April 2017


A periodic skim of intriguing news and numbers from the world of commercial litigation.


It sounds lifted from the pages of a Hollywood script: a government lawyer from an elite whistle-blower unit stands accused of trying to make $310,000 by selling information about a case to a Silicon Valley company under investigation. Prosecutors say Jeffrey Wertkin tried to sell information to a company about a whistle-blower’s confidential lawsuit against it. And yes, authorities say, he was wearing a wig in disguise at the time. Investigators are digging into whether Wertkin, who left the Justice Department in April 2016 and was arrested in January of this year, may have peddled other secrets while working there.



That’s the trademark number held by a German company that makes luxury bong pipes and, in a slate of recent lawsuits, is accusing cannabis shops in the U.S. of trying to steal their high-end brand appeal. The German-based company, RooR, commands top prices for its posh water pipes. The brand has become identified with upmarket marijuana culture, which is growing thanks to legalization by several states. Much like other brands in other industries that rise to the level of status symbols (e.g. Prada, Rolex), paraphernalia made by RooR has become the must-have. The company’s website has a “philosophy” section that touts its commitment to “first-class smoking” and its track record on the international scene of being “four-time winner of the High-Times-Cup.”
“Counterfeiting is a huge problem for us,” says Jay Farraj, owner of Sream Inc. (Sream is RooR’s partner in the U.S.). Farraj says the knock-off RooR items have cost his business millions of dollars. Inconveniently for RooR, marijuana remains illegal federally, despite legalization in several states, so it is unclear what will happen when and if the case comes before federal courts.



...is the next year congressional districts will be redrawn across the U.S. While this technical process may evince yawns from most voters who are more interested in who tweeted what and when, the truth is that how congressional districts are designed has a major impact on the overall national political scene and balance of power. So when Moon Duchin, an associate professor at Tufts, realized that some of her work in the area of metric geometry could be applied to gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating the shape of electoral districts for political gain - she helped create a program to train geometry scholars to serve as expert witnesses in the imminent legal battles over redistricting.
At first, she says, her plans were modest — "to put together a team to do some modeling and then maybe consult with state redistricting commissions." But then she got more expansive. "I became convinced that it’s probably more effective to try to help train a big new generation of expert witnesses who know the math side pretty well," she says.



...was the vote by the Florida Supreme Court to reject the state legislature’s decision to implement the more rigorous and accepted Daubert expert witness testimony standard. The implication of this decision is that Florida will not join the courts of 36 states or the federal courts that have adopted Daubert, but will instead stay with the Frye rule for expert witness testimony admissibility.
As with so many issues, there are political forces at work in this case. The more stringent Daubert standard is endorsed by conservative politicians because it is seen as less plaintiff-friendly. The Frye standard, supported by liberal factions, gives greater latitude on what constitutes admissible testimony. The Court’s four liberal judges voted against adopting Daubert, citing “grave constitutional concerns.” The conservative judges wrote in their dissent: “Has the entire federal court system for the last 23 years as well as 36 states denied parties’ rights to a jury trial and access to courts? Do only Florida and a few other states have a constitutionally sound standard for the admissibility of expert testimony? Of course not.”