Good morning. A lawyer’s bid to trademark the phrase “Trump Too Small” goes before the U.S. Supreme Court this morning, in a momentous fight over free speech rights. Home sellers won a $1.8 billion antitrust trial verdict challenging commissions; longtime New York firm Stroock is moving to dissolve; and the new bar exam gains traction, as more states pick it up. Our candy stash, however, is decreasing. Happy Wednesday to all.
“Trump Too Small” — a phrase mocking former President Donald Trump that a California lawyer intended to slap on T-shirts — instead has become the center of another U.S. Supreme Courtbattle exploring the intersection of trademark law and free speech rights, Blake Brittain reports.
The justices are slated to hear arguments today in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that said the agency was wrong to deny attorney Steve Elster’s 2018 trademark application for “Trump Too Small.” Trump is not personally involved in the case.
At issue is whether the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment free speech protections for criticism of public figures outweigh the agency’s concerns over Trump’s rights, as the lower court found. The DOJ’s Malcolm Stewart, deputy solicitor general, will face off against Gupta Wessler’s Jonathan Taylor.
Maryland, Missouri and Oregon are the first three states to say they will administer the new version of the bar exam when it debuts in July 2026, the National Conference of Bar Examiners said. Two others — Wyoming and Connecticut — said they are committed to making the switch. The announcement signals the Next Gen bar exam is slowly gaining traction after facing early setbacks in several key states.
A former U.S. lawyer for the Republic of Iraq asked a D.C. federal judge to enter a default judgment against the country after it failed to respond to his lawsuit alleging he is owed more than $5.5 million in unpaid attorney fees. Timothy Mills, a former Squire Patton Boggs partner, sued Iraq and its justice ministry last year.
Lawyers for Walgreens at Ropes & Gray won a fee order in a pretrial fight with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and other insurers suing the retail pharmacy giant over prescription drug reimbursements. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall in Chicago trimmed an award to Walgreens, but otherwise found the hourly rates and attorney staffing to be reasonable. Walgreens has denied any scheme to artificially inflate reimbursement.
Allen & Overywill spin off its online legal information business in a sale to London-based private equity firm Inflexion and U.S. investment firm Endicott Capital. The unit, called aosphere, will become a standalone entity. Allen & Overy said it will retain a “significant” minority stake in the more than 20-year-old legal risk and compliance management business.
Last week, billionaire Dan Och and his allies announced that they’re now backing a sweetened offer by real estate investment firm Rithm Capital for the hedge fund Sculptor. As part of their deal with Rithm, the Ochs group agreed to dismiss a lawsuit to block the Sculptor acquisition. Ochs and his lawyers said other shareholders should be grateful that they pushed Rithm to boost its offer by nearly $44 million. The plaintiffs firm Labaton, which had been working alongside the Ochs group to block the Rithm deal, thinks otherwise. Alison Frankel has the story.
“Whether Special Master Cohen meant to send his email is of no moment.“
—Attorneys for pharmacy benefit managers OptumRx and Express Scripts, who asked a federal appeals court to disqualify a special master in national opioid litigation from working on any cases against them, after he accidentally hit “reply all” on an email that they say revealed him to be biased. The companies said the August email, in which Special Master David Cohen wrote that pharmacy benefit managers “knew a lot” about illicit opioid prescriptions, created an appearance of impartiality. He declined to comment. Cohen told the court in an affidavit that he had intended to send the email as a note to himself.
Coming up today
Closings are expected to begin today in FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal fraud case, Luc Cohen and Jody Godoyreport. Prosecutors have accused the 31-year-old of stealing $8 billion in one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud and five counts of conspiracy, tried over three days of his own testimony to convince the 12-member jury of his innocence.
Donald Trump Jr is set to testify in New York state court at the $250 million civil fraud trial accusing Donald Trump and his family business, the Trump Organization, of unlawfully manipulating asset values and his net worth to dupe lenders and insurers, Jack Queen reports. The trial could lead to the dismantling of Trump’s business empire. New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking a permanent ban against Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric from running businesses in New York, and a five-year commercial real estate ban against Trump and the Trump Organization. Trump has denied the claims and lashed out at the judge.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on some of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees. The court picks set to appear for their confirmation hearings are Seth Aframe for the Boston-based 1st Circuit; Sarah Russell for the Connecticut federal bench; and Edward Kiel for the New Jersey federal trial court. Aframe heads the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in New Hampshire. Kiel would be elevated from his post as a U.S. magistrate judge, and Russell, a law professor, would arrive on the court from Quinnipiac University if confirmed.
Court calendars are subject to last-minute docket changes.
In the courts
A California jury found Bayer liable in a case brought by a man who claimed his cancer was due to exposure to the company’s Roundup weed killer, and ordered it to pay $332 million in damages. The verdict includes $7 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages. Bayer called the verdict “unfounded” and said it would appeal. (Reuters)
A Pennsylvania jury has ordered Mitsubishi Motors to pay nearly $977 million in damages to a man who said he became a quadriplegic in a vehicle rollover because of an alleged defective seatbelt. Jurors in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas awarded Francis Amagasu $176,551,384 in compensatory damages and $800 million in punitive damages, according to Kyle Farrar, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Mitsubishi called the award “egregious” and said it plans to appeal. (Reuters)
The 10th Circuit gave former residents of a Wyoming mental health treatment center for teen girls, who are claiming they were forced to perform grueling unpaid labor, another chance to sue on behalf of more than 250 people. The appellate court said the judge who denied class certification in the 2020 lawsuit against Trinity Teen Solutions had improperly focused on the differences between members of the proposed class while failing to consider common threads in their forced-labor claims. (Reuters)
A former Deutsche Bank trader, whose conviction in New York for rigging a key interest rate benchmark was overturned, can pursue a $150 million lawsuit accusing the German lender of malicious prosecution for making him a scapegoat. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said he had “little trouble” denying Deutsche Bank’s motion to dismiss Matthew Connolly’s lawsuit, citing factual disputes that could not yet be resolved. (Reuters)
Nokia sued Amazon and HP in Delaware federal court, accusing the companies of infringing several Nokia patents related to video streaming. Nokia, represented by McKool Smith and Alston & Bird, said that Amazon’s Prime Video and Twitch streaming services and HP’s computers violate its patents related to compressing and delivering streaming video. (Reuters)
Brendan McGuire, who was chief counsel to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, rejoined WilmerHale as a partner in New York. He will focus on litigation, crisis management and advisory work with a concentration in legal and policy challenges in New York. (WilmerHale)
K&L Gates added Hazel Doyle in the firm’s Dublin office as a partner focused on asset management and investment funds. Doyle was previously at Arthur Cox. (K&L Gates)
Cole Schotz hired IP partner Brian Carpenter in Dallas from Carstens & Cahoon. (Cole Schotz)
Spencer Fane brought on three litigators in Texas, including partners Josh Hedrick and Kevin Corcoran. They join from now-closed litigation firm Hedrick Kring Bailey. (Spencer Fane)