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Judge sanctions lawyer for splashing opposing counsel with iced coffee

Joe Mullin
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A lawyer representing artificial intelligence startup Loop AI Labs was accused last year of throwing an iced coffee at opposing counsel during a deposition—and a federal magistrate judge has now ruled that she must pay $250 for her conduct.
The order by Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu, reported Friday by The Recorder, requires Loop's lawyer, Valeria Calafiore Healy, to pay $250 to opposing counsel as damages. "Three eyewitnesses agree (i.e., everyone except Healy) that Healy used expletives, then threw a cup of coffee in [Almaware attorney Thomas] Wallerstein's direction, splattering its contents on his clothes and belongings," Ryu wrote in her order (PDF).
As to possible further sanctions, Ryu says she'll defer to the district judge overseeing the case, "who will be undertaking a broad assessment of Healy’s conduct in the context of his order to show cause regarding terminating sanctions."
The case began in 2015 when Loop AI Labs accused Almawave USA of conspiring with former Loop CEO Anna Gatti to steal trade secrets and interfere with Loop's business prospects (complaint, PDF). In July 2016, Wallerstein was taking the deposition of Roberto Pieraccini, when at one point Wallerstein told Healy to "please be quiet."
"Let’s just go," Healy told her witness. "I’m not going to be here. I have the video of you insulting me."
Wallerstein advised the witness to remain, noting that he was under two court orders to be present and that it would be contempt of court if he walked out. Then this exchange, memorialized in Ryu's order (PDF), occurred:
MR. WALLERSTEIN: Sir, I think you should take five and think about it.
MS. HEALY: No. I think you should take a f*****g break. You should take—
(Interruption in proceedings.)
MR. WALLERSTEIN: Oh, my goodness.
MS. HEALY: Take a f*****g break.
MR. WALLERSTEIN: I need help. She just threw her coffee at me. She’s going crazy. Sir, you should get a lawyer. You’re a witness. Oh, my God. Sorry about that. We’re going to go off the record.
After they went back on the record, Wallerstein asked Pieraccini about what just happened. Pieraccini said Healy "somehow felt insulted" and "threw a cup of coffee" in Wallerstein’s direction. There was coffee on Wallerstein’s bag, person, and possibly on his computer, according to Pieraccini.
In her order, Ryu points out that "such an inappropriate outburst would lead most people to apologize on the spot—something along the lines of 'I’m so sorry. Are you okay? I lost my temper, and I shouldn’t have done that. Let me pay for any damage I caused.' Unfortunately, that did not happen here."
Healy denied throwing coffee, saying she "very simply slammed it on the table causing the remains of my coffee to spill on the table.” Later she called Almawave's motion for sanctions "outrageous," alleging that it contained "false allegations" about Healy and was "baseless and defamatory."
Everyone at the incident except for Healy, however—Pieraccini, the court reporter, and Wallerstein—ultimately said that Healy threw the coffee. "Healy’s actions were shocking and inappropriate, but her response in the wake of those actions is in many ways much worse," wrote Magistrate Judge Ryu. "Healy repeatedly refused to take responsibility for her conduct, as she has done throughout this case."
Healy's attempts to blame Wallerstein's provocations for her actions "glosses over how her own conduct contributed to the toxic exchanges that, regrettably, have become routine in this case," wrote Ryu. And an "apology" that Healy issued later amounted to little more than her saying "I’m sorry that Mr. Wallerstein is so awful,” in Ryu's view.
In an e-mail to Ars about the matter, Healy declined to comment on the record.
Judge sanctions lawyer for splashing opposing counsel with iced coffee Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 2:24 AM Rating: 5

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