Cha$ing Ju$tice

Via the California Appellate Report, here's an amazing 9th Circuit opinion which imposes some expensive sanctions on some high profile California plaintiffs attorneys who tried to use a Nicaraguan default judgment to enforce a half billion dollar judgment against Dole Food and Shell Oil: In Re: Girardi
Thomas Girardi and Walter Lack are high-profile California lawyers. Amongst their other legal pursuits, they (and their firms) attempted to enforce a $489 million default judgment allegedly entered by a court in Nicaragua against Dole Food and Shell Chemical based upon the effects of a particular pesticide upon banana plantation workers. The problem, however, was that the default judgment was expressly entered against non-existent entities called "Dole Food Corporation" (not Dole Food Company) and "Shell Oil Company" (not Shell Chemical Company), and the reason the default was entered in the first place was because the Nicaraguan court didn't allow the real companies to prevent the defaults because it wasn't against them.

Which obviously makes it a challenge to thereafter attempt to enforce the foreign judgments in the United States against the real defendants. But Girardi and Lack (and their firms) attempt to get around this problem by using a Spanish "translation" of the judgment that helpfully uses the words "Dole Food Company" and "Shell Oil Company" when they file suit in California. But the district court dismisses the suit, saying these aren't the right entities.

Undeterred, Girardi and Lack appeal, and continue to say that the default judgment's against the right entities, even though it's not.
There's a lot of sleazy behavior that attorneys engage in, but I think one of the worst is when they try to obtain a court judgment by this sort of stealthy subterfuge.

The full opinion is here.

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