A West Covina medical staffing agency and three individuals — who collectively were ordered by a jury to pay a competitor more than $3 million in a trade secret case — will have to shore up their own suit asking that the judgment against them be vacated on grounds the trial judge was allegedly biased, a different judge ruled Monday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Fujie said lawyers for Certified Nursing Registry Inc. failed to provide enough facts showing that their clients were victims of partisan rulings in the original suit brought by Medipro Medical Staffing LLC and tried before Judge Michael Stern.
Fujie gave Certified Nursing 20 days to amend its current complaint, which was brought Dec. 27 against Medipro and the Los Angeles Superior Court, asking that the judgment against Certified Nursing be vacated.
Glendale-based Medipro filed the original suit against Certified Nursing in July 2017, alleging two Medipro officers worked with Certified Nursing’s founder and CEO to provide to Certified Nursing lists of Medipro’s nurses’ names, contact information, preferred shifts and banking records.
The data is Medipro’s most valuable and sensitive information, according to the Medipro complaint. A jury in Stern’s courtroom found in favor of Medipro in September 2018.
Certified Nursing appealed and lawyers for the company discovered an alleged prior professional relationship between lawyer James Rosen, a partner at the law firm representing Medipro — Rosen, Saba LLP — and Stern, who both were members of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, Certified Nursing’s court papers state.
Judges are granted honorary status with the American Board of Trial Advocates “with certain benefits,” according to the Certified Nursing court papers. Although Rosen was not the trial attorney in the Medipro suit, the organization made arrangements with Stern during the trial proceedings to speak at an event hosted at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles on the same day the verdict was reached against Certified Nursing, according to Certified Nursing.
Stern never disclosed his alleged relationship with Rosen on the record or state his intention to give the oral presentation at the American Board of Trial Advocates, despite being required to disclose any information that could result in his disqualification even if he does not believe there is an actual basis for his being removed from the case, according to the Certified Nursing court papers.
Instead, Stern presided over the entire trial, issuing rulings that were “erroneous and biased” against Certified Nursing, according to the latter’s court papers.
But in her ruling, Fujie said there were not enough facts at present to support Certified Nursing’s causes of action for violation of due process, extrinsic fraud and extrinsic mistake, writing that “the appearance of bias is non-existent or very minimal.”
Fujie also found that the fraud allegation lacked supporting evidence. She disclosed to the lawyers that she practiced with Rosen more than 30 years ago.
In a sworn declaration, Stern said he never had any conversation with Rosen other than those in open court with opposing lawyers present. Stern also said the presentation he gave during the American Board of Trial Advocates dealt with Abraham Lincoln as a lawyer, a talk he gave in the past to lawyers, judges and law students during other events.