King & Spalding’s New Associate In Antitrust Crosshairs

King & Spalding’s rehiring this month of an associate in San Francisco has become a flashpoint in a long-running antitrust lawsuit just weeks before the trial is set to begin in California federal court, reported Reuters. The law firm stated it is taking steps to wall off the associate, who had served as a law clerk to the judge overseeing the antitrust case against longtime client Sutter Health, the Northern California health system.

The dispute came to light on Wednesday night, January 26, in a series of emails and letters filed with the court among the firms handling the case. The correspondence indicates concerns plaintiffs’ lawyers have about potential conflicts of interest arising from the associate’s work for the judge.

None of the plaintiffs’ lawyers has asked the judge, Laurel Beeler, to recuse. Beeler has scheduled the trial to start on February 9. Sutter has denied claims that anticompetitive behavior drove up the cost of healthcare services.

“Counsel has an obligation to get to the bottom of this issue on behalf of the class,” Constantine Cannon partner Matthew Cantor wrote in a letter on Monday to Beeler about questions he posed to King & Spalding.

Cantor declined to comment on Thursday, and King & Spalding’s deputy general counsel did not return a message seeking comment.

The dustup began on January 4, when a partner at King & Spalding notified the parties and Beeler that the judge’s former clerk, Meghan Strong, was returning to the firm. Strong earlier worked at the firm prior to the start of her clerkship last year.

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