Sands Doubles Down to Kick Judge Off Ex-Macau Chief's Case

  • Judge talked to media about unusual scrutiny by Adelson paper
  • Chief justice earlier denied Sands request as `unpersuasive'

Las Vegas Sands Corp. renewed its effort to disqualify a Nevada judge from overseeing a case brought by the casino operator’s former chief executive officer in Macau, saying she has shown “outright hostility” to the company.

Nevada District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez was assigned to the case when it was filed in 2010 by the ex-Macau executive, Steven Jacobs. He claims he was wrongfully fired after clashing with Sheldon Adelson, the company’s chairman and controlling shareholder, over what he said were “outrageous” demands to pursue illegal and illegitimate ends. That included using “improper” leverage on government officials in the gambling enclave.

The dispute is headed toward a trial set for June.

Gonzalez made the news in December when the Las Vegas Review-Journal, acquired that month by Adelson’s family, revealed that its reporters had been sent to her courtroom to monitor her as she handled non-newsworthy cases.

Review-Journal reporters had been dispatched in November to monitor three judges, including Gonzalez for two weeks, the newspaper said Dec. 18. None of the reporters’ observations ended up getting published, according to the newspaper. The $140 million sale of the newspaper closed Dec. 10.

Request Rejected

The company was rebuffed last month when the court’s chief justice, without conducting a hearing, denied a request by Sands to disqualify Gonzalez. According to the casino operator, the judge had “interjected” herself into the media coverage of Adelson’s acquisition of the local newspaper by talking to a Review-Journal reporter and Time magazine about the unusual coverage of her courtroom.

Gonzalez defended herself in a Jan. 15 court filing.

She said in a written declaration that her rulings “have been the result of critical legal and factual analysis based upon extensive evidentiary proceedings, motion practice, and the written and oral comments of counsel, and not the result of personal bias in favor of any party.”

Chief District Court Judge David Barker said in his Jan. 29 decision that Sands was “unpersuasive” in arguing that Gonzalez’s conduct raised reasonable doubts about her impartiality.

‘Outright Hostility’

In its new request Tuesday to have Gonzalez taken off the case, Sands accused her of a “complete absence of neutrality,” a pattern of “disparate treatment of the parties” and “outright hostility.” Sands also said a key hearing last year amounted to a “show trial” because Gonzalez didn’t allow the company to present evidence or witnesses.

Jacobs’s 2010 suit had been tied up for five years during a fight over whether a Las Vegas court is the proper venue for his claims against Sands China Ltd.

Gonzalez finally ruled last year that the case could proceed in Nevada, following numerous conflicts over what evidence Sands had to provide to Jacobs, sanctions on the company for not providing the evidence, and repeat trips by Sands to the Nevada Supreme Court to challenge Gonzalez’s rulings.

Adelson has denied Jacobs’s allegations, including the claim that he ordered the former CEO to investigate the business and financial affairs of Macau officials. He has accused Jacobs of commissioning the investigations on his own. Sands has said Jacobs was fired for working on unauthorized deals and violating company policy.

The case is Jacobs v. Las Vegas Sands Corp., A-10-627691-B, Nevada District Court, Clark County (Las Vegas).

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