U.S. District Judge Fred Biery’s Aug. 14 order setting a status conference in the trade secrets dispute HouseCanary Inc. v. Quicken Loans, Inc., et al. is anything but ordinary.
Biery, a judge in the San Antonio division of the Western District of Texas, used the order to advise counsel and the parties in the suit, “There will be no Rambo tactics or other forms of elementary school behavior. Simply put: Do not play games.”
The judge issued his order in a suit that HouseCanary, a real-estate data analytics startup, filed in May against Quicken Loans Inc., One Reverse Mortgage and In-House Realty. In its complaint, HouseCanary alleges that the defendants misappropriated its “valuable trade secrets related to its real estate data, analytics and appraisal software” and conspired to commit fraud.
“This case is the latest in a long running dispute over home appraisals, mortgage lending, and trade secret non-disclosure agreements, among other things,” Biery noted in his order.
The federal suit comes on the heels of a $706 million verdict that a state court jury in Bexar County awarded HouseCanary in March in a fraud suit that was filed against it in 2016 by Amrock Inc., an affiliate of Quicken Loans.
Biery began his seven-page order with a quote from Elvis Presley: “Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.”
The judge advised counsel in the order to observe proper decorum, “Although the Court expects vigorous advocacy and does not expect counsel to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, the consequences of unprofessional conduct or acerbic shrillness in the pleadings can also include revocation of pro hac privileges, sitting in timeout in the rotunda of the courthouse and opposing counsel kissing each other on the lips in front of the Alamo with cameras present.”
Biery followed up on those threats with this advice: “As did Sergeant Joe Friday, the Court expects ‘Just the facts, ma’am’.”
After noting in the order that he had set the matter for a hearing at 9 a.m. Sept. 24, Biery included a section titled “Keeping Things in Perspective” in which he wrote, “Condensing 14 billion years into a twenty-four hour time line reveals that our ancestors showed up about a minute before midnight, which means that our biblical three score and ten and the time of this litigation is a nanosecond blink of an eye.”
An adaptation of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmic Calendar,” depicting the Earth’s history in a 24-hour clock, is provided after Biery’s signature on the order.
In Appendix “A” to the order, Biery provided “The Rule for the Practice of Law: Treat others (including lawyers, parties, witnesses and Court staff as you would like to be treated.” The penalties for not abiding by The Rule,” according to the order, include “loss of respect and goodwill” from colleagues, “the writing of The Rule in multiples of fifty on a Big Chief table with a Number Two pencil” and the “donation of numerous pictures of George Washington to deserving charitable organizations.” In a footnote, Biery wrote that the penalty of writing The Rule numerous times is “reserved for those whose conduct is particularly childish.”
Page 7 of Biery’s order featured a picture of Abraham Lincoln and a quote from Honest Abe: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.” All right then.
Calls for comment and emails to numerous attorneys representing either the plaintiff or defendants were not returned.
Contacted by phone, Susman Godfrey Houston partner, Matthew Behncke, an attorney representing HouseCanary, declined comment.