CHICAGO – A federal judge in Chicago withdrew from a civil case involving Michael Jordan after lawyers for the former Chicago Bulls star lawyers accused the jurist of comparing Jordan to a "hog" and "Dr. Frankenstein," though the judge denies the descriptions were aimed directly at the former NBA player.
The legal fracas arose in a 4-year-old civil case in which Jordan star sued Dominick's Finer Foods LLC after the grocery store chain invoked his name and persona without permission in a 2009 Sports Illustrated advertisement.
Jordan's lawyers this week succeeded in getting Judge Milton I. Shadur to remove himself from the case after they alleged he described the six-time NBA champion as "greedy," comparing him to a "hog" and to "Dr. Frankenstein."
In the ad, Dominick's congratulated Jordan on his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and offered a $2-off steak coupon. The court already found Dominick's liable, and the lingering dispute is over damages. Jordan, 50, is seeking $2.5 million.
Shadur, a recent Jordan filing argued, also showed bias in slapping down the star's assertion that his actual damages may run to $10 million. At one hearing, Shadur said in an allusion to the stock market, "The bulls may make money and the bears may make money, but the hogs get slaughtered."
In reluctantly removing himself, the 89-year-old judge issued a defiant, scathing attack on Jordan's legal team for "launching a groundless and unwarranted personal attack on this Court's integrity."
"That out-of-bounds ($10 million) claim is what has occasioned this Court's characterization ... in terms of greed, a characterization that is not altered by the response that billionaire Jordan plans to turn over any recovery to his not-for-profit foundation," he wrote.
At earlier hearings, Shadur also denied calling Jordan a "hog" or "Dr. Frankenstein." He employed those descriptions, he insisted, in reference to Jordan's damages claims — not to Jordan himself.
Technically, Shadur denied the defense motion that he recuse himself. But given the hub-hub created by Jordan's lawyers in arguing judicial bias, Shadur wrote in his ruling that he was exercising his prerogative as a senior judge to withdraw.
He was worried, he explained, that his consternation over the lawyers' accusations presents "a danger that subliminal forces could perhaps unwittingly affect the decisional process in this case."