Judge Curt Jacobus found that a motion filed by nonparty Luca Roveda, a self-described "member of the press" in Thailand, seeking to vacate the court's previous sealing order would need to be thrown out and refiled. According to the judge, Roveda's attorney Tino Gonzales was still technically counsel for former BigLaw attorney and WilmerHale temp Andrew Delaney, the "John Doe" plaintiff in the case.
"You are still representing Mr. Doe in that case, and now you've filed a bunch of stuff in here on behalf of the nonparty," Judge Jacobus said, according to a rough transcript and video of the hearing. "We're not going to go forward anymore with that, with this motion, until that gets squared away."
Gonzales told the judge he had filed a notice of withdrawal as Delaney's counsel but admitted he hadn't actually spoken to Roveda. In his defense, he noted that his new client was "half a world away" in Thailand.
"I understand," the judge said, but "that concerns the court right now."
"We are pleased that the court denied the motion to vacate the previous sealing order," a Toyota spokesperson said in a statement. "The order in place continues to appropriately protect Toyota's attorney-client privileged information from public disclosure."
Delaney's lawsuit, filed last April but quickly sealed, accuses Toyota of hiding allegedly corrupt practices in Thailand, including concealing defects in some of its car models. Toyota denies those allegations.
Delaney says former WilmerHale counsel Michael Posada — now a White House associate counsel — lied under oath during a sealed hearing in December by feigning ignorance of the corruption claims that Delaney says triggered an internal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation Posada oversaw. Toyota says that Posada, who is not named as a defendant in the case, acted appropriately.
Delaney and Roveda sent out a raft of subpoenas demanding Posada and three other former WilmerHale attorneys now working in the White House appear at the hearing alongside the CEO and general counsel for Toyota North America. None appeared at Monday's hearing.
Toyota said the subpoenas were never issued by the court, and that Delaney's attorney Christopher Beres had not asked the court to do so. The company filed a motion to quash the subpoenas as defective, but the judge had not ruled on that request as of Wednesday.
Beres insisted the subpoenas were validly issued and properly served via certified mail.
The White House declined to comment. Posada did not immediately respond to messages left on his voicemail Wednesday.
In opposing the motion to vacate the court's December sealing order, Toyota also unsuccessfully sought to seal the courtroom. Its attorneys complained about leaks to the press and accused Gonzalez of violating the court's secrecy orders by providing sealed information to Roveda, a claim Gonzalez denies. Toyota counsel Jim Fallace of Fallace & Larkin LLC said he plans to file a motion for sanctions for the alleged leaks, but did not specify against whom.
Delaney first anonymously filed his "John Doe" suit against Toyota in Florida state court in April 2020, claiming wrongful termination stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City and that the car manufacturer had defrauded investors to the tune of half a billion dollars by hiding its alleged wrongdoing.
Days after Delaney sued, Toyota had the entire complaint provisionally sealed, claiming it contained confidential, privileged information. Hire Counsel then immediately outed Delaney as the John Doe in Florida by way of a Manhattan federal suit that accused him of stealing confidential information and extortion. That case is pending.
Doe is represented by Christopher Beres and Tino Gonzales.
Roveda is also represented by Tino Gonzales.
Toyota is represented by James H. Fallace and Andrew J. Williams of Fallace & Larkin LLC, and Vincent A. Citro of Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro PA.
The case is Doe v. Toyota Motor Corp. et al., case number 05-2020-CA-024281, in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Florida.
--Editing by Adam LoBelia.
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