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Nevada high court hears Sands executive’s termination suit

Lawyers continued to debate the question of jurisdiction Tuesday in a wrongful termination case filed five years ago against Sands China Ltd. by its former president and CEO.

This time their audience was the Nevada Supreme Court.

"This case should proceed to trial where the true facts about control of this entity, where it's true home was, will be determined," attorney Todd Bice told the court in Carson City.

Bice represents Steven Jacobs, who filed the lawsuit shortly after he was fired in 2010.

Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez conducted an evidentiary hearing before concluding in May that she has jurisdiction over Sands China in the case. The hearing featured four days of testimony from Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Both Adelson and Las Vegas Sands are defendants in the case.

In her 39-page ruling, Gonzalez found that the control Adelson and Las Vegas Sands have over Sands China "goes far beyond the ordinary relationship of parent to subsidiary."

Jacobs and others at Sand China were allowed to provide recommendations, the judge wrote, but "the decisions — large and small — were ultimately made by Adelson and LVS in Las Vegas."

Sands China, a Cayman Islands corporation with Macau as its principal place of business, is 70 percent owned by Las Vegas Sands.

The company "will not suffer any burden defending this action in Nevada," Gonzalez wrote in her ruling.

In March, Gonzalez ordered hefty sanctions against Sands China for improperly withholding documents in the case. One sanction barred the company from calling witnesses during the jurisdiction hearing. Adelson was called as a witness by the plaintiff.

Sands China later asked the Supreme Court to vacate the judge's orders regarding both the sanctions and jurisdiction. Renowned Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz joined the Sands legal team for Tuesday's arguments.

"The case should proceed against Mr. Adelson, against LVS," Dershowitz told the high court. "They have plenty of defendants to sue, but this court should rule that the case should be dismissed against the Macau defendant."

Gonzalez has set a June 27 trial date for the case.

Chief Justice James Hardesty wondered aloud at Tuesday's hearing whether Gonzalez had made only a preliminary determination on jurisdiction. He said her order seems to suggest "that the ultimate question about jurisdiction will be resolved at trial."

"That's not your understanding?" Hardesty then asked Sands China attorney Steve Morris.

"If that's the conclusion of the judge and not a misdescription of what occurred, then we spent a good deal of time in sanctions and jurisdictional hearing for no purpose at all," Morris replied.

"I agree," the chief justice said. "I totally agree, Mr. Morris."

Last week, Sands China supplemented its Supreme Court petition and asked for the case to be reassigned to a different judge.

Gonzalez's rulings "continue to evidence this jurist's bias and hostility toward defendants and further calls into question her ability to preside over this case as an impartial judicial officer," according to the company's latest motion.

Bice said Gonzalez has tried to make the defendants follow the same rules that others must follow, "and their response has been to simply flaunt those rules and misrepresent evidence, conceal evidence, as she already found."

"The surest way to encourage this activity is to reward it, and that's what they're asking you to do," Bice argued.

Before the Supreme Court took the matter under submission, Hardesty commented on the "considerable acrimony between counsel" in the case.

"That is your choice, I suppose, in advocating on behalf of your clients, but it certainly is not in the best interest of the legal profession as a whole," the chief justice said.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow her on Twitter: @CarriGeer

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