Norm Pattis, a Connecticut attorney for Infowars host Alex Jones and several of Jones’ associated companies, must appear at hearing in the Constitution State next week to explain whether he should or should not be punished for allegedly revealing the medical records of one or several Sandy Hook families who sued Jones for defamation. That’s according to a judge’s order filed Thursday.
A similar order was issued later on Thursday to Attorney F. Andino Reynal, a Texas attorney who made national headlines for sending Jones’ phone records to other Sandy Hook plaintiffs who sued Jones in the Lone Star State. After a 10-day waiting period contemplated by Texas law, Reynal failed to assert privilege over any of the phone records, and the plaintiffs began combing through them. Jones reacted in real time on the stand to the revelation, calling it a “Perry Mason moment” for the plaintiffs’ lawyer.
The Connecticut order from Judge Barbara Bellis as to Pattis reads as follows:
Attorney Norman Pattis, juris number 408681, is ordered to show cause and appear, in person, at a hearing on Wednesday, August 10, 2022 at 10:00 a.m., as to whether he should be referred to disciplinary authorities or sanctioned by the court directly, see Connecticut Practice Book Section 2-45, regarding the purported release of medical records of the plaintiffs, in violation of state and federal statute and this court’s protective order, to unauthorized individuals. While these three consolidated lawsuits between the parties are presently pending in the bankruptcy courts, this disciplinary matter is directed to counsel and not the parties, such that the court has jurisdiction to address the disciplinary issues. The clerk is directed to notify Chief Disciplinary Counsel, Brian Staines, of the show cause hearing, and is instructed to immediately provide him with a copy of this order.
A similar order as to Reynal reads almost verbatim; however, the hearing for Reynal is scheduled for Wed., Aug. 17 at 10:00 a.m.
Both orders state only that Pattis and Reynal may have released offending information to “unauthorized individuals.”
It is not immediately clear from the orders or the immediately adjacent court records how or where the information was allegedly released.
The cited section of Connecticut’s Practice Book, Section 2-45, deals with a “cause” for discipline that “occurs in the actual presence of the court.” The rule authorizes a judge to issue a summary disciplinary order against an attorney but requires a record of the order to be made. The rule further requires the disciplinary authorities — known in Connecticut as the Statewide Grievance Committee — to “defer to the court if the court chooses to exercise its jurisdiction” to dole out punishment on its own volition.
Reynal applied for admission pro hac vice — that is, to appear for the Jones case only — in Connecticut on July 6, 2022, court records show. Pattis told Judge Bellis during a July 14 hearing that Reynal held “a unique position of confidence” and “trust” with Jones and that his own relationship with Jones showed signs of “strain.”
By July 26, however, Pattis told Bellis that Reynal would not be appearing on behalf of Jones in Connecticut and said Reynal wished to avoid the fees and taxes imposed on out-of-state counsel who appear in select Connecticut proceedings. Regardless, Reynal was issued a Connecticut attorney registration number, according to both an attorney search page maintained by the Connecticut Judicial Branch and to an order from Bellis.
Reynal did not immediately reply to a Law&Crime request for comment on the matter; his email address spat back an auto-reply which indicated he was not frequently checking his email during the remaining days of the Texas litigation against Jones. Pattis also did not immediately reply to a Law&Crime email seeking comment.
Though the context of the judge’s instant order to show cause was not immediately clear, the Sandy Hook defamation cases against Jones in Connecticut have been the subject of myriad requests for protective orders of various types over the years. Many of those requests factored into Bellis’ decision to issue a default judgment against Jones, and a few expressed fears of disclosures similar to those Bellis is now ordering Pattis and Reynal to discuss in court.
The first such protective order, which dates back to February 2019, was sought by Jones with regards to his business plans, marketing plans, sales analytics, web traffic data, and other such materials.
“Such sensitive information must be protected; such is especially necessary where Plaintiffs have repeatedly communicated with the media about this case and it is likely that proprietary information may be revealed to the press absent a court order,” an attorney for Jones wrote at the time.
Attorneys for Jones also sought a series of protective orders for the depositions of several employees of Free Speech Systems, one of Jones’ companies that has now declared bankruptcy. The protective orders were necessary, wrote the defendants, because (in their view) there was “no good cause” to depose several employees and because “[t]heir testimony is not relevant to any issue to be adjudicated by the Court and is sought only to harass and oppress the defendants.”
Jones and the various defendants sought yet another protective order to delay the voluminous discovery requested in the case. Judge Bellis ruled in June 2021 that the court would “decline the Jones defendants’ invitation to address, again, the scope of appropriate discovery” and noted that “the outstanding discovery responses were due over two years ago” — a signal that the protective orders were being viewed by the court as a delay tactic. Bellis warned that a “[f]ailure to comply with this order may result in sanctions including but not limited to a default” — which is what eventually happened.
The plaintiffs, meanwhile, sought their own protective orders at various times and eventually moved for sanctions against Jones on July 6, 2021. That motion expressed fears that Jones and the other defendants “would use the plaintiffs’ private information inappropriately.”
Judge Bellis credited the plaintiffs’ arguments and chided the defense in an Aug. 5, 2021 order:
Given the cavalier actions and willful misconduct of Infowars in filing protected deposition information during the actual deposition, this court has grave concerns that their actions, in the future, will have a chilling effect on the testimony of witnesses who would be rightfully concerned that their confidential information, including their psychiatric and medical histories, would be made available to the public. The court will address sanctions at a future hearing.
On Sept. 3, 2021, attorneys for some of the plaintiffs complained that the defendants had obtained and filed portions of some confidential materials with the court and asked that those materials be sealed. Judge Bellis refused that request on Oct. 20 and said the materials should, indeed, remain public because the materials contained therein were not sensitive enough to warrant a sealing of the relevant documents.
In one response filing, the defendants complained that some of the material should not, under Connecticut law, be clamped down to the degree the plaintiffs suggested. That filing noted the longstanding legal rule that plaintiffs who sue for emotional distress must disclose their medical histories to prove the distress they are alleging:
Specifically, material designated Attorneys Eyes Only is permitted to be disclosed to experts. Plaintiffs are expected to produce evidence of their claimed emotional distress injuries, yet the purported relief would preclude them from providing those records to a mental health expert in advance of an examination pursuant to Practice Book § 13-11(b).
Precluding access to staff employed by counsel similarly serves no meaningful purpose. It means that all uses of such documents must be handled by counsel personally, increasing litigation expenses. The proposal means the documents cannot be used at any deposition, since they would be shown to a court reporter and videographer. It means that they cannot be stored in any cloud file management system or eDiscovery platform, though the current order permits the use of outside vendors performing litigation support services for parties.
The issue of the myriad protective orders — and issues with Jones’ defense attorneys — were front-and-center in Judge Bellis’ default order against the defendants on Nov. 15, 2021.
Despite that controversial yet critical win for the plaintiffs, other issues have since plagued the case. The plaintiffs again moved for a protective order on Nov. 16, 2021, and outlined some of the prior squabbles — including the filing of some private information in connection with an ill-fated defense attempt to depose Hillary Clinton:
The Jones defendants violated the modified protective order during the first plaintiff’s deposition in this case. The Court found, “[i]n the midst of taking the first deposition of a plaintiff, the Jones defendants [except for Alex Jones] . . . filed a motion to depose Hillary Clinton, using deposition testimony that had just been designated as ‘Confidential-Attorneys Eyes Only,’ and completely disregarding the court ordered procedures.” DN 385.10, 2/22/19 Order. They did not take “any steps to correct their improper filing.” Id. at 2. In doing so, they “blatantly disregard[ed]” the “court ordered procedure” and made “the confidential information available on the internet by filing it in the court file.” Id.
The aforementioned docket number — 385.10 — is sealed as of the date of this writing.
The plaintiffs continued:
Seeking to avoid sanctions for their conduct, the Jones defendants took “the absurd position that the court ordered protective order . . . did not need to be complied with, and should not be enforced by the court,” a position that the Court correctly characterized as “frightening.” Id. The Court concluded: “Given the cavalier actions and willful misconduct of Infowars in filing protected deposition information during the actual deposition,” it had “grave concerns that their actions, in the future, will have a chilling effect on the testimony of witnesses who would be rightfully concerned that their confidential information, including their psychiatric and medical histories, would be made available to the public.” Id. The Court stated it would “address sanctions at a future hearing.” Id.
Judge Bellis issued a brief reply on Dec. 3, 2021: “The court has repeatedly stated on the record that failure to comply with the protective order will result in sanctions.”
The plaintiffs sought yet another protective order on Nov. 19, 2021 but withdrew it on Dec. 30, 2021. The defense sought a protective order as to material sought from yet another employee on Feb. 4, 2022, but the plaintiffs said the issue was moot because the witness admitted she didn’t possess the requested material. That request for a protective order was also subsequently withdrawn.
Yet another protective order involved material sought from YouTube in March 2022. And then, on March 21, 2022, Pattis sought a protective order against the deposition of Jones due to the talk show host’s alleged health issues:
At approximately 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, the undersigned received a telephone call alerting him that Mr. Jones was under the care of a physician for medical conditions that require immediate, and possibly, emergency testing. I spoke with a person representing himself to be a physician: he told me he was a licensed physician, had the qualifications to render an opinion about Mr. Jones’ health, and that his opinion was that Mr. Jones should not sit for depositions this week. I asked for a signed letter from the physician.
My client has not authorized me to disclose the nature of the medical conditions or the identity of the physician. It is my hope that upon receipt of the physician’s letter, I can share it with the Court on an ex parte basis.
The plaintiffs swiftly objected by casting aspersions on the claims:
The Jones defendants have not demonstrated any facts upon which this Court should order a postponement of his deposition. In fact, the careful, unsworn wording of the Jones defendants’ counsel does not even establish that a physician has evaluated Mr. Jones. It was the first caller – likely Mr. Jones himself – who said that Jones was under the care of a physician. The second caller, who claimed to be a physician, though not Mr. Jones’s primary care physician, did not say he/she had evaluated Mr. Jones. Given the suspicious timing and circumstances of this unknown diagnosis and Mr. Jones’s own history of submitting false information to this Court, the Court – and the plaintiffs – have good reason to be suspicious of Jones defendants’ motion. Putting all that to one side, however, it seems improbable that Mr. Jones was “under the care” of a physician at 2:30 PM CT yesterday. After all, while the supposed physician was with Mr. Jones and purportedly calling defense counsel, Mr. Jones was speaking live on his radio and internet show, as he had been for an hour and a half, and he would for another two and a half hours. [Citations omitted.] From 1 PM until 5 PM Central Time yesterday afternoon, Alex Jones was broadcasting live on his show. Additionally, he claimed he had been on “a couple of shows this morning.”
Jones’ attorneys again objected to his appearance at a deposition on medical grounds; their objection set off a series of escalating contempt fines and ended with Jones eventually sitting for a deposition in Connecticut.
An expanded version of one of the court’s original protective order was sought “on consent” on June 13, 2022. That request aimed to protect the “[s]ensitive information of parties or witnesses, which is ordinarily kept confidential.”
The Connecticut case against Jones is postured to determine the amount of damages — if any — that Jones and his companies must pay to the families of the Sandy Hook victims. It was scheduled to begin with opening statements in early September. The fate of the proceeding is currently in limbo, however, because Free Speech Systems LLC, one of Jones’ companies, filed for bankruptcy protection in the middle of a similar Texas trial filed in that jurisdiction by other Sandy Hook families.
The families are seeking to hold Jones legally accountable for calling the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a “hoax.”
A Texas jury on Thursday awarded more than $4.1 million to the families who sued there. That is double the amount Jones said on the witness stand would bankrupt him, according to previous Law&Crime reports surrounding the Texas case.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for Texas plaintiffs Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, released the following statement to Law&Crime after Thursday’s win in Texas:
Today we secured $4.1 million on behalf of Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Having already secured $1.5 million in fines from Mr Jones, the plaintiffs are now due $5.6 million that Alex Jones will have to pay them. This does not include punitive damages to be decided tomorrow and additional sanctions pending before the court. Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr. Jones’ money to good use. Mr Jones on the other hand will not sleep easy tonight. With punitive damages still to be decided and multiple additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr Jones’ time on the American stage is finally coming to an end.
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