August 5, 2021

Foley Partner responds to Show Cause Order: I had no choice and you’re overreacting

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Shipley caseFrom Patentlyo

The full response is here: Shipley_Response at:

Foley went all out, hiring Paul Clement to write it. Boiled (way way down – it’s 41 pages), the approach was to say that the client wanted this petition this way, and the client is in charge of the goals of the representation. “I had no choice and you’re overreacting,” might be the headline.

Here’s the introduction:

In this case, attorney Howard Shipley had to reconcile the competing demands of the duty of loyalty that he owed his client and the duty that he owed this Court as a member of the Supreme Court Bar. Mr. Shipley’s client had deeply held views about patent law and insisted on articulating his basic argument (that the Federal Circuit was ignoring the guidance of this Court) in his own words, as he had done in prior amicus briefs filed in this Court by other counsel. The result is an unorthodoxpetition that clearly and faithfully reflects the views of the client, right down to the client’s favored locutions and acronyms employed in his other writings about the patent system. Mr. Shipley counseled the client and helped to ensure that the petition complied with this Court’s rules on matters such as format and the necessary components. The petition is not the one Mr. Shipley would have filed for a more deferential client, but the petition undoubtedly reflects his client’s wishes and instructions.

Mr. Shipley certainly had the option to withdraw from the representation, but doing so likely would have prejudiced his client’s ability to pursue the last legal option available to save his patent from invalidation. And, of course, even if Mr. Shipley had withdrawn, any substitute counsel retained by Dr. Schindler would have faced the same dilemma as Mr. Shipley. Mr. Shipley ultimately did not withdraw, and he made the arguments his client wanted this Court to hear. That decision was a good faith effort to reconcile the competing demands of the ethics rules. Other lawyers may well have made a different choice, but Mr. Shipley’s decision does not amount to sanctionable misconduct. The proper remedy for filing an unconventional or difficult to-follow certiorari petition should be denial of the petition (or rejection of the filing), not disciplining the lawyer who filed it.

And the conclusion:

In a perfect world, lawyers and their clients would always be on the same page in terms of both the goals of the representation and the means of pursuing this goals. In the world in which we actually live, lawyers will inevitably face competin demands to their clients and to the tribunals in which they practice. Here, Mr Shipley chose to hew closely to his client’s explicit instructions, while working in good faith to help ensure compliance with this Court’s rules, even though the result was an unconventional filing. In doing so, Mr. Shipley elected to file the petition rather than withdraw from the representation of a longstanding client in a manner that likely would have prejudiced the client’s ability to seek Supreme Court review at all.

Reasonable lawyers can differ over whether they would have filed this petition under their signature. But Mr. Shipley respectfully submits that his good-faith efforts to accommodate the competing ethical interests at stake do not reflect conduct unbecoming a member of this Court’s Bar, and should not result in a sanction that would have very serious consequences for his career.

I personally agree that, in this particular case, this is probably the right place to go, and the Court has, no doubt, sent a message to lawyers. So, hopefully the matter will go away. But, I could see the court trying to say “you have a choice, but we overreacted” to try to affect things more.

We’ll see.

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