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Vaden Recuses Himself From 2 Cases After Former Clerk Appears

Court of International Trade Judge Stephen Vaden on Feb. 12 recused himself from a pair of cases in which Nicholas Phillips, associate at Schagrin Associates, appeared for one of the parties after he was working as a law clerk for Vaden while the case was pending (Asia Wheel Co. v. United States, CIT Consol. # 23-00096) (American Kitchen Cabinet Alliance v. United States, CIT # 23-00140).

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Vaden said he gave the parties one week to comment on any "ethical or other consequences" as a result of Phillips joining the litigation. In both cases, the companies that Phillips represents -- Dexstar Wheel Division of Americana Development and the American Kitchen Cabinet Alliance -- filed a response saying they didn't believe there were any issues with Phillips working on the case since he was "screened" from the cases during his clerkship and that Phillips "performed no work for the client on this case."

The firm said that "in an exercise of caution" Phillips would "withdraw and be screened from the case going forward," adding that it believed the withdrawal and an affidavit "detailing his lack of involvement solved any ethical problems." In response, Vaden said he thought recusal was warranted unless all parties consented to moving forward. Since the judge can't see which parties return a form unless all of them do so and because one party didn't return a letter waiving the judge's disqualification, Vaden recused himself.

Vaden said that before Phillips' clerkship ended, he discussed the prospect of the clerk rejoining Schagrin Associates and the firm's practice of filing notices of appearances for all or nearly all of its attorneys in its CIT cases. The judge purportedly told Phillips to tell the firm's partners of how this practice will complicate things in these two cases, though Vaden said he didn't have any issues with Philips appearing in cases that arrive "after the conclusion of his clerkship."

The judge said what he warned about "has come to pass."