Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Legal Outsourcing Team Drafts Major Brief in U.S. Litigation

You may recall from last year how a motion to dismiss, drafted entirely in India by SDD Global Solutions and Acumen Legal Services, resulted in a quick withdrawal of the anti-legal-outsourcing lawsuit, Newman McIntosh & Hennessey v. Bush, in Washington D.C. Federal Court.

Well, it looks like Team India is doing it again. Indian lawyers at SDD Global drafted, and are credited by name in, the summary judgment brief for dismissal of Doe v. HBO, a high-profile libel litigation in Los Angeles. For a copy of this excellent, page-turner of a brief, click here. The lawsuit was filed against Sacha Baron Cohen(of Borat fame), the Channel Four Television network, and HBO’s “Da Ali G Show.” In the case, a woman who once knew comedian Sacha Baron Cohen claims that Cohen, while playing the role of the television character, “Ali G,” libeled her by name during a spoof interview with historian Gore Vidal. Suing under the legal pseudonym, “Jane Doe,” the plaintiff claims that Cohen, as “Ali G,” falsely claimed to have had sexual relations with her. In the brief drafted entirely in India, the defense argues as follows:

"No reasonable person could have believed the statements, given that they were made by what the plaintiff now admits is a 'fictional character,' in the context of a series of absurd and unbelievable jokes, in what she admits is a 'comedy,' where the actor never steps out of his fictional role. This is confirmed by the fact that the plaintiff has no evidence that anyone believed any of the statements, much less the statement at the core of this lawsuit, namely, that the plaintiff had sex with a fictional character. As a matter of California and U.S. constitutional law, such statements are not actionable."

The case is historic, and not only because it is one of the first “libel-in-fiction” cases in the television context. The case is important also because it is the first high-profile, U.S. media litigation in which the legal research and first drafts of the motion papers for the defense were completed entirely off-shore, by Indian attorneys at a legal outsourcing company. The lead counsel for the defense, New York-based SmithDehn LLP, supervised the work and appeared in court on behalf of the moving party, Channel Four Television Corporation (which, incidentally, developed and produced Slumdog Millionaire). Also present in the courtroom was Padma Shanthamurthy, SDD Global team leader, who traveled from her home in Mysore, India to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York to assist with oral arguments and depositions in the case.

One of SmithDehn’s founders, veteran media lawyer and Harvard Law School graduate Frank Dehn, told this blog that “without legal outsourcing, mounting a defense against this baseless lawsuit would not have made economic sense. As so often happens, the defendants simply would have paid the plaintiff to go away. This would have been just to avoid U.S. legal fees, even though the case has no merit. But with a team of excellent, U.S. law-trained, Indian attorneys doing most of the work, it was less expensive for our client to fight the suit, than it would have been to settle.”

Sanjay Bhatia, SDD Global’s Head of Operations, emphasized that “this is a case where outsourcing created more work in the U.S., rather than less. Because our team made the defense affordable, U.S. lawyers were able to do the things in the U.S. that they do best there, such as strategizing, supervising, editing, and appearing in court. The implications of this case are huge. With legal outsourcing, baseless lawsuits can be defeated on the merits, instead of settled simply out of fear of legal fees.”

Kudos to the "Ali G" team in India, a decision on the "Ali G" motion is expected in late April. Stay tuned!