Remember how we recently told you that you do, at a bare minimum, need to show up for court? You probably read that and thought “Jesus Christ, Bitter Lawyer. Every last one of us knows that we have to show up. Who on earth DOESN’T show up?” Apparently the answer to that is “big shot white-shoe lawyers working a $40 million case that manage to miss their appeal deadline:”
Three Federal Circuit judges on Wednesday hammered a Sidley Austin LLP attorney for missing a deadline to appeal a $40 million patent verdict against AT&T Inc. after his team overlooked a notice from the lower court, saying attorneys have an obligation to read every order they receive from judges.
Although Carter G. Phillips maintained that the trial court’s notice misled his 18-attorney team from Sidley Austin and Davis Cedillo & Mendoza Inc. to believe the enclosed orders were “ministerial,” the appellate judges were incredulous that no one bothered to open and read the decisions or check the court docket for 52 days, completely missing their 30-day appeal window.
We’re not sure which is worse: the fact that no one in a ginormous rich person firm (Sidley Austin has 1800 lawyers and 10-figure annual revenues) was tasked with opening and reading the mail or the fact that Sidley sent someone up to the Federal Circuit to whine about how it was unfair to ding them.
The whinging from the firm is centered around the fact that the electronic notices they were getting didn’t entirely match up with the snail mail ones, which is why they didn’t know that their appeal window was tick tick ticking away. So they thought they had orders from the court but not, you know, important orders.
According to Phillips, the lower court’s notice only mentioned that the orders related to motions to seal rather than substantive post-trial motions, leading to his team’s “excusable neglect.” He noted that the court recognized the issues with original notice and posted a new summary on the court docket the following day. However, that modification was never relayed to the attorneys, and they believed that their electronic notices contained everything on case docket.
Again, we’re pretty stuck on the fact that you have an 18-lawyer trial team at a big fancy firm, with all the attendant minions that implies, and no person was armed with a letter opener and the ability to read. They sure do things different up at BigLaw.