After watching part of the sanctions hearing of Las Vegas Sands Corp. attorneys this past week in District Court, I reached one undeniable conclusion:
It’s a good thing the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is located near the Regional Justice Center. Several of the casino company’s lawyers obviously suffer from dramatic memory loss.
The condition I observed was either the first recorded case of shared early onset Alzheimer’s, or the debilitating strain of breached ethics coming home to roost.
District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez on Friday determined that the latter diagnosis was accurate. At the conclusion of the three-day hearing Wednesday, the judge allowed that the actions of Las Vegas Sands attorneys amounted to “serious violations of duties of candor.” On Friday, she ruled the company’s attorneys had demonstrated an “intention to deceive the court” and imposed a $25,000 fine payable to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and other sanctions.
“Intention to deceive.” Such a polite phrase for what the lawyers were practicing.
Gonzalez didn’t fall for the group memory loss legal strategy employed by attorneys Patricia Glaser, J. Stephen Peek and others associated with defending the increasingly problematic wrongful termination lawsuit brought against the company by former Sands China Ltd. CEO Steven Jacobs.
The hearing came after the June disclosure that Las Vegas Sands and its Sands China affiliate had in local possession a computer hard drive with approximately 100,000 emails that were being sought by Jacobs’ lawyers James Pisanelli and Todd Bice as part of discovery in the litigation.
Sands attorneys had previously gone to great lengths to misinform opposing counsel and the judge that the documents being sought were in Macau and unavailable because of its Personal Data Protection Act.
All rhetorical misdirection and purported memory lapses aside, the evidence showed the material has been in Las Vegas and under review by Sands lawyers since 2010.
Not that the amnesiac attorneys willingly came clean. Their foggy memory routines and discomfort on the witness stand were at times painful to watch.
Known as a bantam rooster in court, Glaser looked more like a wet hen under questioning. By the time she finished not remembering chronological facts that should have been simple matters for an experienced litigator, she was a plucked pullet. Fremont Street palm readers have a more convincing routine.
It’s unclear whether being associated with the “intention to deceive” issue will impact attorney Justin Jones’ candidacy as a Democrat for the District 9 state Senate seat. But, admittedly, the gift of obfuscation might serve him well at the Legislature, where such qualities are prized.
After 40 years of practicing law, Peek isn’t running for elected office. This past week, he mostly ran for cover and played semantics Twister under Bice’s inquiry.
Normally the picture of courtroom confidence, Peek emerged from examination a slump-shouldered equivocator who had been part of a legal team whose arguments possessed more swamp gas than substance. He sheepishly apologized to the court.
Why did these experienced attorneys go through such excruciating histrionics to deny what appears to have been undeniable? Were they, for example, attempting to further delay the Jacobs case?
One reasonable conclusion is that Las Vegas Sands really doesn’t want the content of those emails to reach open court and public scrutiny.
At one point I considered asking the opinions of the two Department of Justice attorneys and an FBI agent who monitored the sanctions hearing as part of the ongoing federal investigation into whether Las Vegas Sands and its Macau casino affiliate violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Although they don’t talk to the press, I’m guessing they’re also interested in the full contents of that hard drive and those emails.
The State Bar of Nevada is duty-bound to pick up where Gonzalez left off. But no matter the end result, the character prognosis for these lawyers is grim.
They’ve not only lost their memories, but they’ve fractured their credibility as well.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Smith.