Media Frenzy Over Religious Remarks in Texas Trial

Media outlets from around the world have covered the story of a federal judge in Marshall, Texas recently granting a new trial in a patent infringement lawsuit after defense counsel made prejudicial religious comments in front of jurors. News articles from Corporate Counsel magazine, Bloomberg news service,  the International Business Times and several other media outlets detail the fateful cross-examination in Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Systems Inc.

According to the ruling, the defendant’s lawyer commented in open court that he didn’t think the plaintiff, who is Jewish, had pork for lunch. The trial judge admonished the lawyer, but the same lawyer later made a reference to the trial of Jesus Christ in his closing argument. After jurors returned with a verdict that was millions of dollars less than what the plaintiff requested, a motion for new trial was filed on the issues of indirect infringement and damages.

While media accounts usually focus on the outrageous behavior of the lawyer – and it was outrageous – they don’t always emphasize that the judge here ordered a new trial.  In a situation like this, the judge has the power to ensure that inappropriate conduct by a lawyer does not result in unfairness to the one of the parties.  And that’s exactly what happened here.  Presumably the defense lawyer will be a little more careful about what he says.

Posted: 3/28/2011 10:55:12 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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