On June 10, 2016 Judge William Orrick III refused to accept a guilty plea from Trod Ltd, a British company d/b/a Buy 4 Less. The company did not have a representative at the change of plea hearing but had authorized the company attorney to enter the plea of guilty. Judge Orrick rescheduled the hearing for July 7th. Trod had previously pleaded not guilty but the company had agreed to plead at this hearing to fixing prices for online sales of posters in Amazon’s Marketplace.
This reminded me of a change of plea I was involved in many years ago. Some judges will accept the plea if the corporate attorney has the proper authorization from the company’s Board of Directors. But, the judge in our case, a plea from a Japanese company, required that the company send a representative. The judge was notorious for having hearings faster than the speed of light, especially something as routine as a corporate change of plea. But, when the hearing started, the judge had this “Oh No” look on his face when he realized that a translator was going to translate everything the judge said for the corporate representative from Japan. As it became clear that the proceeding was going to move along at a snail’s pace, the judge began to say to the translator “You don’t have to translate that.” “He doesn’t need to know that….” I imagined myself being that corporate representative from Japan and not knowing what was going on and perhaps wondering if something had gone awry and I was going to jail. Fortunately, everything went according to plan. The plea was accepted, the fine was imposed, and the corporate representative had an uneventful, though bewildering, glimpse of the US legal system.
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