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Update: P. Anthony Sammi to Speak at NASABA Convention 2010

May 13, 2010

P. Anthony Sammi

NASABA has confirmed that P. Anthony Sammi will speak at the NASABA Convention 2010. He will be part of the Saturday afternoon breakout panel discussion, “Strategic Xenophobia: Fighting Litigation Techniques Which Vilify Origin and Ethnicity.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty will also speak on that panel.

Sammi has recent, high-profile experience with this issue. As you’ll remember from our earlier post, “Racism in the Courtroom: How Would You React?” Sammi, an experienced intellectual property lawyer and the first president of the South Asian Bar Association of New York, was at the defense table on a high-profile case when opposing counsel, Nelson J. Roach, made this statement in his closing arguments:

Remember what Dr. Hausman, the Defendants’ expert told you would happen if we disregarded intellectual property rights? That we’d end up like India and Egypt where people don’t invent things. Instead, they go around talking about ways they hate America and ways they want to fly airplanes into our buildings.”

Sammi did not object, choosing not to give focus to arguments about ethnicity and discrimination that had nothing to do with the case at hand. However, Roach’s clients won their suit, and some have argued that this statement, appealing to racist tendencies in the jury’s minds, may have secured their victory. NASABA President Sonjui Kumar has sent a letter to the Honorable David Folsom, the judge on the case, urging that Roach be referred to the State Bar of Texas for disciplinary procedures. (The letter is available here: letter-to-judge-folsom-ed-of-texas-nasaba-a0165235-2.) Kumar says in the letter:

As a leading jurisdiction for resolving high technology disputes, the Eastern District of Texas draws parties and counsel in such disputes from across this nation and indeed around the world. As a result, and as Your Honor is well aware, South Asian American lawyers, parties, and witnesses regularly appear in this District. To the extent statements such as those made by Mr. Roach are permitted to stand, the confidence of those lawyers, parties and witnesses—and many others—in the fairness and impartiality of proceedings in this Court will undoubtedly be compromised. Only by referring Mr. Roach to the State Bar of Texas and initiating appropriate disciplinary proceedings in this Court can such a loss of confidence be prevented.”

Indeed, as long as this tactic can be used in the courtroom, witnesses, lawyers, plaintiffs, and defendants alike cannot be assured fair representation under the law. However, as Sammi found, the best course of action to counteract this is not cut and dried. How can we assure fairness in the courtroom without going off topic and compromising the case at hand?

Share your ideas here, and this June, join the discussion with Sammi and Chakravarty at the convention.

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