Judge sanctions plaintiffs’ lawyers in Apple iPhone throttling case

Via wire reports, a U.S. federal judge has declined Apple Inc’s request to disqualify principal lawyers Joseph Cotchett and Mark Molumphy at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy from representing consumers as a sanction for improperly disclosing confidential documents in court. The case centers on a proposed class action suit which alleges Apple surreptitiously slowed down aging iPhones.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, on Friday called disqualification “too severe,” but he said the lawyers’ improper actions warranted a reduction in any fees they are eventually awarded. In addition, name partner Joseph Cotchett will need permission to argue any motions from this point on in the proceedings.

Amanda Bronstad for Law.com:

In an April 9 motion for sanctions, Apple lawyer Theodore Boutrous, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles, said both attorneys disclosed “highly confidential” documents during a hearing last month in San Jose on a renewed motion to dismiss the litigation. Such a “serious and intentional breach” of a protective order “directly attack[ed] the integrity of the proceedings before the court.”

“While even honest mistakes are unacceptable in this context, that is not what happened here. Mr. Cotchett and Mr. Molumphy made the calculated decision to violate the protective order,” Boutrous wrote. “Mr. Cotchett and Mr. Molumphy have proven themselves unwilling to respect the orders of the court. The documents at issue contain sensitive information not only about Apple’s business, but also about individual employees.”

According to Apple’s sanctions motion, Cotchett and Molumphy both quoted from two documents designated “highly confidential — attorneys’ eyes only” in open court at a March 7 dismissal hearing. The documents are sealed exhibits attached to their court filing opposing Apple’s renewed motion to dismiss. The documents involve internal discussions among Apple employees about how to respond to issues relating to the problems with the iPhone batteries, including “proposed plans of action” and speculation about the root cause, the motion says. They also disclosed employee names and contact information.

MacDailyNews Take: Poor start for Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.


  1. “…a reduction in any fees they are eventually awarded…” So what happens in the unlikely event (given Apple’s legal staff’s track record) that Apple wins and the plaintiffs get nothing and the lawyers get nothing? How does the judge reduce zero?

    The judge is obviously already of the mindset that the plaintiffs are going to win something.

    Apple might as well settle now or at the very least start crafting Apple’s appeal. The judge is already biased against Apple by this ruling. It would have been less obvious if the judge had just fined each lawyer $10.00 and moved on with the proceedings.

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