Infosys employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer's quest to see Infosys called to account in open court for its actions took a major step forward on Thursday, when a federal judge in Alabama ordered that the trial date be set for the term of court commencing on Aug. 20, 2012. That means if a settlement isn't reached, the trial will begin sometime during the two-week period beginning on Aug. 20.
U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson, who last month denied Infosys' motion to compel arbitration in the case (see my post, "Judge Denies Infosys' Arbitration Motion in Palmer's Visa Fraud Case"), followed the standard procedure of including in his scheduling order a stipulation that "counsel for all parties shall conduct a face-to-face settlement conference at which counsel shall engage in good faith settlement negotiations." The deadline for that meeting is the second week of May.
I spoke last night with Kenny Mendelsohn, Palmer's attorney, and he explained the requirement for the settlement conference and how it would be handled:
It would be in Montgomery, because the lawsuit is filed here. I will invite them to come to my office to do it. If that's a problem, we could meet at a neutral site like the Bar Association, or something like that. What typically happens on this is that sometime close to the deadline for when that's supposed to be, the parties, through their lawyers, will discuss a convenient time, and then will get together and talk about it. Different cases work different ways. Sometimes people are able to resolve their differences and settle the case at that meeting; sometimes they can't but can resolve it later. And other times, they recognize that they can't settle the case. So each case is different. But the courts do order the parties to meet to try to see if they can solve it. Part of the reason is this: As a general rule, most civil cases settle. And the courts want to impose on the parties that if they're going to settle it, to settle it as soon as they can. The federal courts don't like the parties dilly-dallying around, and then the morning of the trial, come in and settle the case. Because by that time they've imposed on jurors to be there, especially when some jurors drive 40 or 50 miles to get to court. So it's a mechanism to encourage the parties to try to resolve the case earlier rather than later, if they can.
Mendelsohn said he is required to make a good-faith effort to reach a settlement, and he will. But he said this is going to be an extraordinarily difficult case to settle.
This is not like a car wreck case where somebody was negligent in running a red light or something. This case is just so much more important in so many regards that it makes it a more difficult case to settle. Here's a guy, all he did is follow the law, and follow Infosys' own internal rules about whistleblowing-he was going to be protected, and they were going to correct the problems. Instead, he's had to suffer everything you've watched over the last 10 months. They should have embraced him-that's what they were required to do. They represent [to shareholders and government agencies] that they have this great whistleblower policy, and nobody's going to be harassed or discriminated against. And that's just not true. Jay followed their own policy, and they cut him out of bonuses, they won't put him on an assignment, they've cut him out of the system, and they continue to retaliate against him every day, only because what he did was want to follow the law. So the case is much, much bigger now than it was a year ago. And that's why I think it will be a more difficult case to settle. I will, of course, obey the judge's order and make a good-faith effort. But some of it is just going to come down to how Infosys views it, and they've not given me any indication that they want to do the right thing.
Mendelsohn said Palmer is elated that the trial date has been set.
This is what he's been waiting for. It's his opportunity to present all of his evidence in public, and he has become even more focused on it since Paul Gottsegen called him a liar.
Mendelsohn was referring to Infosys' chief marketing officer, who in July branded Palmer as a liar in a statement he released in response to the damning testimony Palmer had submitted to a Senate subcommittee hearing on immigration reform. Mendelsohn told me last month that if Infosys wants to settle the case, the first thing it needs to do is apologize to Palmer for calling him a liar (see my post, "As Settlement Question Looms, Attorney Demands Apology from Infosys" ).