LAS VEGAS — Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz was recruited by Sands China Ltd. on Tuesday to argue that Nevada's Supreme Court should dismiss a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the company's former CEO five years ago.
Dershowitz and Sands China lawyer Steve Morris argued the company is registered in the Cayman Islands and does business in China, particularly the Asian gambling enclave of Macau, putting it outside the jurisdiction of a southern Nevada courtroom despite a district court's ruling that the case can proceed against it in Nevada because of its connection to Las Vegas.
Dershowitz offered a hypothetical: What if a Sands China waiter spilled soup on a Macau customer in Macau? Could the customer sue in Las Vegas? No, it couldn't, he said.
"This case could just as well be about spilled soup," he said.
Sands China, tied to Las Vegas Sands Corp., owns and operates four casino-resorts in Macau and is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who built The Venetian and The Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip, is CEO of both. Sands China, Las Vegas Sands, Adelson and other executives have all been sued by former Sands China CEO Steven Jacobs in a lawsuit spanning five years. Jacobs has claimed he was wrongfully fired for exposing misdeeds within the company at its highest levels.
The Nevada Supreme Court did not rule on Tuesday. Any decision would not affect the case proceeding against Las Vegas Sands Corp., Adelson and others because the appeal was brought by Sands China Ltd.
The arguments coalesced around specific categories of jurisdiction that district court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez said were all satisfied in a May ruling allowing the case to proceed in Nevada.
Dershowitz argued that attorneys for former Sands China CEO Steve Jacobs have tried to have it both ways, saying Adelson controlled everything from Las Vegas including Sands China but also acted as an agent for a more powerful Sands China.
Jacobs' attorney, Todd Bice, disagreed, telling the Supreme Court justices that he didn't see the latter interpretation in Gonzalez's decision. "Sands China is nothing but a division," of Las Vegas Sands Corp., he said, arguing that all of the decisions were being made from Las Vegas.
Sands China attorney Steve Morris also asked that Gonzalez no longer preside over the case for what he said was bias and hostility directed at his client and not treating both sides equally. "While each of the district court's discovery rulings could be individually viewed as a 'bad' call, collectively they demonstrate the apparent bias that the district court holds against defendants," he wrote.
In his filed response with the court, Jacobs' attorney accused Sands China of misconduct and deceit. "Again, Sands China confirms that any judge who does not acquiesce in its conduct or who confronts it must be pushed aside in favor of someone who will supposedly give it a pass," Bice wrote.