I promise at some point I will write something not about a lawyer getting sanctioned by courts, but it won’t be today. Today’s post is prompted by a ruling of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dropping a (potentially more than $250,000) sanctions hammer on a lawyer and referring that lawyer to the bar for disciplinary proceedings over presenting a fake news article to the court as an exhibit in an attempt to bolster his clients’ position in a case against Chevron.
You can read the succinct 9th Circuit order here.
A Reuters piece captures and clearly explains the factual circumstances involved in the fabrication and how the lawyer’s situation got so bad:
Chung had attached the purported “Saudi Sun” news article as part of his effort in the court to revive a lawsuit seeking confirmation of a $18 billion foreign arbitration award against Chevron. A U.S. judge in 2019 found that Chevron and the plaintiffs did not have an arbitration agreement and declined to confirm an award.
The article submission was “formatted like a newspaper,” as attorneys for Chevron described it in a court filing.
Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima, serving as a court-appointed “special master,” concluded the article was “false and misleading.” The judge said “Chung presented no evidence that it is a publication of a third-party news organization or how and where he obtained it.”
In the underlying case, Chung represented clients who said they were beneficiaries and titleholders of land in Saudi Arabia. They claimed Chevron owed them compensation for the rental and taking of oil-rich land.
Chung’s filings said the article, submitted as part of a motion asking the court to consider it, “explains and provides an informative summary of factual and procedural events” to the arbitration proceedings. The panel subsequently raised questions, saying the “article appears to have been fabricated for purposes of this litigation.”
One remarkable fact about the underlying litigation that the newspaper article does not mention is that the underlying claims relied upon an argument that Chevron owed billions of dollars in rent stemming from a 1933 contract between Saudia Arabia and Chevron’s predecessor Standard Oil.
You can read the full report of the Special Master describing all the earmarks of fabrication that were present in the fake news article. That report will also make plain that the lawyer in the crosshairs did not participate in the evidentiary hearing before the Special Master at all, after unsuccessfully trying to get the proceedings stopped or the Special Master disqualified.
Now, why am I writing about and highlighting this situation further? Anyone reading this is going to know that a lawyer cannot fabricate or falsify evidence to try to support a client’s case, right?
Well, obviously, it is to have a chance to go ahead and offer some proposed verbiage for federal courts to use to draft the new required certificate that all lawyers will have to include in any court filings to confirm that they haven’t created any fake news articles or other fake documents as part of their exhibits filed with the court.
Just kidding. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Let’s hope that’s not going to happen.
(And to close the loop on that song lyric title, I’d propose ♫Attorney Chung is getting sanctioned alright♫)