| June 17
June 17 A veteran federal judge in Chicago has
withdrawn from NBA legend Michael Jordan's lawsuit against a
local supermarket chain over the use of his name and image in a
magazine ad, but not without levying harsh criticism at the
basketball Hall of Famer's lawyers for seeking his recusal.
U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur, who turns 90 next week,
objected to what he called the lawyers' "groundless and
unwarranted personal attack" on his integrity after the judge
allegedly tried to pressure the former Chicago Bulls star to
lower his damages claim.
The 34-year veteran of the federal bench nonetheless said he
would withdraw to avoid any potential for bias.
Jordan had in 2010 sued Dominick's Finer Foods, a unit of
Safeway Inc, over an ad in a Sports Illustrated issue
that celebrated his Hall of Fame induction the prior year.
The ad showed Jordan in silhouette and used the phrase "You
are a cut above," just above a $2-off coupon for steak.
Jordan, now majority owner of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets,
is seeking up to $2.5 million of damages, though a witness for
him said the ad's commercial value could have been $10 million,
court records show. Lawyers for Jordan have said he will donate
damages in excess of his legal bills to charity.
In seeking Shadur's recusal, Jordan's lawyer Frederick
Sperling said last week the judge had in court described Jordan
as "greedy," likening him to a "hog" who would "get slaughtered"
and trying to intimidate him into lowering his damages claim.
Granting the motion, Shadur said the recusal request was
replete with "skewed mischaracterizations."
The judge also said he felt "particularly personal" regret
in deciding to withdraw, pointing to his 65-year legal career
and long stint on the bench.
But he also said he found it "most regrettable" that he
found a need to levy "such criticism of a lawyer for whom this
court had previously held some degree of regard." Shadur did not
in his decision identify any of Jordan's lawyers by name.
"This most recent development in the litigation has
unfortunately eroded that regard and any respect that this Court
had held for Jordan's counsel to the point where this Court is
concerned lest there be a danger that subliminal forces could
perhaps unwittingly affect the decisional process in this case,"
Shadur wrote. "It is a risk that cannot be allowed to exist even
Sperling said in a phone interview: "Judge Shadur has had a
long and distinguished career. We respect his decision to
withdraw from this case."
Steven Mandell, a lawyer for Dominick's, did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.
The case will be assigned to another judge. Jordan is also
pursuing a lawsuit against the Jewel-Osco supermarket chain
before a different Chicago judge over another congratulatory ad.
The case is Jordan et al v. Dominick's Finer Foods LLC et
al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Eric