The defendants in the landmark Sitzer/Burnett suit who vowed a long legal fight after the guilty verdict are delivering, adding top legal brass to their benches.
Keller Williams tapped Paul Clement to be part of the franchisor’s appeal team, Inman reported. Clement served as U.S. Solicitor General — the fourth-highest post in the Department of Justice — from 2005 to 2008. He’s an appellate attorney in private practice who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court.
The National Association of Realtors also brought in a former U.S. Solicitor General, with experience working under Clement. NAR tapped Gregory Garre for its legal team; Garre succeeded Clement as Solicitor General and has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. He’s defending Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement.
Other defendants are also adding appellate lawyers to their ranks, including some with proposed settlements that have yet to be approved.
The legal bulk-up comes shortly after a Kansas City jury found NAR, KW and HomeServices of America guilty of colluding to inflate broker commissions, elevating costs for home sellers and violating antitrust laws. The verdict carried a $1.8 billion judgment for the plaintiffs, which can be trebled in the judge’s final decision to $5.4 billion.
On top of a wave of copycat lawsuits, the world of residential brokerage is still grappling with the ramifications of the first verdict of its kind. Beyond agent commission structures, the ruling could help accelerate the demise of exclusive listings and MLS systems.
The defendants have already made legal moves in response to the Sitzer/Burnett verdict. The district court granted a motion this week requesting the court clerk’s recording of the jury verdict be vacated, which allows the sides to request and comment on the verdict. It also gives the plaintiffs the formal chance to ask for damages to be trebeled.
The defendants’ post-trial motions are due to the court on Jan. 8. A district court judgment won’t come until 30 days after post-trial motions are resolved; oppositions to the defendants’ motions are due Feb. 26, while further replies are due March 18.
— Holden Walter-Warner