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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sanctions against Wigginton clients in uConnect case top $16K

By Record News | Jun 12, 2017

Chrysler submitted a $16,337.50 bill against clients of former U.S. attorney Stephen Wigginton in federal court on June 6, as the company’s cost of restoring confidentiality to trade secrets he exposed. 

Chrysler counsel Stephen D’Aunoy reported 35 partner hours at $380 an hour, 8.7 associate hours at $250 an hour, and 6.9 paralegal hours at $125 an hour. 

D’Aunoy wrote that the time spent was reasonable and necessary, “to achieve the ultimate result of removing Chrysler’s confidential information from the public record and seeking to prevent similar violations.” 

He wrote that the rates were less than normal and that Chrysler would forgo a portion of what it might be entitled to receive, “because both it and its legal counsel consider the actual rates charged to be confidential business information.”  

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson, who ordered payment of Chrysler’s costs as a sanction for violating a protective order, must approve the amount. 

Wigginton’s clients allege that hackers can seize control of certain Chrysler vehicles that feature uConnect electronic systems. 

Attorneys Christopher Cueto and Michael Gras of Belleville filed the suit in 2015, on behalf of Belleville lawyer Brian Flynn as lead plaintiff. 

They also named George Brown and Kelly Brown as plaintiffs. 

Lloyd Cueto of Belleville entered an appearance for plaintiffs a week later. 

Christopher Baucom and Lucas Pendry, both of Armstrong Teasdale in Clayton, Mo., entered appearances for plaintiffs in November 2015. 

Emily Buckley and Ijay Palansky, both of Armstrong Teasdale in Denver, entered appearances for plaintiffs in December 2015. 

Wigginton entered an appearance for plaintiffs as an Armstrong Teasdale partner on Feb. 16, 2016, about three months after resigning as U.S. attorney. 

On April 24, a lawyer seeking a third party subpoena for Wigginton at federal court in San Francisco filed Chrysler trade secrets as exhibits. 

On April 27, Chrysler filed a motion in San Francisco to seal the exhibits and a motion in East St. Louis for sanctions.  

With the motion for sanctions, Chrysler counsel Sharon Rosenberg filed electronic messages showing she tried all the previous day to restore confidentiality. 

Wigginton wrote in his final message on April 26 that, “When I arrived at the office I did not plan to be in dispute with you and your client today.” 

“Due to the tone and tenor of your emails and the allegations you have made, which we disagree, with this dispute and subsequent discovery disputes of this nature as well as the ones we will be bringing will be handled at my level,” he wrote. 

Chrysler’s motions succeeded in both courts. 

The California court had sealed the documents by May 2, though its public information officer would not say how long they stood as public record.  

In East St. Louis, Wilkerson examined the documents at a hearing on May 5 and ordered sanctions on May 30. 

A May 31 docket entry reported destruction of all the documents. 

The court will tax Chrysler’s costs on June 21, unless plaintiffs object.

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