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Thursday, February 28, 2013

NML v. Argentina

AmLaw Daily's account of the oral argument in NML v. Argentina yesterday reminded me of one of the more entertaining moments in my career.

"Cleary's Blackman coyly remarked that Griesa's order 'wouldn't be voluntarily obeyed.' Circuit Judge Reena Raggi, who questioned Argentina aggressively all afternoon, responded angrily that it was basically "dictating" terms to the court by threatening "contumacious" behavior. Under questioning by Raggi near the hearing's end, Blackman said bluntly: 'We're not paying it, that's right.' "

About 20 years ago, I was in front of Judge Raggi, when she was a district judge.  I was repossessing an aircraft owned by the national airline of a different Latin American country for default; I had obtained a TRO and writ of attachment of the aircraft from her on an ex parte basis while it was en route to JFK from its home country, and accompanied by a U.S. Marshal and someone who knew how to control the aircraft, and after notice to the Port Authority and the FAA, I had repossessed it at JFK when it landed. 

The airline found a lawyer a day or two later who showed up and got the TRO vacated for lack of notice and the aircraft went back to flying pending a further hearing on a preliminary injunction.  Judge Raggi told us to return a couple of days later for a scheduling conference in regard to that hearing. 

Opposing counsel and I showed up for the scheduling conference and were invited into her chambers to apprise her of the schedule we had agreed, subject to Her Honor's review, and she indicated she was fine with it.  We then turned to leave but for some reason, opposing counsel turned around and said, "Judge, I'm sorry but I've been thinking and I think, you know, my client may need a little more time than I've agreed to. You know these Latin American countries, it's always 'manana' down there."  Yes, he actually said that.      

Judge Raggi got a look on her face that is impossible to describe in text but the only thing I could think was "oh, this is going to be good!".  She threw her robe on in one urgent motion like Batman throwing on his cape, pointed a finger at both of us, and said to both of us "Get.in.my.courtroom - NOW!" 

Which we did and she came on the bench in a minute and said, "The parties have given me a proposed order  scheduling further proceedings in this matter, but opposing counsel has given me reason for concern whether [airline]' will treat these proceedings with the seriousness they deserve, so I am going to be  entering my own order which will provide essentially the following" and then proceeded to tell the airline they had, like, 5 or 10 days to pay everything they owed or fly the aircraft back to JFK and hand it over, and threatened further sanctions if they did neither.  The need for any preliminary hearing was obviated. We'd won on the merits without ever putting on a case.  I never had to say a word.  And in whatever timeframe Her Honor had established, the plane was returned to my client.   

I've always been a big fan of Judge Raggi.