A multibillion dollar case between two giant pharmaceutical companies grappling over arcane antitrust issues has unexpectedly turned into a gay rights legal imbroglio that raises questions over whether lawyers can bounce potential jurors solely based on their sexual orientation.
The case before the ninth US circuit court of appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday centers on whether Abbott Laboratories broke antitrust laws when it increased the price of its popular and vital Aids drug Norvir by 400% in 2007. But broader public attention likely will be given to the three-judge panel’s look at whether Abbott wrongfully removed a juror in the case brought by competitor SmithKline Beecham…
“It’s a big deal,” said Vik Amar, University of California, Davis law professor. “The headlines from this case are going to be about antitrust law – it will be about sexual orientation in the jury pool…”
The US supreme court in 1986 prohibited lawyers from using their challenges to bounce a potential juror from a case because of race.
Eight years later, the high court outlawed gender as potential basis for jurors’ exclusion from a trial.
But the high court has never ruled on sexual orientation. The California supreme court has barred the removal of gays from jury pools without justification since 2000, but its rulings aren’t binding on federal courts…
SmithKline is joined by gay rights activists Lambda Legal and other public interest groups who filed their own legal argument urging the court to protect gays from getting bounced from juries for no reason.
“The discrimination at issue here is particularly harmful, because it reinforces historical invidious discrimination within the court system and undermines the integrity of the judicial system,” Lambda wrote the court.
The ethics of many lawyers, what passes for ethics in many corporations, are already sufficiently suspect. Add in the long-standing American tradition of bigotry and discrimination against folks who don’t fit the cast-iron mold of Judeo-Christian sex – and we have the makings of a precedent case.
We’ll also get to experience hour after boring hours of legal tap-dancing as the scumbags defending Abbott Labs try to avoid responsibility for their tactics.