• July 16, 2014

Regular Minnesota Litigator readers have been drawn into following many lawsuits in state and federal court in Minnesota. These forays into fracases shed light on Minnesota laws, federal laws, our justice system(s), and also, of course, unique and personal aspects of particular cases.

Do you ever get attached to a particular tale? Maybe once in a while Minnesota Litigator readers wonder, as I do, “What ever happened to…”? If so, do not hesitate to send me a note. I might be able to do some sleuthing and figure it out.

A few recent filings resulted in my getting up to speed on a few “brain drain/brain raid” cases that Minnesota Litigator has followed over the past year: St. Jude Medical v. de Castro (Biosense) and Honeywell v. Stacey (Nest). The paths of the two cases have diverged 180-degrees.

The Honeywell/Nest case settled a while ago and the case was quietly dismissed last week.

The St. Jude Medical/de Castro case is now in trial before a jury and U.S. District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery (D. Minn.). The two sides summarize the issues to be tried here and here.

And, finally, a related point: I want readers to weigh in if they think there are any ethics implicated by my posting links to trial documents in cases while trials are on-going as I have done in the previous paragraph.

On the one hand, the answer would seem clearly, “No.” Jurors are specifically instructed NOT to learn about their cases via the internet and court filings are public documents.

On the other hand, few would argue the proposition that jurors sometimes use the internet and perform their own “research,” as it were, as they sit through trials. (They are human, of course, and curiosity is a general (and generally positive) human attribute.) It is therefore not unforeseeable that, in theory, a juror could read a court document that is not intended for her and, in theory, this could inject bias or error into the system.

What is the best policy for the few intrepid folks out there like me that comment on litigation?

I try to adopt anĀ ad hoc approach. If, for example, there were an on-going trial preceded by briefing on the exclusion of highly inflammatory and prejudicial information, available in court records but not widely known, I think that a basic sense of right, wrong, and fairness would require that I restrain myself from posting any commentary as to that excluded evidence while the trial is on-going.

If, on the other hand, the issues are relatively dull and, in my view, are unlikely to be of any interest to any errant juror, much less influence deliberations, then I figure I am certainly in the clear. If any readers think otherwise, please share your thoughts.

(The commentary to Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.6, “Trial Publicity,” incidentally, highlights the tension between “fair trial” and “safeguarding the right of free expression.”)

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