“The pending motion lacks any substantive basis tethered to law or fact to support recusal or vacatur.” – Judge Gonzalez Rogers
Last week, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued an order denying Cellspin Soft’s motion for recusal that sought the vacatur of a summary judgment that released Fitbit, Nike, Under Armour, and others from patent infringement liability.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers wrote “in short, plaintiff’s attack on the integrity of the judiciary… not only demonstrates a measure of desperation, but is divorced from the law and the facts.”
Cellspin Soft attempted to point out business relationships between Gonzalez Rogers’s husband and Google, Fitbit’s parent company. The company claimed that these connections required recusal under Section 455.
The company also pointed to investments disclosed by the judge that have financial interests in other companies party to the lawsuit, including Nike and Samsung.
However, the district judge found many reasons to deny the motion, including a lack of jurisdiction and timeliness. Judge Gonzalez Rogers went into detail in addressing the allegations in order to “promote transparency and maintain the Court’s credibility in light of plaintiff’s sweeping assertions.”
Cellspin Soft made three allegations that it believed were cause for Judge Gonzalez Rogers to recuse herself from the case, thus vacating the previous summary judgment against the company. The three allegations are related to the judge’s husband’s work and financial interests.
The first allegation was that Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ husband worked for the consulting firm McKinsey as a Senior Partner consulting in the oil and gas sector. Cellspin Soft drew a connection between McKinsey and Google assisting clients in this sector, suggesting this relationship would cause the district judge to be biased in favor of Google.
In response to this accusation, Judge Gonzalez Rogers wrote, “plaintiff’s evolving theory for recusal is nothing but unsubstantiated speculation divorced from any evidence.”
Secondly, Cellspin alleged that the judge’s husband’s work as Operations Partner at Ajax, where he has overseen the operations of startup companies, is a conflict of interest for Gonzalez Rogers because the projects received funding from Google, and other operations were done in collaboration with the tech giant.
The district judge ruled that Cellspin misrepresented her husband’s involvement in the company by stating that he has equity in the company when his role is as a contractor.
“This argument is frivolous, lacks any merit, and makes substantial misrepresentations of the record provided,” wrote Gonzales Rogers.
Finally, Cellspin cited three previously disclosed investments in index funds as support for recusal. This includes holdings totaling anywhere from $9.4 million to $43.6 million in two Vanguard funds, according to a 2020 financial disclosure.
However, all three funds are managed by third parties and consist of a wide range of companies across the stock market, making them fall under a safe harbor exemption, said the judge.
“Plaintiff has not proffered any legal authority to support its illusory assertion that the investments at issue here are somehow not exempt” from safe harbor, she added.
For all these reasons, Gonzalez Rogers ruled “the pending motion lacks any substantive basis tethered to law or fact to support recusal or vacatur.”
Prior to the ruling, both Cellspin and one of the defendants filed briefs with the court. Fitbit filed a response brief opposing the motion for recusal in early February, and in response, Cellspin filed a reply in support of recusal on February 10.
Judge Gonzales Rogers used many of the same arguments that Fitbit used in its response to dismiss the brief. Ultimately, the district judge agreed with Fitbit when the company wrote in its brief, “Cellspin’s strategic exploitation of the federal judiciary’s ethical obligations is prohibited, and its recusal motion must be denied” based on the timeliness requirement for recusal motions.
In its reply brief, Cellspin claimed that it filed the motion for recusal promptly after it uncovered the alleged “problematic financial relationships.”
What Happens Now?
In a statement to IPWatchdog, Bobby Singh, founder of Cellspin Soft, said the company is planning to appeal the district court’s ruling.
Singh said that several aspects of the ruling provided new information to Cellspin soft, including that the judge’s husband is on the board of Natel Energy and is a board advisor to Ojjo. Both companies are connected to Ajax, but Ojjo was not mentioned in Cellspin’s motion and Gonzalez Rogers acknowledged the affiliation in her Order, writing in a footnote that the company to which her husband is a board advisor is Ojjo, but that “the undersigned knows of no affiliations with Google, Ojjo, and other parties in this case that would justify recusal.”
Additionally, Gonzalez Rogers wrote that Cellspin misrepresented an article about Natel Energy to connect it to funding from Google. The judge wrote that the article “does not establish that Google invested in Natel. The undersigned and her husband have no knowledge of any investment by Google into Natel.”
Singh also took exception with Gonzalez Rogers classifying a Special Situations Fund managed by McKinsey as being “like a mutual fund,” since the fund’s own website explains that the majority of its assets under management “are managed with full discretion by third-party managers (i.e., hedge funds, private equity, and other alternative investment managers).”
Singh told IPWatchdog, “Cellspin does not think that federal judges get an exception for investing in hedge funds or private equity. The only exception is run of the mill mutual funds.”
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One comment so far.
Model 101February 23, 2023 01:59 pm
She’s a crook, plain and simple.