The Marbut Report: Farah, Wilner respond to $9.16 million sanction

Court found attorneys should be held to account for “immense waste.”

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The two Jacksonville attorneys who were sanctioned $9.16 million in October by the U.S. District Court have responded to the court’s opinion and order.

Charlie Farah, of the Farah & Farah firm, filed with the court a motion for reconsideration; Norwood “Woody” Wilner, of The Wilner Firm, filed a motion to alter or amend the sanctions order.

In October, the court found that the attorneys should be held to account for “the immense waste of judicial resources and contempt shown for the judicial process” by maintaining more than 1,000 nonviable claims related to the federal “Engle” product liability actions that were brought by smokers against the tobacco companies and subsequently settled.

The court also ordered the sanctioned funds be deposited into the registry of the court to compensate the court for its costs related to evaluating the damage claims in question and investigating the matter.

Farah responded that various portions of the opinion overstated or mischaracterized his involvement.

He said, in part, that his firm entered into an arrangement with Wilner, where Wilner would take responsibility for the court filings, hearings discovery and trials of the 163 Farah & Farah cases out of approximately 3,700 lawsuits related to the investigation and subsequent order.

Farah said he never acted to deceive or impede the court’s progress in winnowing the cases and asks the court to enter an amended order that would withdraw the imposition of sanctions against him individually.

Wilner responded, in part, that the court conceded that its Sanctions Order was issued without a prior order to show cause and prevented counsel from having notice of, or an opportunity to respond to, certain issues presented in the Sanctions Order.

He cited, in part, that he was not given the opportunity to object to compensating the court for the cost of the Special Master’s investigation, nor the opportunity to address the methodology the court used to calculate the amount of the sanction.

In addition, Wilner cited the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits excessive fines, and asks the court to vacate the monetary penalty.

The court requested the Special Master to respond to Farah’s and Wilner’s motions by Jan. 12.

New faces at law firms

Josephine Rahn joined Saalfield Shad in Jacksonville as an associate focusing on medical malpractice and general liability defense.

She received a bachelor’s from the University of Georgia in 2014 and her J.D. in 2017 from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

During law school she was an editor for the Journal of Technology Law and Policy, vice president of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society and social chair of the Law Association for Women.

Matt Goller has joined Balch & Bingham in Jacksonville as an associate in the litigation and banking and financial services litigation practices.

He received a bachelor’s in economics and political science in 2014 at Florida State University and a J.D. in 2017 from Florida State University College of Law.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, right, presented the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s 2017 Spirit of Giving Award to attorney Daniel Smith.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, right, presented the Jacksonville Chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s 2017 Spirit of Giving Award to attorney Daniel Smith.

Federal Bar celebrates giving

The Jacksonville chapter of the Federal Bar Association’s 11th annual Spirit of Giving luncheon was Friday at The River Club.

Criminal defense attorney Daniel Smith received the association’s 2017 Spirit of Giving Award in recognition of his more than 30 years of pro bono service to indigent clients who appeared in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, who presented the award, said Smith epitomizes the dedication of the local legal community to service.

“In my 21 years on the federal bench, Dan has been one of the most highly respected practitioners,” Corrigan said. “The quality and the caliber of lawyers that is displayed every day in our courtrooms should not be taken for granted.”

Edward Waters College President Nathaniel Glover, the keynote speaker, recalled his decision when he retired as Jacksonville sheriff to donate four years of his pension to scholarships for students at the college, his alma mater.

“If you’re going to help somebody, sometimes it takes you beyond your comfort zone. Those are the ones that count,” he said.

Volunteers needed for new state committee

Attorneys interested in serving on the inaugural International Litigation and Arbitration Certification Committee should send a letter and resume no later than Jan. 19 to Office of the President of The Florida Bar, 651 E. Jefferson St., Tallahassee, 32399.

Appointees shall be eminent attorneys in the practice field, members in good standing and admitted to The Florida Bar no less than 10 years. Expenses associated with committee service cannot be reimbursed. 

For additional information or questions, contact Diana Kellogg, director of the Legal Specialization and Education Department, at [email protected]