Parties and counsel in a suit against a Chinatown landlord over the alleged sale of counterfeit Omega watches have been scrambled in the wake of sanctions motions filed over allegations of attorney misconduct.
The plaintiffs in the suit, Omega SA v. 375 Canal, 12-cv-06979, watchmaker Omega and its parent company Swatch, have replaced Collen IP as counsel. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partners Robert Gunther Jr. and Christopher Noyes are now representing Omega in the litigation.
The corporate communications team at Swatch confirmed in a statement that Collen has been removed as counsel.
“As can be seen from the Court files, we have terminated the relationship with previous counsel and retained new counsel,” the statement read. “Our new counsel will be responding on our behalf to the recently-filed motions.”
Additionally, Joshua Paul, who served as lead attorney for the plaintiffs, is no longer with Collen IP.
Paul did not return a call seeking comment. His counsel, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady partner Hal Lieberman, said in a statement that the separation between Paul and Collen IP occurred “for business reasons unrelated to the pending sanctions motions.”
“They remain on good terms and [Collen IP name attorney] Jess Collen has thanked Mr. Paul for his contributions to the Firm,” Lieberman said.
In a statement, Collen said, as a matter of policy, the firm does not comment on ongoing litigation nor on former employees. A request to comment on the statement provided by Lieberman was not answered.
Both Collen IP and Paul face sanctions motions filed by defendants and their counsel, Dentons US partner Avi Schick, over allegations that, among other things, counsel for the plaintiffs submitted false affidavits to the court, and then “took affirmative steps” to conceal disclosure of the fact.
The sanctions motions stemmed from the discovery by defense counsel, during the course of depositions, that a key witness for the plaintiffs denied having purchased counterfeit watches from a store that rented its space from the defendants, despite having signed an affidavit saying he did. Defense lawyers alerted the court to the contradiction, and other sworn statements by plaintiff’s witnesses also raised serious questions. The affidavits, as Schick notes, had been key to a previous decision by Judge Paul Crotty denying defendants’ summary judgment request.
Paul said there was nothing intentionally misleading about the affidavit he drafted for the witness, nor in the submission of the affidavit that proved false. The issue that arose clearly during a Sept. 11 hearing on the eve of the trial was that Paul later knew about the questionable veracity of the affidavits, but decided with his team that it was immaterial and therefore did not alert the court.
“I don’t see how you can say anything other than you intended to do this or you’re so indifferent to what it was that you didn’t care to disclose it,” Crotty told Paul, according to a transcript of the September hearing. “It should have been disclosed.”
In the wake of these events, the defendants have now filed two separate sanctions motions on Rule 11 and Rule 26(g) grounds. The filings by Schick allege that Paul and Collen IP withheld key documents and failed to properly identify witnesses early in the suit, made false claims they represented the investigative firms that supplied the witnesses whose affidavits are in question, prepared and submitted the false declarations, and not only failed to alert the court to these false declarations, but took took steps to prevent disclosure.
Schick and 375 Canal declined to comment.
London Fischer partner Thomas Leghorn has been retained as counsel for Collen IP. He could not be reached for comment.