The war was and still is controversial. The United States has engaged in many questionable wars and this was one. A memorial to the participants in that war recognizes the unique nature of their service:

“Not for fame or reward

Not for place or rank

Not lured by Ambition

Or goaded by Necessity

But in simple Obedience to duty

As they understood it

These men suffered all, sacrificed all

“Dared all, and died”

No, these words do not commemorate those who fell in the Viet Nam war or the many other questionable wars in which our country has engaged. These words recall the service of Confederates who are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Some 400 Confederates are buried at Arlington. How did Confederates come to be buried at this place of honor? Early in the 20th century, the United Confederate Veterans petitioned to move some 260 buried Confederates to Arlington. In a spirit of fraternity, as time passed the predecessor entity to the Veterans Administration allowed other Confederates to be buried there.

Bleached Bones from Shiloh to Corinth

Unlike Federal soldiers, very few Confederates who died during the war were buried in marked graves. Most of the Confederate KIA’s were buried in slit trenches on someone’s farm or were left to de-compose in the Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi soil. Several years after the war, one Confederate general started an effort to raise money to inter these thousands of remains. He said there were “bleached bones from Shiloh to Corinth.” In 1869, at a dedication of a Federal monument at Gettysburg, Gen. George Meade called for a respectful burial for the Confederate dead. He was reacting to the many news reports of dead Confederates lying openly in forests and hills from Corinth, Mississippi to Shiloh, Tennessee.  This Arlington memorial is a reaction to the complete absence of a place where Southern families could recall their loved ones.

Now, the Naming Commission – which is addressing the re-naming of Army posts – is expanding its brief. It is recommending that the Confederate memorial at Arlington cemetery be removed. The memorial was erected in 1914. The Commission believes it espouses Lost Cause beliefs. But, the words recounted above make no reference to a Lost Cause – or to any cause. The memorial itself speaks of sacrifice as the soldiers saw it. The wording suggest the soldiers may have been wrong in their belief. That wording renders the memorial as much anti-Lost Cause as not.

For more about the Confederate memorial, see the Arlington National Cemetery website here. For more about the unburied Confederate soldiers, see the Irish Confederates blog post here.

Alex Jones really is the oddest litigant in a lawsuit. He is siting through a second trial for defamation. This time, his trial is in Connecticut state district court. Like the prior trial in Austin, he violated discovery orders and eventually was found in default. So, the trial is not about whether he actually defamed Sandy Hook families, but about how much he owes those eight families.

The pressure must be weighing on him. He snapped during his testimony. He said he was tired of apologizing for making false claims about the Sandy Hook families. He has apologized 100 times and that is enough, or so he said. The presiding Judge Bellis has already warned him to avoid his outbursts and told him he has to follow the court rules. Mr. Jones called the judge a tyrant outside of court. So, of course, the plaintiff lawyer asked him about that comment. The plaintiff lawyer also asked him about his comment that the court was a “kangaroo court.”

Disrespecting the Court

Juries do not follow all the legal arguments. They have trouble digesting a fire hose of evidence. But, they understand when a party is disrespecting the court. Mr. Jones is really making his case worse and worse.

The two sides argued over the scope of Jones’ answers many times. Each time, the jury was sent out of the courtroom.

At one point, the plaintiff lawyer told Mr. Jones that the Sandy Hook families were real people. Jones shot back, “Just like all the Iraqis you liberals killed and love.”  A bit later, the plaintiff lawyer told Mr. Jones that these families in court had lost “children, sisters, wives, moms.” Jones replied, “Is this a struggle session? Are we in China? I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times and I’m done saying I’m sorry.” See Politico news report here.

His testimony is a text book example of how not to testify. His behavior is very strange for someone who, we assume, wants to win this trial.

Sometimes, it’s just better to not accept certain clients. I talked about a major error by the Alex Jones lawyers here. Well, that same lawyer, Andino Reynal, was even then due to appear in a Connecticut district court for a show cause hearing regarding the disclosure by Alex Jones lawyers of confidential information about Sandy Hook families. See NBC news report here. A show cause hearing essentially amounts to a judge saying, “show me why I should not discipline you.” There were two Alex Jones lawyers involved in that hearing, Norm Pattis and Andino Reynal.  Mr. Reynal also represented Jones at the Austin, Texas defamation trial in August. Both defense lawyers appeared for the Connecticut hearing. But, Mr. Pattis refused to testify. He cited the Fifth Amendment. The Judge remarked that it was unusual for a lawyer to refuse to testify during his own disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Reynal, however, did testify. He said that day in the Austin court when the opposing counsel used documents Reynal’s firm had inadvertently sent was the worst day of his legal career. He was said it was very embarrassing. He had just been hired by Mr. Jones in March and was still catching up with the case.

Mr. Reynal said the link had originally been sent by a different firm in Houston that represents Jones in his bankruptcy proceedings. Mr. Reynal said a paralegal had sent the link without Reynal checking the link himself. The bankruptcy lawyer, in turn obtained the link from Norm Pattis’ law firm. Reynal said the opposing attorney, Mark Bankston, simply told him the link included medical files. Reynal told Bankston to disregard the link, not realizing Bankston’s firm had already downloaded the files. Reynal said he was stunned when Bankstoin announced at trial that the file included medical files.

At the close of the show cause hearing, Judge Bellis asked the lawyers to submit briefs regarding the legal ramifications of a lawyer not testifying at a disciplinary hearing. See ABA Bar Journal report here.

But, in truth, she likely knows what that means. It means Mr. Pattis cannot defend himself against allegations that he violated confidentiality orders. And, there is a lesson here for all attorneys, be careful of the clients you accept.

The trial regarding the death of University of Incarnate Word student Cameron Redus is set for Sept. 19, 2022.  Years of appeals over the issue whether the UIW police department enjoyed governmental immunity was resolved.  That issue was resolved in 2020. See my blog post about that Supreme Court of Texas opinion here.  After that issue was settled, UIW then filed a motion to quash the lawsuit. That motion to quash then lost on appeal on July 30, 2022.  So, nine years after young Redus was killed, the matter may finally reach trial. See San Antonio Express News report for more information.

Donald Trump’s home was searched a few weeks ago.  In response, his legal team has filed a motion requesting a Special Master to review the documents removed from his home. The goal would be to return any documents not within the ambit of the search warrant. You have to love motions filed by Trump lawyers. They are heavy on political bragadacio and settling scores and short on actual legal reasoning.

For example, in this “Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief,” the lawyers point out on page one Mr. Trump’s high ratings in the polls reflecting his probable run for the presidency in 2024.  It includes a full paragraph describing his home at Mar-a-Lago.  Mar-a-Lago means sea to lake.  The mansion extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway.  It has this many bathrooms and even more bedrooms.  This is, of course, essential information to a motion seeking appointment of a Special Master.  The words of my law school professors come floating back to me, “only include the facts which directly support your argument.”  What would those professors say about including specific numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms?

Special Master

The appointment of  Special Master do occur in the legal business. But, it is more for complicated, ongoing situations.  Prison litigation, foster care lawsuits that drag on for years will often see a Special Master.  But, here, Donald Trump is asking for review of documents.  That review is already being conducted by a special legal team within the Department of Justice.  What his motion completely lacks is any explanation why that DOJ team is not enough.  It lacks legal citations to precedent explaining why a Special Master is needed.

Nefarious FBI Agents

The motion has a section titled “Argument.”  That is usually the section where the advocate pulls together the facts and the law to make his/her argument. But, in this motion, the Argument includes complaining that DOJ and the FBA have a history of treating Donald Trump unfairly.  “Two years of noisy ‘Russian collusion” investigations heads that list.  “Biased” FBA agents.  “Information laundering” by an FBI informant.  This is Mr. Trump’s list.  But, at some point the lawyer should insert herself and explain why all this matters.  Which FBI agents committed those nefarious deeds?  How did those dastardly FBI agents influence the search at Mar-a-Lago (Mar-a-Waterway?)?  Actual legal argument is absent from this motion.  Random complaints about random FBI agents do not an argument make.  My law school professors would be very disappointed.

And, then the motion concludes with argument based on “fundamental fairness.”  The final refuge of all lawyers who cannot locate actual statutory or legal support.  See Donald Trump’s motion here.

Alex Jones’ attorneys committed a serious error during his trial.  I talked about that error here.  Andino Reynal’s law firm sent the wrong link to the opposing attorney.  Reynal’s law firm was trying to produce requested documents.  Instead of sending access to the requested documents, the law firm sent a link to Alex Jones’ entire cell phone.  Ooops.  Those things happen.  Under Texas ethical rules, Reynal’s law firm could have then requested that the erroneous documents be returned.  But, according to the Plaintiffs’ lawyers, Mr. Reynal simply responded with the equivalent of “oops.”  Reynal says he told Mark Bankston, the lawyer for the plaintiff, to “please disregard.”  Mr. Bankston then used some of the erroneous material to impeach Mr. Jones on the stand.  Catching a key witness in a lie is significant in any trial.

But, malpractice lawyers suggest this sequence of events does not present a solid case of malpractice.  To amount to malpractice, a plaintiff would have to show the error made a difference in the trial.  One Texas malpractice lawyer quoted in the ABA Bar Journal said if Jones pursued a malpractice claim against his lawyer, the claim would essentially be, “But for my lawyers, I would have been a successful liar.”  That would be a difficult case for any plaintiff alleging malpractice.

But, the two plaintiffs could have an action against Jones and Reynal for not turning over the text messages before trial.  It is very difficult to receive thousands of pages of documents mid-trial and try to use those thousands of pages.  Bankston’s law firm performed a small miracle in processing so many documents in such a short time and finding a very helpful document.

Mr. Reynal and another Jones lawyer named Norm Pattis already face possible discipline in a Connecticut court for releasing medical documents belonging to the plaintiffs. The trial judge in that matter has referred the two lawyers to the Connecticut bar association for investigation. See ABA Bar Journal report here.

One expert said he thinks the Reynal firm turned over the cell phone data in its native format, not as a pdf.  We as trial lawyers make mistakes.  But, we have to say that Alex Jones’ approach to this lawsuit antagonized the opposing parties and lawyers unnecessarily.  Friction among the lawyers will always reduce the level of professionalism.

A large California law firm known as Buchalter has been sued for sexual harassment. A former legal analyst in the products liability section claims her boss, Gary Wolensky, made frequent sexual jokes. Mr. Wolensky, the chair of the products liability department, used sexually harassing acronyms in emails. But, he also discarded acronyms for something more direct. In one email, he asked the legal analyst, Karen Hurdle, “Karen, could you type up something for Jan and then give me a blow job please? Thanks!!” According to Ms. Hurdle’s suit, during one training session on sexual harassment, Mr. Wolensky joked, “Why do I need sexual harassment training? I have insurance.” Ms. Hurdle claims law firm management laughed at his joke.

Later, Wolensky expressed annoyance when Ms. Hurdle needed time off for a second surgery. When she indicated that she did not wish to be humiliated again, Mr. Wolensky asked if that was a threat, after every thing he had done for her. He told her it was time they parted ways. Later, Ms. Hurdle went out on medical leave. See ABA Bar Journal report here.

Yes, Mr. Wolensky has left us a good example of how not to accept sexual harassment training.

On Friday, the jury in Alex Jones’ defamation trial heard evidence about his net worth. At the close of the trial, the jury awarded the two parents $45.2 million as punitive damages. That is much less than the $150 million they had sought. But, after the trial, the parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis were satisfied. Ms. Lewis said she believed Alex Jones had been held accountable. She said that when she confronted Mr. Jones from the witness stand, she thought of the courage of her son Jesse, who told his classmates to run. Her son stood up to a bully and so did his mother, added Ms. Lewis. The mother said love is a choice. She hopes Mr. Jones has learned some values.

Mr. Jones’ attorney, Andino Reynal, said they would appeal. He said he believes the court will reduce the amount of punitive damages. He pointed to a state law that caps damages to $750,000 per plaintiff. It actually caps punitive damages at twice the amount of compensatory damages times two, plus $750,000. In any event, there is still one more defamation case pending in Travis County and one more in Connecticut.

One expert testified Friday that Mr. Jones withdrew $67 million in 2021. That means he likely has that amount or more stashed somewhere. An economist testified that Jones and his companies were worth $270 million. One estimate outside of court has said he started taking in $50 million per year starting with his lies about Sandy Hook and then moving on to other conspiracies, such as the supposedly stolen election. During his testimony, Jones was asked about an internal memo which showed he had grossed $800,000 in selling vitamin supplements and other products in one day. That amount would result in gross revenue of $300 million per year.

Mr. Reynal again asked the judge to order the plaintiffs to return the contents of Jones’ phone. Mr. Reynal told the judge they only became aware of the inadvertent disclosure while Mr. Jones was on the stand. No, replied, the judge, you showed me the email about that erroneous disclosure 12 days before Jones testified. Reynal responded it was Judge Gamble’s “prerogative” to disagree with their “position.” The judge laughed, and said, yes, it is her prerogative to disagree with the written word in front of her. That means the defense lawyer was taking a “position” with which he did not necessarily agree. The judge then laughed at him taking a position that disagrees with the written email. It seems apparent. Mr. Reynal was forced to take a “position” by his client regarding the erroneous disclosure. 

See San Antonio Express News report here for more information.

 

On Thursday, the jury in the Alex Jones trial awarded $4 million to the two parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate the plaintiffs for their emotional suffering. On Friday, the trial will enter a new phase in which the court will address punitive damages. That probably means witnesses will testify about the worth of Alex Jones and how much money will be needed to serve as punishment.

Andino Reyna had asked the jury to award no more than $8, or one dollar for each harm the court has already found. See Texas Tribune report here.

Alex Jones is really having a tough time in court. He has had some bad days during his defamation trial, but Wednesday was probably the worst. He finally took the stand himself. He testified that he had never texted about the Sandy Hook shooting. Mr., Jones told the jury that he did not use email and that he had searched his phone for any text messages that might have addressed the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

But, it turns out his lawyer had inadvertently produced all of Jone’ text messages for years. Andino Reynal just produced those phone records 12 days ago. Among those years of messages was one in which one of his producers warned him that his coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic contained falsehoods similar to those regarding the Sandy Hook shooting. The parents’ attorney told Jones sitting there on the stand that his attorney inadvertently sent him Jones’ entire phone. Bankston showed Mr. Jones and the jury the text messages to which he was referring. Mr. Reynal objected. The Judge then cautioned the jury that no evidence had been shown that the text messages were provided inadvertently. She also mentioned that any such text messages should have been produced months ago.

Does this count as a gotcha moment? Yes, pretty much. They are exceedingly rare, but this is one.

Later, Mark Bankston, the parents’ attorney, explained to reporters that Reynal’s firm provided the documents on a file-sharing platform. In accordance with ethical rules, Bankston notified Reynal’s firm that they produced erroneous documents. That started a ten day period in which Reynal’s firm could have notified Bankston’s firm that some improper documents were provided and need to be returned. But, Reynal’s firm did not request that any documents be returned. At that point, the documents then belonged to Bankston’s firm. Mr. Bankston and his firm started reviewing all the records. Mr. Bankston said they were still reviewing those thousands of pages of documents.

Mr. Bankston said he would not disclose any personal messages or information. But, if the Jan. 6 committee desired any text messages, he would cooperate. See San Antonio Express News report here for more information. This oversight appears to amount to a major error by Mr. Jones’ attorney. But, the horse is out of the barn, now.