A panel of the Seventh Circuit split 2-1 on whether to halt a district judge's order that called for a big drug-maker in Germany to ship a baker's dozen of its workers to New York for depositions. In re Petition of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., No. 13-3898 (7th Cir. Jan. 24, 2014). The court opted to rescind the come-to-New-York order but upheld, for now at least, other sanctions against Boehringer.

Judge Posner explains the panel's thinking on the Main Issue:

The  problem  is  the  form  the  sanction  ordered by  the  judge  took—ordering  Boehringer  to  be  the  court’s  agent  in  violating  federal  legal  limitations  on  compelled  discovery  in  foreign  countries,  merely  so  that  depositions  could  be  shifted  [from Europe] to  a  place  inconvenient  for  the  [German] witnesses  who  are  to  be  deposed.  They  are  to  be  punished  for  the  sins  of  their employer.  And  they  are  not  even  corporate  bigwigs,  who  might  feel  humiliated  by  a  travel  order;  so  far  as  appears,  they  are  merely  research  scientists.  They  are  not  responsible  for  Boehringer’s  contumacy,  yet  they  are  the  targets  of  the  sanction.

Id. at 4-5.

The dissent, by Judge Hamilton, opposed relief by the "extraordinary" writ of mandamus instead of through the normal course, which involves defying an order and then pressing an appeal after the district court holds you in contempt. His Honor deemed Boehringer a wuss:

The extraordinary thing in this case is that the petitioners themselves recognize these alternatives, but they just seem too weak-kneed to use them. They explain in note 6 of their petition that they do not want to refuse to comply with the order because they respect the court and because they do not want “to further jeopardize their interactions with the [district] court by willfully disregarding its order.” 

We should not enable this approach to litigation. With all due respect, this is a major league discovery dispute in high-stakes international litigation. Refusing to comply with a discovery order you believe is unlawful is the respectful course and the orderly procedure. E.g., Allendale Mut. Ins. Co. v. Bull Data Systems, Inc., 32 F.3d 1175, 1179 (7th Cir. 1994) (dismissing appeal of discovery order where party failed to take that step). Refusal is a serious step that makes a party think hard about how important the issue is and how confident it is in its position. See, e.g., Ott v. City of Milwaukee, 682 F.3d 552, 555 (7th Cir. 2012) (“The adversely affected party is expected to put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, before an appeal will be heard.”); Reise[ v. Board of Regents], 957 F.2d [293,] 295–96[ (7th Cir. 1992)]. 

Judges understand that the option of refusal and contempt is available for a party that is truly serious about wanting prompt appellate review of a discovery order. Taking this option does not indicate the kind of lack of respect that these defendants had been showing prior to the second sanctions order. The petition should be rejected on procedural grounds alone. We need not and should not enable the use of mandamus as an alternative, thereby inviting far too many interlocutory appellate reviews of discovery orders.

Id. at 9. Judge Hamilton also believed the district court acted within its power to impose sanctions for Boehringer's abuse of its discovery duties:

There is no reason for this court to have qualms about whether the defendants can or will order their employees to comply with the district court’s sanctions order. Courts routinely issue orders to corporate parties that require them to order their employees to do things they might prefer not to do, such as appear for a deposition, answer interrogatories, or search for documents for discovery. Nor is there anything unusual about having these defendants order an employee to travel across an international border, whether for meetings or for depositions. These defendants are part of a global pharmaceutical enterprise. Their employees travel across international borders all the time.

Id. at 12.

For another mandamus fight over making people travel, see "Court Hearing Tax Case Went Too Far by Telling Feds to Send Someone with Power to Settle, Ninth Circuit Rules".

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Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.