyclopedia Brittanica's attorneys, Washington, D.C.-based attorney Joseph diGenova and Chicago-based attorney Robert P. Cummins, sought $250 million from Dickstein Shapiro. That suit claimed Dickstein mishandled the company's patent work. In a follow-up, Encyclopedia Britannica's lawyers sought to sanction Dickstein for allegedliy interfering with discovery.

Bates was far, far from convinced.

While noting that "the Court does not, at this time, find that filing this motion rises to the level of recklessness or bad faith required for the imposition of sanction," Bates went on to say:

Britannica has failed to point to a shred of misconduct by Dickstein Shapiro’s attorneys. Yet it did more than file a factually unsupported motion. It asked for a remedy entirely unsupported by law and removed from the scope of the purported violations."

 Read the decision here.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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