Attorney Saina Shamilov, who is Jewish, says: “The allegations that were made hit right in my heart.” (Photo/Forward)
Attorney Saina Shamilov, who is Jewish, says: “The allegations that were made hit right in my heart.” (Photo/Forward)

S.F. lawyers on both sides of ‘baseless’ antisemitism allegations in Amazon case

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This story first appeared in the Forward.

Lawyers who accused opposing counsel of antisemitism against their Israeli corporate client must take courses on judicial ethics under a new order from the trial judge that declares the allegations “vitriolic and unsubstantiated.”

The Dec. 17 order from U.S. District Judge Alan Albright in Waco, Texas, reiterated what the judge said in an October hearing: The antisemitism allegations made in the case are offensive to the court and the accused attorneys, and they appear to simply be a way for the losing lawyers to try to win a new trial.

“The Court did not turn a blind eye to any racist or anti-Semitic conduct, because indeed there was none,” Albright wrote.

Albright’s solution is somewhat unusual in federal court: In addition to rejecting the attorneys’ request for a new trial, he ordered them to take 30 hours of legal ethics courses within six months.

The order applies to each attorney who signed the Aug. 11 motion for new trial that originally laid out the antisemitism allegations: Paul J. Andre, Lisa Kobialka, and James Hannah of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP in San Francisco, and John Palmer of Naman Howell Smith & Lee PLLC in Texas. The judge noted the lawyers had been reprimanded in an unrelated case this year by another judge.

“Therefore, to preserve the integrity of the judicial process and to deter future improper conducts, the Court feels compelled to impose sanctions on all attorneys who signed Freshub’s Motion for New Trial,” according to Albright’s order.

The lawyers lodged the allegations against attorneys at Fenwick West in San Francisco, who defended Amazon against a lawsuit from Kramer Levin’s client, the Israeli grocer Freshub, alleging patent infringement.

The allegations that were made hit right in my heart.

One of the accused attorneys, Saina Shamilov, is Jewish with family in Israel, and she told Albright in October, “The allegations that were made hit right in my heart.”

Andre and his co-counsel said the Fenwick West team pushed an “us versus them”narrative by casting Freshub as an Israeli outsider threatening American companies, and by emphasizing Freshub’s profitability and “doing so in terms of Israeli shekels.”

But Andre acknowledged during the October hearing that he’d lodged no objections during trial, and Friday’s order said the post-trial filing is apparently the result of “dissatisfaction with the verdict and counsel’s difficulty in making sense of the unfavorable outcome.”

“Freshub’s counsel failed to articulate any coherent argument as to how Defendants’ counsel engaged in any racist or anti-Semitic conduct at trial,” Albright wrote. “Without any evidentiary support, these serious allegations are particularly disturbing.”

Albright said the Fenwick West attorneys “only mentioned Israel when relevant or necessary to rebut Freshub’s own statements at trial, including, e.g., discussing the fact that Freshub applied for funding from the Israeli government in response to Freshub’s statement about its application for funding, and cross-examining a witness regarding meetings between Amazon and Freshub in Israel after Freshub asked about the same meetings on direct examination.”

“Further, Defendants’ counsel, herself a Jewish woman, asked about Freshub’s financial records reflecting significant losses in Israeli shekels only because Freshub’s financial records were reported in Israeli shekels,” Albright wrote.

The sanctioned lawyers did not reply to emails seeking comment.

Meghann M. Cuniff
Meghann M. Cuniff

Meghann M. Cuniff is a journalist in Southern California. She’s on Twitter @meghanncuniff .

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